One thing that took me a surprisingly long time to figure out is that just because something is published academic literature doesn't mean it's well-written, nor rigorously designed or thought-through, and it does not mean it contains a staggering intellectual breakthrough!!! only accessible to Very Smart People who Study the Paper Closely.

I suspected this foggily as an undergrad, but didn't really believe it until a year or so past graduation when I'd read more scholarly papers, timidly went up to one of my former professors, and said "look, I've been looking through this <publication whose name will remain anonymous> and I just don't get what they discovered, it sounds like these studies just did a couple random things and came up with mediocre conclusions and I think they could have been better-designed but I'm guessing there's something I'm missing." (Not verbatim, but you get the idea.)

Well, of course! was the prof's reaction. Stunned, I repeated this experiment with multiple professors. Results held. It was not that I hadn't been "smart enough" to "understand" the papers - it was that the papers didn't have much worth understanding.

I've tried to question "academic mystique" ever since. Where does this "academic credibility" the rest of the world looks at and goes oooo, shiny! we believe you, because you have a PhD! come from? Is it masked by long processes and fancy-sounding words and good-looking LaTeX templates more often than it should be?