The definitive guide to absolutely nothing

And other things I can be sure about…

I don’t know about you, but my newsfeed is constantly full of “the definitive guide to…” or “the last article you’ll ever need to read about…”.

It doesn’t matter whether I’m reading about executive coaching, entrepreneurship or how to run a marathon in 12 weeks (which by the way, I can’t!), there’s a definitive version just waiting for me.

I have to be honest…IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY!

Don’t get me wrong, the authors often have great ideas. I’m not questioning their expertise. But I am questioning the idea that there is nothing left to learn about any given topic — or that they have captured the complexities and idiosyncrasies of a topic in a 3 minute read.

We live in a world where the rate of change and knowledge development is unprecedented. Things I knew yesterday are today replaced with new ideas and concepts that are suddenly unfamiliar and challenging. It follows (inevitably I suggest) that the relevance of a “definitive guide” has a very short shelf life.

Rather than trying to tie everything up into a nice, easily consumable package I wonder,

“Shouldn’t we constantly challenge our assumed definitions — isn’t that what leads to progress?”

The most inspiring founders I know are always questioning how things could be better. And as far as I know, none of them follow the same playbook.

In fact those founders who know the old playbook - but write a new one — seem to have the greatest success (and the most fun!)

The DGS (Definitive Guide Syndrome) not only limits our thinking, it also limits our tendency to write. How many times have you thought about putting pen to paper, done a quick google search of the topic, only to find that the top 10 search results are “the only things you need to know about…”? It’s not exactly motivating…but it does lead me to think…

“How can we be better at encouraging each other to build on ideas?”

Let’s not think about the idea of the expert or thought leader as zero sum game. If you add to my idea, surely it doesn’t negate the value of my contribution? And if, through my interpretation of your idea, we both see things in a different way, isn’t that valuable?

We can create that value if we have…

  • Curiosity — a willingness to ask questions of each other — and an openness to answer them
  • Conversation — opportunities to talk to each other and
  • Courage — to put our ideas out there and to challenge each other

But I’m sure there’s more that would help…what do you think?