One day in the early years of the smartphone, I found myself in strange territory. I was speaking to a group of young people and rather than listen to me, they were all focused on their phones. I was disappointed that I could not connect with them and hold their attention – or so I thought. After the session I wanted to sneak away in shame, but they would not allow me to. They all wanted to talk with me and take a picture. Quite the opposite of what I was expecting.
I later discovered that I had misread everything because of my preconceived notions. My understanding was that they were not paying attention to me when in actual fact, they were all taking notes on their phones as I talked!
This was new territory to me. My experience and exposure were that we wrote out notes in notebooks and anyone on their phone was simply not paying attention. The world had moved on and left me behind!
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On another occasion, I had just finished a training session with a tech company, and we had a lot of charts on the wall around the room. I asked them to take notes of the key points and without thinking, they all brought out their phones and took pictures of all the charts. I was deflated. My thinking had remained stuck in the notebook era and once again I found myself left behind.
Also, years ago I drove onto a really big ferry that took very many cars. I drove on board and was directed to a spot right in the middle, flanked by cars to the front, back, and left and right of mine. I was engaged in conversation with my children and did not realise we had reached the other bank until cars started their engines and drove off. We had made the ferry crossing without realising we had moved.
How many times does this exact scenario play out in different aspects of life where movement has taken place, yet we remain unaware of motion? The fact that you did not feel the movement does not mean it did not happen.
I grew up hearing that “readers are leaders and leaders are readers”. I heard it so often and I had no problem accepting the mantra because I love to read, besides being a columnist for many years, having authored 19 books. However, I discovered that while “readers are leaders and leaders are readers” is true, it was no longer an absolute truth. In life, the ferry had moved in some cases.
I met leaders of powerful and successful organisations who confessed they hated physical reading. However, they consumed information and built themselves through podcasts, online videos and other (re)sources. The end result was the same – knowledge had been acquired. The method and process had changed but the effect was the same.
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The absolute truth
The truth is this: A day will come when a lot of what you believe and many of the tried and tested methods that worked for you in the past and even processes that you grew up with, will no longer deliver for you. Their time will be over. That will be the most defining moment of your life and will determine whether like a snake you will shed your old skin or whether in fact you had reached the end of your road/rope.
At some point, being a social media expert was enough but as social media platforms began to multiply and each of them having unique features, being a general social media expert would not cut it anymore. Today, there exist YouTube experts, TikTok experts, photo shoppers, instagrammers, fact-checkers, videographers and so forth.
It might be time for you to re-evaluate yourself — especially if you have had the privilege of once being called an expert. There are few things as sad as being an expert in an outdated and obsolete model and not knowing it!
The ferry is on the move. Move with it.
Wale is the founder of the Street university. Email is [email protected]
Source: The East African