Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Perpetual Student

A few years ago I was faced with the dilemma of being cast as an authority on a complex subject I felt I was just learning about when I was asked to pitch a non fiction new age book to a publisher that was just starting a new imprint. It didn't really matter that I had been ingratiated into that particular world for many years or that I knew more about it than the average person in the street or indeed that I had completed many courses on the subject matter and seen many clients. It was just that I felt there was a gap – a time lapse – between actual logical learning and actual full integration into the mind/body/spirit. What I mean by that is that sometimes I can listen to a lesson, but actually not experientially "get it" until much later down the track at which time I will sit up with a jolt and declare to myself or others "Now I know what lecturer X meant when he/she said that..." This is a point of time when the information becomes a natural part of yourself and you can communicate about the subject as easily as if you were having a conversation with your best friend without reconstituting a textbook. 

Now ... I am no Pretender (where are you Michael T Weiss, you sexy thing?) ! I strive to live a life of truth and authenticity which means looking into the mirror and acknowledging those aspects of myself that need more work, and also foregoing many of the defense mechanisms that we are all accustomed to using or exhibiting under emotional pressure (I actually may do a special blog post on this for you so you know what I'm talking about). So how did I deal with the original dilemma that made me feel significantly uncomfortable – that is, how could I label myself an expert when I didn't feel like one? How could I be an authority figure when I was still learning (and indeed still am) through much of what I do? 

Well it turns out that I didn't, and that there were three tricks to this as I came to discover. The first is a basic one about constantly refining and improving yourself. The second one is about being open to new information that could influence, impact or even change your previous learnings. The third one was answered in a most unexpected place when I attended a Mark Victor Hansen Mega Book Marketing event. One of the speakers was a guy called John Childers, whose niche was in public speaking training for profit. He took to the stage with great aplomb as if he had been born there and told his story. One of the things he mentioned was how he got started on the speaking circuit – how he had researched the real estate market and made some good investments and became a millionaire in the process. He was asked to do a seminar at a community event and he was faced with the same dilemma as I was – how could he speak from a position of authority when he was only five minutes (that's me taking dramatic licence – it was more of a case of a couple of years) into the real estate game. He came upon the realisation that he didn't need to fake anything – that in fact he could speak from one of three positions: the expert (one who knows everything there is to know about a specialised subject), the reporter (one who has no direct experience within a given area but who has researched it profusely and is merely delivering the material to an audience) and the student (one who is in the process of learning about the specialised area). At his initial talk, John Childers took the third position and found that that the admission didn't hurt him at all  – in fact, if anything the audience responded with greater enthusiasm because they could relate to him. Needless to say, he nailed the presentation.

That message was like a gold nugget for me and it hit me – I could work from either one or indeed a mixture of those points-of-view in the future and not compromise myself or the reader/audience. 

I ended up writing a bonza of a book proposal, which to this day I am extremely proud of. Unfortunately it wasn't converted into a publishing project because the editor in question vanished a few months later and the new imprint didn't eventuate. But no matter – I integrated something extremely important in the process – and perhaps in this act of blog posting it I become, for just a moment, an expert.

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