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June 17, 2024 4 mins

Experts are most helpful when explaining the choices they made

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Before Breakfast, a production of iHeartRadio. Good Morning,
This is Laura. Welcome to the Before Breakfast podcast. Today's
tip is to ask experts for stories, not advice. People
often can't articulate exactly how they do what they do,

(00:26):
but they can tell you what they did, and often
that is more helpful. Today's tip, like a few others
this week, comes from Scott H. Young's new book, Get
Better at Anything. This book shares strategies for how people
actually learn and improve. Young notes that one of the

(00:48):
best ways to figure out what experts know is to
talk with them. But not every expert is a natural
or even a particularly skilled teacher, have a lot of
difficulty reporting on their own cognitive processes. They skip steps
in the retelling because it seems obvious to them. But

(01:10):
the nature of being an expert is that what seems
obvious to you may not be obvious to everyone else.
One way around this is not to ask for advice.
Ask for advice and you might get a sermon. Young
rites when what you want to hear is the knowledge
they think is too obvious to be worth mentioning. So

(01:34):
instead ask for stories. Ask an expert to recount a
particularly challenging incident. Telling stories focuses on the concrete details
of when decisions occurred, how they were made, and what
the consequences were in ways that asking for generic advice

(01:55):
or routines often omits. Young says. Young said just that
a good protocol is to act like a journalist preparing
for a story, focus on gathering facts, establishing a timeline,
and walking through the decisions step by step. This provides

(02:15):
the raw material for asking follow up questions to investigate
why the expert made certain choices. A focus on the
facts tends to highlight details of a story that may
be obscured when simply asking for the broader lessons from
the experience. The good news is that people in general

(02:37):
like to tell stories, especially when prompted. If you get
a chance to talk with an expert and you happen
to know that person was involved in something particularly significant,
ask for that story. They probably like to tell it.
Tell me how you planned that recovery mission, or landed
that plane, or did that tricky surgery, or made that

(02:59):
scientific discuss what was happening that day, who was with you,
what did you guys do first? And so on. The
person may not be able to explain in the abstract
what to do in a tough situation, but they know
what they did in a tough situation, and often that

(03:20):
can be helpful in its own right. In the meantime,
this is Laura. Thanks for listening, and here's to making
the most of our time. Thanks for listening to Before Breakfast.

(03:41):
If you've got questions, ideas, or feedback, you can reach
me at Laura at Laura vandercam dot com. Before Breakfast
is a production of iHeartMedia. For more podcasts from iHeartMedia,
please visit iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen

(04:03):
to your favorite shows.

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Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam

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