The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.
Earlier this week I had lunch with a relatively well known person in my current circle. This person is part of a couple of those “Top People in this field” lists for several years and he has a truly impressive resume. He has appeared in the cover of important magazines and overall is a very accomplished individual. I am saying this not to brag (the accolades are not even mine) but to show why I felt excited and a bit nervous when on Wednesday morning I got an email saying that I was going to have lunch 1:1 with this person in a couple of hours.
I arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early just to make sure that I would arrive before they did and that I would have time to calm down and think over a couple of things. And then they arrived. And then we had lunch. And it was not what I was expecting at all… I was expecting someone that would blow my mind and would be super impressive but in reality it was nothing out of the ordinary. This was not this person’s fault at all! It was my fault for having this elevated expectation of how this person should act.
When I look back and try to understand why there was this strong mismatch between my expectations and reality I can point out two reasons. First, is that we as humans love to treat successful people (especially those that we don’t know) as super-humans. Second, is that we tend to assume that because people have accomplished super-impressive things in the past that they go around the world being super-impressive every single day. We make this assumptions in order to fill in the gap in our minds and have a “cohesive” picture of who is this person. Nevertheless, we tend to be wrong because that’s just not the way people operate.
The takeaway for me in this case is that demystifying people that we idolize in one way or another is necessary. It helps us humanize these individuals and understand that their accomplishments, while impressive, do not fully represent who they are as individuals or how they conduct themselves.
Demystifying our idols is not only helpful but necessary.