At breakfast this morning with a friend and colleague I heard a confession that was interesting to me. She said, “I worry I don’t have enough expertise to be able to do this.” This was interesting because of all the people that do not have expertise, she was defiantly not one of them. She is well trained and educated. She has certifications and letter behind her name. She has years of experience and still she worries that it is not enough.
In the book “Outliers: The Story Of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell he demonstrates that success is very different than what we think. The typical ‘over night success’ takes years to achieve and that expertise in any one area is similarly a journey of learning and practice. He suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to become an expert in your field. So the question is then, when is it enough that what you know and are able to do is considered as an expertise? When do you become an expert?
Start by simply adding up the amount of time you have been focused on doing what you want to be considered an expert at. If you want to be an expert barista and you work at a cafe for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year it would take you 5 years to reach Malcolm’s 10,000 hour level. If you are an entrepreneur and you are taking certifications and teaching others in a specific field like wellness, you may only get to focus on your expertise 20 hours a week, in which case it will take you 10 years.
Add In The Past
Deciding to focus on one field was likely not a single point in time. I highly doubt you said to yourself one day, “today I’m going to start my journey to become an expert guitar player,” and then go out and buy your first guitar. Expertise is an evolution from your past experiences, your passion, and your abilities. Get a friend to help you look back at your past and see where you have been using your expertise and how you are building on those foundational abilities. My friend at breakfast this morning could not see this for herself, yet she had spent many years as an employee successfully doing exactly what she wants to help entrepreneurs be able to do for themselves.
Experts don’t hit the 10,000 hour mark and stop what they do. Now that you are an expert there is no time for a nap, you have to continue to learn and grow. Experts are not ‘know-it-alls’; they are people that live and breathe their knowledge. Experts don’t bring out their abilities, like party tricks, to show off; they are engulfed in their field of expertise all the time. If you are an expert and you don’t get to simply speak your educated point of view without ridicule then you probably are ready for a new group of people to hang out with. It takes a long time to become an expert and the sharp edge of your experience is dulled by disuse, so don’t stop using your gifts.
Put It On
When you get picked to be in a band and perform for hundreds or thousands of people that want to have you back, you can easily see your expertise. When you work hard to be good at something that only a few people at a time get to experience it is sometimes easy to overlook our expertise. If you have the training and the experience and people tell you how good you are at what you do, maybe it is time to start wearing the title of expert. It won’t feel like it fits immediately so don’t discard it. Call yourself an expert and see how people react. Say it in front of people that know you, so they can help you validate your new title. It will fit soon enough and you will hear people refer to you as the expert at ‘X’. If you don’t believe it first, no one else (except your closest friends or your paid coach) will believe it either. You know you are so what are you waiting for.
Say it. “I am an expert.”