In this episode, we address a question from a listener. She wants to become a content creator but is concerned that because she isn't 'qualified', no one will care what she has to say. This turns into a discussion about how society is wired to implicitly convince us that we need permission before we can start anything…

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

The process of learning is often self-directed and can help overcome both imposter syndrome as well as the apparent impenetrability of certain things. Even within university, there might be a support network, but you are working individually to understand the concepts and there are so many resources online now that you can more or less teach yourself anything you want using videos, blogs or other teaching aids. When you do start teaching yourself, it helps in overcoming the idea that you need to be qualified. Prior to learning how to code, Ali’s friend had always thought of coding and programming as a black box but after starting to learn, he realised that it made more sense than he initially thought and it became easier the more he made the effort to consciously learn.

When we learn about the world, it is always in terms of categories. We start life with zero labels and zero categories but with a world of people and labels, you feel that you have to go from zero categories to earning each category through recognition or approval of some sort. Although we have to use categories to make sense of the world, the negative externality of this, is the effect on our mindsets – we become structured and consumed by them, placing too much significance on their importance.

One of the issues with creating content is the concerns over whether you are qualified. We often assume that people are expecting you to be an expert but there are two points to be made here – firstly, the β€˜myth of the expert’ is important to recognise – that is that far fewer people are truly experts than we are led to believe. Taimur talks about how he was presumed to be an expert after just writing a blog articles. Secondly, in reality, when you are starting a blog, you’re not making claims to be an expert and it’s important to recognise this point. Ali talks about the doubts he had over whether he was qualified to offer study tips on the internet and discusses how he now consciously tries to position himself not as an expert but as an interested party.

The curse of the expert is equally important. This is a psychological concept where the intervention of experts may be counterproductive for learners acquiring new skills. Expertise is sometimes not what you need/want when you are learning something – often people who are experts cannot empathise with those who are learning new skills. For example, some professors – who have gained their β€˜expert’ status through producing research – often cannot transfer this into teaching effectively as they don’t spend their lives actively teaching. Ali talks about how he learnt so much more from someone who was two years above him at university, who could empathise and understand his level of comprehension, than from the β€˜world-leading experts’ in a particular discipline.

Personal framing is really important. If you are truly positioning yourself as an expert, that sets the wrong expectations. You cannot go too wrong if you are honest and open about your interests and why you are writing.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


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Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram