Why Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong

I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. That is, I love the books and the BBC TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpieces. I really don’t like Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal, but that’s beside the point.

Me at Baker Street
When I got the opportunity to spend a week in London, I had to go visit 221B Baker Street.

Sherlock Holmes is amazing! He can analyze mud samples on a stranger’s boot to be able to identify which part of England he recently visited. He can sniff tobacco ash to tell you not only the brand, but also where the smoker most likely bought it. With anything that involves seemingly insignificant evidence to a case, Sherlock Holmes can be counted on to be the world’s consummate expert.

Sherlock’s work is his life. Nothing else matters. The man doesn’t even know if the world revolves around the sun or vice versa.

I know, I know. The “Earth is flat” theory has recently re-reared its ugly head in this anti-Enlightenment movement that the world is, unfortunately, undergoing. Sherlock, however, actively chooses to remain ignorant on such “insignificant” topics.

In A Study in Scarlet, he famously says, “What the deuce is it to me?… You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

When I read that excerpt in my favorite Sherlock story, I obviously disagreed with my literary friend. Sherlock is clearly wrong. Right?

Although that passage gave me a memorable, “Oh, Sherlock…” moment, my recent career switch revealed to me just how much like Sherlock I’d become.

For the last five years, I taught middle and high school English. I thought I had an extremely broad scope of knowledge that I brought to the table; it turns out I didn’t.

Apparently, obsessing over the esoteric jargon and processes of a particular field develops a Holmesian mindset in even the most inquisitive of individuals.

Teachers tend to incessantly analyze life as it’s happening around them in terms of how they would teach it to their students. We can’t help it. We just want those precious little brats to have the best future prospects we can offer them. I haven’t escaped this mindset just yet. Consequently, while studying up on the processes of conducting business in other careers, I’ve been kicking myself for not learning about these things while I was teaching.

My students would have benefited far more from learning actual project management techniques used in business than from the prescribed processes of “Project Based Learning.” If I had taught them real UX/UI principles, I can only imagine the amazing things they could have produced. The conflict management skills taught in management training would be so useful for teachers to know!

Sherlock’s mistake and my own go further than skills that may have helped my teaching. The UX principles and the management skills also apply to each other, and to other elements of design, and in the broader scope of life as well! This epiphany has me looking into as many careers as I can in hopes of becoming the most well-rounded person, employee, innovator to ever exist. I’m excited to see just how much my “brain attic,” as Sherlock calls it, can hold, and how all that information can change me.

Take a moment to reflect on your skillset and what you bring to your job, your hobbies, your relationships. Are you relying on too few sources of information and inspiration? Branch out! You might just have an epiphany while you’re at it.

-As posted previously on my LinkedIn account

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