“A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I’m sure that many of you have heard this quote before and from my experience, it’s 100% spot on. Now, while not everyone that gains a little bit of knowledge in a particular area will try to come across as Einstein, there are certainly quite a few of these people out there. As such, when seeking out advice or trying to get the ‘right’ answer, you must be careful who you listen to.
0 – 60 MPH in 4 Seconds!
When you know nothing about a particular area and all of sudden you take a course about that topic, or even read a Wikipedia page about it, you went from the equivalent of 0-60 MPH in a few seconds from a knowledge perspective. Now, for some, this serves as a jumping off point to pique their interest and feeds their hunger to learn more. However, for another set of people, they now consider themselves an expert in whatever specific area they just learned about and will promote themselves as such.
The Loudest Voice in the Room
While the person that wants to learn as much as possible is busy taking more courses and reading books on a particular subject, the ‘expert’ is now blogging, podcasting, YouTubing, and commenting on every social media post under the sun on this topic. Going back to the first paragraph, this is why a little bit of knowledge is dangerous… it’s not because learning a little bit of knowledge is a bad thing, it becomes a bad thing when that person thinks they’re an expert and worse yet, spreads their limited amount of knowledge all over the place. Unfortunately, when it comes to information gaining traction, it’s usually the result of being the loudest voice in the room versus the correct voice in the room.
The Role of Science and Technology
It’s quite easy to impress someone with less knowledge than yourself in a particular area. Here goes my best shot at it, “Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation works via the stretch response pertaining to the muscle spindles sensing changes in tension and the Golgi Tendon Organ sensing changes in length.” Now, to the lay person, this all sounds pretty impressive and science-y and likely interpreted as correct. To the informed reader, it’s flat out wrong.
This is why you won’t often find someone who feels they’re an expert after reading a Wikipedia page trying to debate a Ph.D in the same field. They try to influence others at a lower pay grade than themselves.
What I’ve found is that a lot of ‘new experts’ use science terms and cite studies to support their opinion. While there is nothing wrong with science, how one uses it from the standpoint of data collection can be an issue. For example, if someone cherry picks studies or findings that only support their narrative (ex: confirmation bias), this is not a good ‘use’ of science.
But again, to the uninformed, this makes the individual look like an expert because you know… science.
I see so much ‘crap,’ for lack of a better word, on the internet that gains traction that is either partly, or completely incorrect. It’s frustrating because this is how misinformation spreads and becomes ‘fact’ – and for what it’s worth, this is exactly the type of information that UESCA is trying to combat against.
I’ve had the absolute pleasure to interact with some of the smartest minds in endurance sports during the creation of UESCA’s certifications. And aside from realizing how much I don’t know, I learned that these individuals are very humble and accepting of what they do and do not know. For example, in collaborating with a doctoral candidate for a section on physiology, I asked them about environmental physiology and while they know more about this topic than 99.9% of the population, they still said that I would be best talking to another individual who is a ‘real expert’ in that area.
Therein lies the problem. The real experts are buried in performing research and/or working for companies to develop cutting edge products while the ‘new experts’ are blasting social media with their new found genius and gaining a following… which you and I unfortunately likely consume in some fashion or another.
Fast = Knowledgeable
Another common way for individuals to get your attention is to go off about their own personal records and accomplishments. For example, if you can run a 4:30 mile, you obviously know everything there is to know about how to get to be that fast (other than choosing the right parents). It’s a correlation that is clearly false but yet so many people fall for it when looking for information.
If you want to get great advice and level up your knowledge, perform due diligence to figure out who the ‘real’ experts are in a particular area versus who is the loudest voice the room.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn more – in fact, I 100% encourage it! However, when you do learn a little bit of information, use that as a jumping off point to learn more… not to consider yourself an expert. Because trust me, after collaborating with a lot of these ‘real’ experts to develop UESCA certifications, the one thing that I am certain of is that I’m not one of them!
Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning, cycling and triathlon coaches (nutrition coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications!
Click here to check out our UESCA Triathlon Certification
Click here to check out our UESCA Running Certification
Click here to check out our UESCA Ultrarunning Certification
Click here to check out our UESCA Cycling Certification
Click here to check out our Endurance Sports Nutrition Certification