A few months, I was editing a Google Doc while speaking to a colleague on a Zoom call. While on call my colleague wanted some feedback.
It turned out the content was largely fine but more could be done with it. It was documentation that was supposed to explain some reports. I quickly broke down the content into parts and used a narrative framework that helped with association. What is association when writing content you might ask? I will get to that at the end of this post.
My colleague was very impressed on how I was able to edit the document I had seen for the first time ever with such precision and structure while on a call. I was praised for my skills as if they were magical. I had superpowers it would seem!
I think half of it was thanks to Google Doc, the colleague could see in realtime how I edited the document. But I will admit, being praised for your talents as something special made me feel really nice.
This happens often, when we see a sportsperson, a singer, a dancer, a speaker do something impossible difficult with such ease that it feels like the person has some superpowers.
While popular artists, sportspersons or the odd prodigious mathematician might just seem otherworldly in their skill level, having colleagues who are good at their work viewed as people with superpowers can have a negative impact.
When we perceive people around us, working and collaborating with us as people who are just better than ourselves — like some superheroes with super powers, it can make us feel anxious, inadequate and definitely get a lot of that imposter syndrome going.
And honestly that super hero with super powers is absolute nonsense!
Dig deeper and the answer to all prodigious skills often come down a mix of three things. Practice, opportunity and privilege.
Let’s break it down
Let’s break down why I could edit that Google document so well.
I had over the past decade and half edited a technology blog for several years, and edited thousands of articles, and given feedback to several tech writers and hence, my ability to edit and structure copy on the go is a well practiced skill. I also had the opportunity to gain this skill by being paid for it as part of my job.
But even before I started my career, I had a lot of privilege. I had the emotional and social encouragement to read hundreds if not thousands of books, which improved how I think about things and also sharpened my vocabulary. Even though I have no formal training in copywriting, I have held jobs over and and over again around writing content thanks to this background.
Next time you see a colleague who is really good at something, do not think of them as people with superpowers. Try to get to know their stories through the lens of practice, opportunity and privilege.
That way, maybe we can learn how and where to improve ourselves but most definitely we can understand ourselves a lot better!
Wait, what about association that mentioned at the beginning of this post?
Association is a memory trick. Associating things with something else helps people either remember or understand / empathise better with a concept.
For example, if I tell you to remember the number 1202 and then ask you to tell me this number 20 days later, you might struggle to remember.
If I told now told you 1202 was just 2021 (this current year) backwards you will likely remember this number even 40 or 100 days later. It work’s really well to keep association in mind while writing, documenting and explaining things.