The Curse of Knowledge

A couple of years ago I went to a sports nutrition seminar up in Columbus, Ohio. I was just getting into the field and had a thirst for knowledge….anything anybody was willing to throw at me, I was ready to learn. So I signed up for this seminar because I thought “hey, it’d be cool to learn more about sports nutrition and supplementation”. By the end of the weekend I felt dumber than I was when I walked through the door (although some say that’s not hard to believe). It wasn’t because I had no idea of what they were talking about, I knew what the topics were going in and had a general understanding of each. It was the curse of knowledge of the lecturers that left me with more questions than answers.


Being knowledgeable in an area can be a curse when trying to teach your craft to others. The problem is, we tend to assume that the people we are talking to (the student, audience, potential client) know what we’re talking about and what we’re thinking in our head when we say something. For example, if I say that ATP produces energy when ATP loses a phosphate and is converted to ADP, you know that, in fact, ATP produces energy when ATP loses a phosphate and is converted to ADP. What you don’t know, and are probably confused and curious about, is what is ATP and ADP, where do they come from, how does ATP lose a phosphate, and how is APT produced anyway? When I made the statement without these explanations, I assumed (ASS-U-ME) that you knew the answers to all of those questions. Here’s another example. In their book, Made to Stick , Chip and Dan Heath reference a Stanford Study in which subjects were divided into two groups. One group tapped out a well known song (Happy Birthday to you) while the other group guessed the song. The tappers estimated that the guessers would guess the song correctly 50% of the time. Turns out they were actually correct 2.5% of the time. So, while the tapper is sitting there tapping “Happy Birthday”, he’s singing the the song in his head thinking “why in the world is this person not getting this….it’s soooo easy!!”.


Knowledge is important. If you build widgets, you should know everything there is to know about building widgets. What makes you INDISPENSABLE is the ability to teach others about what you know about building widgets. Just a short one today. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask at

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