Archives

Does Advice Have to be Useless?

There is a large canon of expected mistakes from newbies in all areas: the first-time parent who panics when their baby cries; the freshly-graduated doctor who rushes through his first medical assessment; the newly-promoted manager who doesn't communicate with his employees; the newlywed who doesn't understand the concept of compromise; the list goes on. Simple mistakes that yield effective lessons for the future.

All these people are commonly told "Expect to screw up on your first time". Yet the activities these first-timers undertake are not ones no one has performed before. In fact, countless individuals have done so - what we refer to as 'experience'.

Given the large body of past experience and its associated advice, why are newbies still expected to screw up? One can conclude that no one really expects said advice to be useful until _after_ the newbie has made the mistake.

But does it have to be like this? Is there no way to learn and internalise common lessons and patterns without making mistakes? This way when the newbie is faced with a common pattern for the first time, the response becomes a simple case of applying the correct internalised lesson?

A friend offered an idea akin to cognitive behavioural therapy: memorise whatever set of lessons you are intent on internalising, then test your recall every few months. The idea being that you eventually internalise them so deeply (akin to developing false memories) that you will recognise situations where they apply, even if you have not experienced them before. This sounds plausible, but neither of us has put it to the test.

00:21:45 2013/08/23