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Define Expert

I heard an interesting definition of “expert” this morning from Ray Higdon on the Entrepreneur On Fire Podcast. He said “if you know more than other people due to investment and learning, you are an expert.”

He’s kinda right. We never want to put it that way or walk around calling ourselves experts but knowing more about a subject due to learning and experience CAN make you an expert to someone who knows less than you. So why aren’t we okay with that? Why do we sit around not helping people because we think it’s up to the people who are qualified?

If you know stuff that other people want to know, you’re qualified to share what you’ve learned.

We’ve been trained to believe that an expert looks a certain way:

They’re older, wiser.
They have a degree. Maybe a MBA.
A Master’s Degree.
A PhD.
They’ve put in a certain number of hours.
They have many leather-bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany.

The truth is none of these things are a prerequisite for expertise. No longer do you have to be older, wiser, and degree laden, in order to help people. You just have to know what you’re talking about and share it. That’s it.

How would you define expert? Do you think there are rules to expertise? If so, who enforces them? I think we should be done trying to enforce rules that don’t exist. Done forcing stories onto ourselves and others. Read books, go to conferences, listen to podcasts. Become an expert and share what you’ve learned.

Stop believing the story of the mythical gatekeepers. If you know stuff, help people.

Happy Monday!


(Edited for clarity:

Original 2nd paragraph read: 

“He’s actually right. We never want to put it that way but knowing more about a subject due to learning and experience makes you an expert by definition.”

Edit: “He’s kinda right. We never want to put it that way or walk around calling ourselves experts but knowing more about a subject due to learning and experience CAN make you an expert in someone else’s opinion.”)

  • Phil - You asked, so here it goes!

    I disagree with throwing around the word expert but I do agree with the general message of your post.

    The definition of expert is : a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area. Just because you know more than someone else doesn’t make you an expert. For instance, I can tie a sheep shank knot. Now, I learned this on my own, I even bought a book on knots, I “invested” all of 30 minutes in learning this. Should I then start selling ebooks and claiming my self a knot expert? No.

    The problem I have with this is self-qualification. If you have to tell people you are an expert then it is highly possible that you aren’t. That is more related to the “authoritative” portion of the definition. To be an authority on a subject you must not just know the subject but, over time, you must impress upon enough people that you know it comprehensively.

    All in all, those indicators you posted absolutely are not pre-requisites. I don’t think anyone thinks they are requirements at all. But your article does seem to undermine them and I think it is fair to say that they are valid indicators of ones personal experience level. Someone with a PhD in Physics is far more likely (statistically speaking) to be an expert in Physics than someone without.

    That being said, sure I think everyone is on a journey of learning and if you have something to share, by all means, share it. I just wouldn’t go around self-qualifying yourself as an expert, I usually tune those people out (i.e. Entrepreneur On Fire.)ReplyCancel

    • Chris Creed - Thanks for reading, Phil!

      I do agree with you that I took the word expert and spun a little out of context in order to make a point. That point being:

      I would totally download your knot-tying E-book! And because you have taken the time to learn those skills and have developed them, I would consider you an expert. You don’t have to qualify yourself as an expert but people would assume that you are. I don’t know that you don’t have “comprehensive and authoritative knowledge” in knot-tying. I just know that you know more than I do.

      This is the basic thesis of this post: If you know stuff, share it.

      Nowhere in there does it say “Make shit up and see if you can get people to pay you money for it.” That’s not what I mean. What I mean is you have pure intent and you know stuff that someone else might want to know, you should feel confident in sharing it. You also shouldn’t feel any guilt if people start calling you an expert. Yes, it would be douchey to just walk around proclaiming to the world that your an expert. But it would be a tragedy if you didn’t share what you have to share just because you didn’t consider yourself an expert.

      I DO think most people assume they’re unqualified to share their knowledge. If not because they didn’t go to school for it then because people have told them (probably more than once) that they are not qualified and have no right to share what they’ve learned. That is the mentality that this post is combating. It’s not about self-qualifying. It’s about freedom to honestly share what you know in order to help other people.ReplyCancel

  • phil - I assumed that was the point you were trying to get across and I agree that sharing is caring, I just have an axe to grind with people calling themselves experts or authorities on subjects when they clearly aren’t.ReplyCancel

    • Chris Creed - Totally get that, man. And you’re right to grind that axe! Next time I will try to be more clear.

      This post is definitely more about inspiring people to think more of their work and their knowledge and not leave it up to “the authorities” to take care of everything. Calling yourself an expert is dangerous and it can effect other people negatively if it’s not true. BUT if you’re open and honest about who you are and what you’ve learned, I think it’s more than ok to share. And if that happens someone might think of you as an expert. Doesn’t mean you should claim that and put it all over your website, but to them, it’s definitely true.

      Great, Great convo, man! Thanks again!ReplyCancel

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