The curse of knowledge. Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?

Dreyfus 5 steps model_sweat your assets

I have recently learned how creators and entrepreneurs should be aware of the curse of knowledge. By recognizing its set of “risk/opportunities”, you can identify and share untapped skills, products and services with your audience.


The Curse of Knowledge is “a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, who is communicating with other individuals, assumes they have the background knowledge to understand”.

You are subject to the curse of knowledge. We all do! For instance, there will be occasions when you casually talk/write to people assuming they have the same knowledge about the subject. In such situations, two things happen:

1) You overestimate the knowledge and experience of the audience. You think they already know.

2) You underestimate your hedge on the subject 

How is it possible?

Let’s start with the easy answer:  you might not know well enough your audience (market). This is a classic scenario, with a simple solution: assess the audience over time and adjust your message or offer accordingly. You will discover what they don’t know and identify any unmet needs.

The second one is the most intriguing takeaway: you know more than you think. You have untapped assets. While you might easily list subjects where you consider yourself an “expert”, there are other areas you are not yet fully aware of, where you already have marketable knowledge and experience. But, again, you might not yet realize it, for 4 reasons:

1) You have acquired them in a casual & informal way, as a by-product of other activities and experiences. As such, you have not yet accounted for them as formal valuable skills and experiences.  

2) You think those skills and experiences are common and easily available in the market. You don’t yet see them as an asset. You don’t think your clients will find value in them.

3) You judge your knowledge and experience in a very strict way (novice, advance beginner, competent, proficient and expert). As such, you only share opinion and services in areas where you feel an absolute expert. While this might sound professional, it can also limit the value you can provide to your audience. You can clearly recognize situations where you can share products and services in areas where you are just competent or proficient, but not yet an absolute expert.

4) You did not yet realize that you can change the target market based on the set of skills and experiences you want to leverage.   


The moment you realize you know more than you think, at least in relation to your specific audience and market, you should correctly take stock of yourself and harvest your untapped assets.

This is the flip side behind the curse of knowledge.  What you know – no matter the level of proficiency – could already be valuable for the right audience. Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to provide and share?

Along these exact lines of thought, I read this excellent article by Derek Syvers.

You might know this feeling:

You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breath-taking. You’re stunned. Their ideas are unexpected and surprising, but perfect.

You think, “I never would have thought of that. How do they even come up with that? It’s genius!”

Afterwards, you think, “My ideas are so obvious. I’ll never be as inventive as that.”

I get this feeling often. Amazing books, music, movies, or even amazing conversations. I’m in awe at how the creator thinks like that. I’m humbled.


But I continue to do my work. I tell my little tales. I share my point of view. Nothing spectacular. Just my ordinary thoughts.


One day someone emailed me and said, “I never would have thought of that. How did you even come up with that? It’s genius!”

Of course, I disagreed and explained why it was nothing special.

But afterwards, I realized something surprisingly profound:

Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them.

I’ll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious.

So maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else?

Hit songwriters often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording.

We’re clearly bad judges of our own creations. We should just put them out there and let the world decide.

Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?


Until next time, take stock of your assets and sweat them.

Financial Wisdom + Discipline = Financial Freedom


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