The more I learn – Derek Blair

The More I Learn The Less I Know!

It’s one of those weird things – every time I read a book, I discover that there is even more stuff that I don’t know very much about.

For example, I am currently 200 pages into a fabulous book by Dr Neil Faulkner entitled Lawrence of Arabia’s War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East in WWI. It is available from all good independent book sellers, either new or second hand. I’m not on commission and this isn’t meant to be a review of Neil’s book, I’m just using it as an example.

The first 150 pages or so has comprised a summary of the geo-political history of the Middle East, particularly the Arabian Peninsular, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Syria and Turkey, in the lead-up to and during the first half of World War One. It has also covered the machinations of the other imperial powers (e.g. Britain, France, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia and Italy) in the region up to that point.

Some might see what is essentially a 150-page introduction as overkill, particularly for readers who consider themselves familiar with the Lawrence of Arabia story and who might even be members, like me, of the T. E. Lawrence Society ( The thing is – I’ve learned so much and joined up so many previously unconnected and seemingly random dots by reading it.

However, anyone who peruses it will leave with the impression that they know a lot less than they thought they knew before they had read it. Don’t tell Mrs. Blair, but in my case, this sort of intellectual vacuum just has to be filled by the purchase of a whole stack of other books on tangential subjects in a feeble attempt to fill in some of the newly discovered gaps and to join up more of the dots. More Tsundoku fodder (!

I think that there is an analogy here with running a business. Someone who has run a business for any length of time may reach a point where they begin to suspect that they have learnt as much as they need to and start to coast. They start to make assumptions, based on personal experience and all those factors in their business’ equation that are in their control which started off as variables gradually turn into constants.

At the same time, they may be unhappy with how the business is performing and it may be that their work-life balance has become out of kilter. They “hope” that someday it will all change, and the business will miraculously become more successful and easier to run. The obvious flaw is that controllable constants are not going to change on their own.

However, there is an alternative, which is to start to consciously turn some of those constants back into variables. You might do this because you want to free up more family time, generate more profit, employ more people, or make more of a difference somehow. But it can be difficult knowing where to start and what the knock-on effects will be. It is also likely to require some sort of investment of time and/or money.

The first step on this sort of journey, it seems to me, is to admit to yourself that you don’t know everything.

The second might be to initiate a chat with your accountant by asking how much they would charge for a business planning conversation. You never know where it might lead you.

Happy dot joining!

Derek Blair, Owner, Pinkham Blair