We gotta open closed loops of knowledge
How about we stop gate-keeping information and share broadly and widely?
When my parents bought our house, they paid for it in full — they saved up for years to be able to do that. Buying something on credit was just not done — one, think of what the people would say — it's not like we can't afford it, no? And two, buying anything with a loan or on credit is a straight road to debt and poverty.
When I was one of the first in my close circle to get a credit card of my own, I was told time and again that it was a risky decision. Why bother with a credit card when you have a debit card and the funds to pay for something in full?
Well, as it turns out, that's not strictly true; credit cards are actually different for the rich (in this case, the upper-middle class) and the poor. This is information that seems like it would be easy to access and use, no?
Over the last five years, I've realized that there are so, so many things that can help boost or uplift people that are just not present in the public domain.
When I decided to go for my Master's, all the information available was only on websites. So I had to go and seek out pieces of information1.
Two years later — there's an information boom on TikTok, and in 2020, that'd spread to Insta reels. Nothing's changed except that someone, somewhere, decided to share information, and that kinda started a chain. Whatever the end goal (money, mostly), these reels and TikToks are actually helping people. It's making a difference.
But here's my question — why was all this information gatekept in the first place?
There are closed networks with closed loops of knowledge. People keep information within their communities, within groups of people exactly like them, or even just within their families. Heck, I know there are members of my own extended family who gatekept information from their siblings.
More often than not, information refers to 'formal, academic education'. While that's important, there's a practical, street-smart knowledge set that most people don't even know about.
IMO, we keep our information in these closed networks for two reasons. First, the rich do it, so they remain rich without any threat to exclusivity. After all, an exclusive club is only attractive when it doesn't let everyone sit at the table. Otherwise, it's a commoner's cafeteria.
The not-rich withhold information so they don't get demoted from not-rich to straight-up poor. It's a very common and understandable fear that there are limited opportunities for you, your kids, and your kin to climb the ladder.
And I know I've talked about cultivating an abundance mindset in the past, and while that's generally a good thing — this goes beyond that. Sure, there are thousands of opportunities — how do you go about finding them or accessing them without critical pieces of information? It doesn't help that some opportunities are only passed around behind closed doors.
I like to think about this in terms of starting a new job.
You walk in, they welcome you, and assign you a buddy/manager/someone to show you the ropes. Then, you're told unequivocally, "Ask all the questions you want, and we'll answer."
Except it's day one — you don't even know what questions to ask. You have no idea about things that bear questioning either.
Ask questions — what questions? I didn't even know there were questions that needed to be asked.
What would be easier is getting a document that tells you everything you need to know to start and then invites questions at the end.
Sometimes, despite sharing information and opening the floor for questions, these closed loops of knowledge continue. Again, it's the quality of information and knowledge that's important.
Telling someone there's a scholarship available is a great start, but they might be clueless about where to begin, and that piece of info might go to waste. So instead, share more broadly — tell them there's a scholarship, what's needed, and what hurdles they'll potentially face. If you can, tell them how to get over those too.
If more of us shared our lived experiences and pieces of information more broadly, it would help many more people. Also, it would benefit us, too — this is important to add because, as humans, we're fairly selfish. Sharing information leads to more information because there will always be something you didn't know to ask about.
For example, I'm now looking for a room to rent in a new country (more on that below), and it's only weeks later that someone I reached out to (via someone else I went to college with) mentioned a housing allowance that could significantly help me. I didn't start out wanting to trade pieces of information, but it ended up that way. I didn't even think of asking about a housing allowance — how do you know the questions to ask when you don't even know something exists?
Maybe social media can have some rights
Think about the people who review stuff with pictures. They're the backbone of our society like someone said. It gives you enough knowledge to see if a shirt fits fine or if that gadget will last. Few of us review even though most of us buy.
This is also why I think while some influencers and trends do a lot of harm, there's a lot of good to be found in their work. Think about the people who told Americans not to blindly accept a bank-breaking hospital bill and asked for an itemized bill instead — people found it reduced the amount they had to pay. Publications took that tip and ran with it — and thank god they did — so it's reaching more people now.
Open access to social media means there are both ordinary folks and influencers on there. This means we've got unlimited knowledge that people are now trying to share widely. Tips that save food, reduce waste, improve savings, and help you do things better. Finance tips, life hacks, health advice — the information was there on the internet before too, but this time it's being shown to you instead of you having to seek it out.
Sharing knowledge = sharing privilege
Opening closed loops of knowledge benefits people of colour, Black folks, the marginalized, and the economically disadvantaged the most.
For example, most people of colour entering the workforce aren't armed with the same knowledge as their white peers. Seemingly basic things like what to wear, which bag to buy not to stand out, whom to contact for a specific thing, how to write to get someone's (someone important) attention, situation-specific etiquette that people use to judge you and your upbringing — all soft knowledge that isn't said, but quietly passed on. Other stuff like knowing how to approach someone, how to network, how to do X to get Y as a result in a social/professional situation — all vital pieces of info you didn't even know you needed.
Generational knowledge, if you will.
The power of social learning is why it's so important, in any behavior change initiative, for leaders to model desired habits for others. Unfortunately, the strategies that lead to advancement in the workplace aren't always obvious, making them difficult to model. Think about finding a job, for example. An obvious approach — applying online — is not the most effective, since 80 % of job openings are never listed publicly. People with generational knowledge know that a superior approach is to cultivate personal relationships and seek out referrals.
The solution? Make shit obvious. Talk about things. Share more widely and broadly.
We already know that the more concrete stuff — money, pay transparency, workplace diversity, etc. — is supposed to be common knowledge but isn't. Especially for those who are not rich, cis-het, and/or white.
When you're armed with the right pieces of info, you can make better, more well-informed choices that don't exploit you.
But when you're given more than the bare minimum, you can thrive instead of just survive, and that's extremely important — don't you agree?
Small piece of big news!
I'm moving to the Netherlands at the end of this month! ✈
Along with work, this newsletter, and Substack Grow — I'm now also hunting for a room in The Netherlands. The dutch housing marketing...is challenging to say the least, so if you know anyone looking for a tenant (flexible w location), please let me know? 🏠
All other tips, pieces of advice, and more about living in The Netherlands are freely welcome too! :D
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Some cool stuff to check out throughout this week! 💌
Six degrees of connection — except on Wikipedia. They'll show you how two seemingly unconnected pages are actually so close.
Some of the most powerful and inspirational photos ever taken.
14 books for every kind of mood.
For all the questions you can't/couldn't ask your dad and then some:
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I’ll see you next week — maybe not at the same time, but definitely the same place.
In the end, I just followed my friend to a uni she decided to go to. Thankful she didn’t gatekeep that info from me, yk?