A few years back, i got utterly irate with a friend when he came back from a cult-esque finding yourself seminar. He was convinced he understood the root of all his problems – he had acquired true insight in this program. “Oh really?” i asked, “tell me what you learned.” He then proceeded to tell me things that i had been telling him for years. I wanted to stomp up and down screaming. He hadn’t listened to a damn word i’d said for years but when he paid money to listen to some experts, he suddenly got it. This was the same story with all of my friends and their shrinks – they’d listen to the shrinks tell them exactly what their friends have been saying for years. Only they paid their shrinks (or their insurance did).
Now, a few years later, i have more appreciation for how he got it. Yes, it was about being in a situation where he could hear it, being open to being vulnerable. It was about having “experts” guide him through. But, still, i’ve never gotten over the fact that it took paying a self-help expert to finally hear things that he’d known and his friends had known for years. Why on earth is that revolutionary?
Lately, i’ve been watching this happen again, only in the work sphere. People come back from this obscenely expensive conferences with revelations. My eyebrows get all furrowed and i’m like, yes, i’ve been telling you this for a while now. And i’ve even been writing it down. Publicly. Still, there’s nothing like going to an event where you’re expected to learn and learning, simply by being open. But why on earth can’t people be more open to all forms of knowledge that come to them, not just the ones that they pay dearly for to hear the “experts”?
Part of why this bugs me is that i think that the “experts” (self-included) are overrated. Even when i take on that foolish role, i’m usually exaggerating to make a point, to be heard. And how does one get declared an expert anyhow? I know plenty of people more knowledgeable about a lot of topics than the purported or wheeled around experts. Ah, social networks.
My mentors are always telling me that i need to charge a ridiculous dayrate to be seen as an expert, to be listened to. As much as i would like to make more than student wages, i find this absolutely absurd. I used to make $4.85 an hour and i lived on that – the idea of making $100 an hour seems absurd, yet my friends tell me this is far too low to charge. I almost choked when i found out that one of my mentors charges $10K a day. What on earth can we say that’s worth $10K??
But i think that my frustration is the answer… it’s worth $10K because that’s enough to make the business people wake up and listen, to make them actually pay attention. And that’s why certain conferences cost $5K – people take them seriously at that rate – they actually want to make something out of it. (What does that say about conferences that i go to where people throw a hissy fit when the cost raises from $60 to $75? Ah, academics, how i do love thee.)
Still, as much as i can recognize that this is how the system works, it feels so ludicrous. Sometimes, i’m convinced that i truly do lack the balls to play this game. How on earth do i overcome that if i want to be heard? How do i actually transmit knowledge without having to be an expert ::cough:: pundit? Or is this a system that i really want to support and encourage? What does it mean to walk away from it?