Sarah Goshman is a writer I’ve been keeping an eye on. She’s enthusiastic and open about her process. When she struggles, she shares that with you. And then she shares what she learns.
That’s the most effective writing there is, in my opinion. Here’s my story. Hope it helps.
Experts are Myopic
Sure, an expert has a ton of data. They’ve seen a lot of cases and know exactly what works …. statistically.
The problem with that is people are not statistics. Each and every person is, by definition, a statistical anomaly.
People learn best from people like them.
Or who are like they want to be. When this process is formalized, it’s called mentorship. But at a basic level, it’s just about learning best from people who you relate to; their situation, their process, their philosophy.
After I posted on my own patterns, Sarah commented to say that she would never have expected those to be places that I struggled. After all, she said, that was where she had learned the most from me.
That’s not a coincidence. Because I’ve been aware of, and working on my understanding of these patterns (and many others besides) for a long time, I have a lot of accumulated insight to share.
But it’s anecdotal. It’s not scientific.
However, it is very, very insightful. Because I’ve been studying my own process for a long time. No one knows it better than me. And if you relate to me, some of my experiences, certain parts of my processes, there’s a certain likelihood that you might gain some insight from it too.
Sharing insight like this is a collaborative endeavour.
I share it, and in explaining it, I often refine the concepts in my own mind.
Someone responds, sharing their own experience, and I gain there as well. Sometimes it even catapults me to a new level of understanding and insight.
Furthermore, we’ve just experienced a communal understanding, a bond of shared experiences.
But as powerful catalysts as these things are, they rarely just happen. You have to look for them.
You have to seek them in unexpected places.
When Leo Babauta started blogging a few years ago, he was deep into minimalism and alternative diets. He wasn’t very compelling to me. Now that he’s talking about the philosophy of simplicity, mindful living, and habits, he is very compelling. He’s where I want to be. But a few steps farther.
What’s more is, he took a different path to get there.
If I had looked at his body of work and said, “Oh, another minimalist. I have nothing to learn there,” I would have lost the opportunity for some amazing insights into the type of mindful living I want to do. So what if he eats vegan and lives out of a shoebox? He also walks the tightrope of doing exactly what he wants to do in a particular moment, without it interfering with his commitments. This man has some shit figured out. He has only committed to things he’s excited to do. He’s found a way to appreciate and embrace the things that he isn’t excited to do. He has arranged his life mindfully so that his focus is always on the things that are important to him. Not one person in a thousand can truthfully say they’ve done that, and I want to learn how.
Sebastian Marshall is crazy, almost berzerker-like. He took on Simon & Schuster and dared them to sue him after they yanked his chain one too many times. And you can see that, although he seems to try not to inflict his mania on other people, things will never truly be settled while he’s around. I think of him as being like fire: fascinating, potentially game-changing, but inherently dangerous and worthy of respect for that reason.
But I get so much insight from his writings, it’s phenomenal. He’s apolitical. Do you have any idea how rare that is? It means that when a pragmatic person sees that he’s embroiled in a game that’s bigger than himself, in a game he can’t win, a normal person will cut his losses and capitulate, maybe even change sides. Not Marshall. Certain defeat means nothing to Marshall, not if he believes his cause is just. He’ll just go out swinging.
Marshall gives me insight on how many of our arbitrary limits are simply political self-preservation. Look how much you’re not making waves! What are you afraid of? You don’t realize how much influence social pressure exerts until you see someone operating outside of it.
Embrace your Process
I just can’t emphasize this enough. Embracing your process is what primes you to learn. You can’t think critically, or compare and contrast other people’s data until you know where you’re coming from.
You can learn from people who are like you.
You can learn from people who are different from you.
You can learn from people who represent where you’re going.
You can even learn from people who represent where you’ve been.
But it’s harder than hell to learn from an “expert” who doesn’t share their own process with you. Context is everything. Data means nothing without heart.
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