Dumbest Person in the Room

Mel O'Sullivan - August 8, 2021

I was raised in the bush and I can't remember how old I was when my father taught me to shoot - in the process developing a fairly strong understanding of the concepts of dead ground, basic ballistics, judging weapon ranges and how animals use cover, stillness and movement to survive. I also knew why you don't present a silhouette on the skyline.

And what kinds of cover would stop a bullet and what wouldn't.

As you can imagine I was fairly comfortable in the bush (bloody loved it!) and usually did reasonably well in the bush phases of training at ADFA and Duntroon. As Tactics is heavily reliant on the understanding and use of geography or "ground" it's reasonable to conclude that a good understanding of the concepts of Tactics would naturally follow.

Wikipedia defines Tactics as follows:

"the art of disposing armed forces in order of battle and of organizing operations, especially during contact with an enemy. Often contrasted with strategy"

As you can imagine the ability to study and pass the Military training on Tactics is fairly crucial to success at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Oh boy! When it came to Tactics I wasn't just the dumbest person in the room - I was very nearly the dumbest person in the entire class - a hair breadth ahead of the non english speakers. No matter how hard I worked, or how much I studied and revised - passing tactics was always a touch-and-go prospect.

Of course if you fail Tactics at RMC it's an automatic fail and drop out of Duntroon. Unthinkable after a three year investment in blood sweat & tears at ADFA and the prospect of an Honours Degree after Graduation. Practical exams in Tactics are called Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTS). Lets say I was a regular attendance at retests and at one point even took extra curricular study home on leave.

I just couldn't grasp Tactics the way the Army wanted me to know it - I could never remember the ranges or capabilities on weapons I had never seen in action.

In Tactics and Military History Theory classes I was the undisputed Queen of the Dumb Questions. I always sat at the front of the class and almost always had my hand up asking what I believed to be really stupid questions. I took so many notes in class my hand cramped up every time. It looked so much easier for everyone else and continually failing tactics badly undermined my already low stock of confidence.

Fast forward many years and I had another "Dumbest Person in the Room" moment last Friday. I've always considered myself mildly ignorant because I've never learned a second language. In the first meeting of the day my Boss and workmate dropped smoothly and seamlessly into French checking the quality of the French translations on our website. It was fascinating to watch.

The next meeting of the day with the Teaching team included a conversation on particle physics between a bloke with an (honest-to-goodness-no-s**t) degree in particle physics and an ex US Army Ranger who proudly declares one of his strongest skill sets as "always being able to hit what he aims at". Then the bloke who consulted in robotics added his bit and they started talking about qual-popsicles or something.  One of the cyber security blokes might as well be speaking greek for all I understand his technical specialist stuff. And when Tom Moore starts teaching his Venture Capitalist stuff I feel like I'm sitting on another planet.

It's just the way things are for me and most of my workmates these days - including the blokes who started and own the business.

In Tactics being the dumbest person in the room just about destroyed my career and almost completely wiped out an almost non existent reservoir of self confidence. I sometimes think I scraped through tactics because the Instructors could clearly see how hard I was trying - because I put a lot of effort into my dumb questions.

There are a few reasons why I loved my Dumbest Person in the Room moment last Friday.

A few years after graduation a Duntroon classmate told me how much everyone loved having me in their Tactics classes because I could always be guaranteed to ask the questions everyone wanted answers to but thought would be too dumb to ask. Imagine what it would have done for my confidence if someone had told me that at the time.

If you have a reputation for asking dumb questions you also have a reputation for being the most curious person in the room. It means that you still have a growth mindset at forty (mumble mutter) years of age. I means that I know that I still have things to learn - just have to choose between Spanish and French. It means I still have the growth mindset that is crucial to success in life and career moving forward - especially in my current career of choice.

These days I wear my title of "Queen of the Dumb Questions" with great pride.

If you want to break into the tech industry then sign up to our platform and begin your training today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our community

We have a Discord server where you’ll be able to chat with your instructors and cohort. Stay active in your learning!
Join discord