Screw the Basics

First, learn to crawl. Then, it’s learn to stand up on your own. After that, you’ll eventually take your first steps. And that’s all there is to life.

Er, that’s what babies do, I guess? I don’t have kids, but I think that setup works.

My point being: we’re really comfortable with the idea of systematic, sequential order. Move from point “A” to “B”. Textbooks are made so that if you can grasp Chapter 1, you should in theory be better prepared for Chapter 2.

Sometimes we look for that extra edge– a shortcut of some kind– but ultimately we know that we have to put in the time and effort.

And don’t get me wrong, basics are important. It’s something I preach on the fitness front constantly. But something that takes priority over the basics: context.

It Sucks When You Struggle with “Basic Words”

One of the things I like to do with my clients is have designated time for small talk. These people are sharp in their field, but struggle with speaking about the simple things. This happens because of a difference in invested time (i.e. more time spent on communicating their job specialty and very little time speaking about anything else).

The topic at hand was “Dine-In Movie Theaters”. I asked if being able to eat a real meal while watching a movie was appealing to him.

Client goes, “I’m okay as long as people aren’t too [loud] when they [chew].”

Except, he couldn’t remember the words “loud” and “chew”. And that’s when the pity party began.

“Oh Jon, it’s terrible. These words are so basic, but I couldn’t even remember them. Maybe I should study vocabulary lists.”

Now remember: context. Sure, these are pretty basic words, but for this client’s lifestyle– is there any real necessity for that vocabulary?

I’m going to argue “no”.

Would it be nice if he had these words in his arsenal? Maybe. But going back to drilling vocabulary lists like schools do? That’s a lifestyle for a student, not a man with a wife, kids, and a full time job that requires overtime.

And, as much as the pain might sting in not being able to remember “loud” and “chew” in that moment, the chances of him remembering them now are much higher. Hey, sometimes shame can be useful– just as long as you drive things forward and don’t dwell on it.

Breaking the Sequence

Going in order works until it doesn’t.

Using the examples from beginning: sometimes the earlier chapters of the book aren’t going to prep you for what’s to come. And sometimes “Point A” and “Point B” don’t really have any real connection either.

People do jump further along without always knowing why they can comprehend things like they do. Look at music. Look at sports. Look at popularity.

You can call it talent or God-given gifts. The label doesn’t matter.

What you know and what you’re supposed to know are always going to be effected by the context. Failing to recognize that, and more importantly refusing to acknowledge context in favor of idealizing a system approach is super duper dumb.


Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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