Make the Hard Things Easy

Anyone can take a simple thing and make it more complicated. A rare and valuable talent is to take a complex subject and explain it in a way that is easy to understand. But as we advance in knowledge and experience in a particular field, we often lose touch with what it means to be a newcomer to the field, and we forget how to talk about the subject to someone who is just beginning the journey.

Sometimes this behavior is intentional. People who do this might be seeking to inflate their knowledge or status, or they may attempting to protect their role or domain by obfuscating knowledge of what they do. Often times it is both.

I’ve written before about how true and lasting value cannot come from being a mysterious black box of problem solving ability.12 The most valuable thing we can do is to multiply our knowledge by teaching others to do what we do.

Do you frequently become frustrated while explaining things to someone more junior than you? Do you often feel like the person is just not capable of understanding? Do people tend to avoid asking you for help, despite your expertise in the field?

Being a good teacher involves more than being helpful. Buzzwords and acronyms conceal information; try to avoid using them when explaining something. Help the layperson better understand a concept by relating what you’re explaining to something they are already familiar with.

When someone comes to you for help, resist the temptation to see the request as a bother or waste of time. Technology problems are easy, but people problems are hard; always make a bigger investment in people than in technology. Instead of focusing on the problem at hand, focus on the person you are helping. This will make the process more rewarding for both parties.