I like using this line when asked for a writeup about myself: “Contrary to popular belief, he does not drive a yellow school bus and is not a walking encyclopaedia.” I DID drive an old yellow Volkswagen minibus at one stage, and people would say in jest that it was a yellow school bus, which was not too far off when you consider that the children were quite often in it as well! Strictly speaking, though, it wasn’t a yellow school bus. As for the “walking encyclopaedia” part, that was how many of my colleagues used to refer to me. Obviously, I am not, and never have been, a walking encyclopaedia, but that was what they called me anyway!
Why was that so? It’s because people tend to stick labels on anything that passes within sticking range. People form impressions and then attempt to understand others within the frameworks of what they have themselves experienced and think they already know in their own minds. Many behavioural scientists and psychologists postulate that this is because “cognitive juice” is scarce and valuable, and that therefore many things ought to be relegated to the jobs of our Autonomic Nervous Systems, saved away as “templates” to be used by our unconscious selves when managing our respective environments. This is true. Unfortunately, it is often taken to extremes by people wishing for excuses to justify their own mediocrity. Our cognitive brain has a capacity so large that, if we were to learn one new thing every second, it would take perhaps three million years before that “hard disk” gets anywhere near full. Since none of us are going to be living for three million years in the bodies we currently occupy, it is safe to say that most of us are functioning way below capacity where the accumulation of intellectual firepower is concerned!
What are you doing to increase your intellectual firepower? It doesn’t have to be directly “related” to your vocation, hobbies or family life! Information is highly absorbable. What is crucial is what you do about it, how you collate it, how you assimilate it, how you integrate it into your overall consciousness. How much data can you process at any given time? How quickly are you able to make sense of a huge, seemingly amorphous mass of information? How discerning are you in seeing patterns and forming impressions when presented with data from diverse sources? How analagous is your thinking? How creative are you?
Get better every day! Alan Weiss says that if you improve by 1% every day, you’ll be twice as good in 70 days. See the picture below for illustration. Willing to commit? Willing to be called and labelled a “Know-It-All”?