~Punch Nigeria. Tuesday, August 9, 2016.
"A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring" - Alexander Pope
They do not want to talk or operate from the standpoint of ignorance. So, they develop a voracious and undiscriminating appetite for information.
The result is that they are soon seen as authorities to be consulted in their field. The reason is that many people are too lazy to scratch beyond the surface. For example, even with an Internet-enabled phone, many people will prefer to call someone or send a message asking for the simplest of information that Google can supply in a second. Most people tend to assume that the so-called authorities know more than they actually do. And when a person is constantly consulted in his area of business, he will definitely succeed more and make more money.
Some people erroneously think that being an authority in a field is such a difficult matter. They think that they may never know much to be listened to in a particular field of knowledge. But everybody can become an "authority" by making a little effort.
Two experiences made me believe that once a person is determined, it does not take much effort and time to cross over from the sea of ignorance to the spring of knowledge. About a year before the 1994 World Cup in USA, I was not very knowledgeable in football technicalities. I loved football very well like most young Nigerian men, but I could not talk with any certainty who played what position in a match. I also knew little outside the Nigerian league. My condition was not helped too by the fact that I was outside Lagos before 1994, where I did not have access to much information as Lagos provides.
So, if I saw my mate or somebody younger analyse a Nigerian match with a lot of statistics, criticising or praising the formation and style of the Nigerian team, I was amazed. How could he know all that? Then if the discussion shifted to any European league, I would go dumb. I had no interest in the European league. As far as I was concerned, it was not my business.
Then in 1994, I began to read every sports newspaper and magazine that came my way. I began to watch any sports programme that was shown on TV. (I had no access to satellite television then). All sports radio programmes did not pass me by too.
A few months later, the tide turned. Those who used to make me look like a greenhorn in sports analysis began to reckon with me. If I talked football or sports, they listened. If there was an argument about the role Samson Siasia or Sunday Oliseh was playing in a match, I was consulted. If anyone needed to know the position a player with Ajax , Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or AC Milan played, I was consulted. If someone needed to know the name of the coach of a club or a country, he would be told to ask me.
I began to ask myself, "So what did all those guys who were talking with so much certainty before know?" I discovered that whatever they knew was shallow. The reason they looked very knowledgeable in football to me then was because my own knowledge of the game was low: I enjoyed the game without knowing all the technicalities.
The second experience was in the area of stocks (shares). The first time I heard of shares as a child, I did not know what was being talked about. My elder brother and his friends were having one of their evening arguments upstairs. From where I sat downstairs I overheard one of them say that there was great fortune in shares; that if one bought as many as possible, one would be swimming in money. I thought what I heard was "chairs" and I wondered how there could be much profit in 'chairs.' I concluded that the man must have meant that one could buy chairs and rent them out to those having marriage or funeral ceremonies. But that did not sound like the money spinner he was talking about glowingly.
Even as an advertising practitioner, I was part of the team that prepared the communication materials for a company to raised funds through a public offer and rights issue in the late 1990s. Yet, I did not understand much about the whole affair.
My case was so bad that I did not even understand what was a dividend or a bonus or a rights issue. 'Market capitalisation' was Greek to me, while 'all share index' was nothing but Swahili.
Whenever I had a newspaper in my hand, I went straight to the sports pages, then read the cover stories, moved over to political pages and columnists' sections, skipped the business pages (unless something interesting was in any of the pages), then finished off on the features pages, if I had some time to spare. If a TV news bulletin got to stock market news, my tummy became queasy.
Anytime I heard someone talk about the stock market, I wondered why such a young person should be discussing such dull and unexciting issues meant for old folks. And how on earth did he know much about such a difficult and confusing topic? Was he a stockbroker?
Then, I read some books (specifically Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Richest Man in Babylon). I felt like a man who had been living in the caves at a time other human beings were living in skyscrapers. I bought my first shares from an IPO and also opened an account with a stockbroker. Six months after I bought the shares of the company, the share price had doubled. I was excited. I sold some and kept some. I began to read anything concerning stocks and investment. I bought books and magazines on such topics.
Not long after I took such interest in stocks and investment, I became a pocket consultant. If any company began an IPO or PO, my friends consulted me for my opinion. Anyone who did not understand any issue in the stock market asked me. In all the associations that I belonged to, once the issue of stocks or investment was raised, someone would mention my name or I would be put in a committee to look into it.
Even though the stock market is no longer as popular as it was some 12 years ago, I look at myself today and I laugh. Although I feel that I don't know much about stocks and investment yet, I am held highly in those areas by my friends and associates. I look back at the time when I thought it was not possible to know anything about stocks, given my discomfort with figures, and I marvel.
What I took away from these two experiences was that a person could learn very much about any topic on earth, once the person decides to develop some interest in that topic. Another thing I noticed was that it does not take too much effort for one to know a lot about a topic, and it does not take too much effort for one to be seen as an authority in a field, because the majority of people are too lazy to learn new things.
- Twitter @BranAzuka