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How to break free from the curse of knowledge

January 27, 2020

"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in."
― Isaac Asimov

Are we blinded by what we know? Is our knowledge limiting our growth and interactions with others?

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that happens when we unknowingly assume that everyone else has our same background and context. We can have difficulty mentoring others because there are ideas and concepts that we take so much for granted that we struggle even to imagine what's it like not to know them anymore.

Leaders can struggle passing down this context down to their teams. It feels like "common sense" to them, and only when they see the results coming from everyone, they realize the mismatch between their unspoken expectations and the team's results.

Specialists, like software developers in a product team, can struggle to share the business value of the tasks they have in mind: writing automated tests for new features, or refactoring a problematic piece of code, are things that feel right to them. It is clear that what you're proposing needs to be done! Right?

Instead, everyone should focus on communicating even more.

Ask yourself, every time you have something to share with somebody: what's that person's context? How can I better drive my point, so that they understand? We should not aim to convince anyone; we should strive to drive conversations equal to equal, and seek the best outcome for everyone.

  • A mentor is only a good mentor if they help their mentees level up.
  • A leader is only a good leader if they bring a clear, simple, intention for their team to follow.
  • A specialist is only a good specialist if they can share all their knowledge and years of experience through simple points that relate to their interlocutor's context.

Do you see the point I'm trying to make?

Do you understand what you can do to break free from your curse of knowledge?

Realize that there is no such thing as over-communication. Make sure you unveil the common denominator, the starting point of understanding for everyone involved. Make it explicit. Build from there.

Thank you for reading 🙏.

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator


Tim Urban, from Wait But Why, is a great storyteller. I love how, on this talk, he brings the point of what procrastination is and breaks down it all by simplifying it so much and driving his points through personal stories. Definitely worth a watch!

Paced Email


I've just come across this email tool: it allows you to create multiple programmable email addresses to get some _space_on your inbox. It seems like you can create emails like mike.newsletters@weekly.paced.email, and then all the newsletters I've signed up for with that email address will pop on my inbox once a week. I love tools like this that are transparent for your workflows, that don't reclaim you being present and download yet another app, and that help you focus on what really matters in your life by providing better tools to deal with digital distractions.