About The Mooch and Me
WHAT DO former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci and I have in common? As it turns out, more than I’d thought. We’re both former government spokespeople (I lasted three years. Him, 10 days). But more broadly, the Mooch and I recently learnt a similar, painful life lesson: namely, you can’t fake expertise. With six hardy colleagues, I recently participated in a 100 kilometre charity bike ride. Resplendent in bespokely designed, state-of-the-art cycling apparel, on bikes that felt like they’d been designed by NASA, we honestly looked — and felt — like Olympians.
Behind his podium, The Mooch looked fab, too.
At the start line, eyeing up the riders, some with their own bikes, zero per cent body fat and those clippy-in shoes, I remember thinking “I look after myself. I’m not a million miles off these guys.”
I reckon The Mooch felt the same as the press lobby filed into the White House briefing room last week.
Only problem is, until two years ago, I couldn’t ride a bike, and then I’d never ridden a sports bike and hadn’t cycled further than from home to the tube station. Until two weeks ago, The Mooch was a banker. Inevitably, 30 kilometres in, I briefly stopped for an unplanned, total body, tarmac-based skin exfoliation.
Apparently, a snazzy kit/suit and bike/podium do not a cyclist/spokesman make.
Licking my wounds at the side of the road, upturned bike wheels still spinning, I learnt that there’s a significant difference between a “cyclist” and “someone who can ride a bike”. Between an expert and an amateur dressed as one. Sitting in a dark room somewhere, the Mooch is probably thinking much the same.
You can’t fake expertise. Dressing up as an expert always leads to egg (or in my case, gravel) on your face.
I’ve no idea if it’s genetic, but Jewish people have a passion for debate. We tend to quickly take firm, often radical positions. Around Shabbat tables, on social media and, increasingly, in “open letters” referencing “heretics” and “abominations”, more and more of our community are claiming to be political analysts, diplomats, historians, experts, Brexperts and Dweckxperts, when — and they know it — they really aren’t.
I don’t know if you, like me, have Facebook acquaintances you’d ordinarily defriend but for the curiosity of seeing what insane view they’ll post next. Meanwhile, the comments and conversations they trigger tend to quickly go south, unearthing a thread of responses that range from illinformed and batty, to downright troubling.
In the heat of it all, it’s often forgotten that anyone can see it. Seeing some of this rubbish, from communal leaders and “Jews in the pews” alike, you couldn’t blame a non-affiliated person reading it for feeling negatively towards us. And it is “us”. As much as we hate it, we’re all tarred with the same brush. We’re all judged.
I’m man enough to acknowledge now that any experienced cyclist would have navigated the road that was my undoing without even flinching. There’s a humility in knowing what you don’t yet know. And yet, with next to no experience at all, I got my kit on, took a selfie, and confidently set out on an elite-level challenge I was, let’s face it, woefully under-qualified to tackle.
So please, I beg of you, learn from the mistakes of the Mooch and me. Cherish the areas you’re already expert in. Quietly take the time to develop the ones you currently aren’t. If you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before the peloton leaves you and the other Sunday riders in the hedgerow, wheels spinning and red-faced.
There’s a MRÞN[NWûN between an expert and an amateur