Walking along the Thames Path from Kingston upon Thames towards Richmond upon Thames, a sight took me back to a story by Hans Christian Andersen, a story that was told to me as a small boy, and to a song sung by Danny Kaye.
The Ugly Duckling
This little ball of fluff had three other siblings with it, not really standing out from the surrounding landscape, and it made me think of the work, my career, I have found myself involved with for nearly twenty years, and the people I have seen over this period of time.
Back in the 1990’s, 80’s and 70’s, I was an expert in my work, working for computer manufacturers, I had to create computer systems to produce the results customers wanted. The customer would have a problem, perhaps to produce a payroll system, to capture sales figures at the point of sale on the shop floor, to record medical history in a hospital of patients, many many problems, and at that time, there was no packaged software, no apps available to provide them with the solution, so I would have to design, write and develop programs from scratch.
From knowing nothing about a subject, I had to learn what was being done manually by the customer, and transpose that to a computer system, I had to become an expert, to become one of those that had studied and worked in that area for years.
Yet I did not wish to become one of their group, or to replace them with myself.
In the late 1980’s, again I had to become another expert in an area I had no knowledge, to know how the industry of manufacturing windows and doors and the making of glass worked, so that I could support the computer systems that were installed to help the workforce in the factories.
I had a need, the need to gain knowledge, to become an expert, to know what made things work, what were they? That need for knowledge has continued in my life.
In the early 1990’s, I came across NLP, PhotoReading, Mind Maps and hypnosis, and the whole subjects fascinated me, I needed to know what was happening, what were these new ideas, how did they work, how could they make such major changes in people.
I had to understand, to become an expert, and I sought out the best to learn from, the originators.
One of my earliest computer clients, at the start of my working life, at a time I was learning new ideas, when I was honing my skills at becoming an expert, gaining the art of acquiring knowledge, in the 1970’s, there was a company that had been in existence for over 100 years, and they wanted to move from quill pen to a computer. I listened to what they wanted, and produced a design for a computer system from my understanding of what was required.
It was at the presentation of my solution to the partners of the company, that I was told :- “Thank you Phillip, you have shown us a good computer solution, but, we have been doing this work for over one hundred years, and we are not going to change now, go away and come back with what we want.”
I left the presentation deflated, I lost what confidence in myself I had in my abilities, I was not the expert I thought I was.
My manager saw this state I had gotten myself into, and helped me regain my confidence, to go out and acquire the knowledge to become an expert, to understand deeply down how things worked, why were things done in certain ways, what were the reasons certain results were wanted, because my manager saw in me a special person, an expert in the making.
I went back into the client, and with their permission, became one of them, to understand each process, the reasons why those processes were in place, and the results that came out of doing them.
Not only did I look at the client at work and learn, but I sought other companies that were in the same industry, and learnt from them too, adding to my knowledge.
So it has been with my work in NLP, PhotoReading, Mind Maps and hypnosis, I have continually sought-out knowledge, and with the permission and knowledge of the people I have worked with, incorporated this knowledge into my work, to become the expert, so to teach others.
I have watched others become experts, by taking their time to acquire knowledge and become an expert, to do the 10,000 hours that has been written about by Malcolm Gladwell and Matthew Syed.
Yet, it was at a recent training, that a participant spoke out with a smile on her face, “Now I understand. This is the second time I have done the course, and the first time it made no sense and did not work.”
Puzzled by this statement, I asked her to explain, as I had never seen this person before, this was her first course with me, and I knew that I was the only trainer teaching this subject in the country.
“Oh,” she said, “I went on a course with …………, he was a student of yours and decided to give the course himself, but I did not understand him.”
How many people become “experts” before they have learnt the subjects?
Like the fluffy “Ugly Duckling” in the picture above, we all have to learn, gain knowledge from those around us, like from our parents, our mentors, our teachers, to do our 10,000 hours, before we can blossom out to become the majestic swan.
Majestic Swans from Ugly Ducklings