How To Not Be an Expert

February 07 2013

The marketing industry has been waging an attack against the social media ninjas, gurus, and mavens of the world. Gee, I wonder why.

But this isn’t yet another post about the “fake gurus” of the world. Because we definitely don’t need another post about them.

We need to talk about the real “experts” of the world. Please read with an open mind.

Honing expertise, knowing about your industry, and keeping up with trends is crucial. I’m not knocking this. And the words “expert” and “specialist” offer a certain uniformity that’s necessary in many industries.

It’s just that…uniformity isn’t always a good thing.

Because the self-proclamation of being an “expert” or “specialist” is slapping on a label. The label can then act as a shield which can breed narrow-minded thinking. It can give permission to get sucked into minutia, where you focus on information that no one outside of your expertise can understand. This is good and bad.


Titles such “expert” and “specialist” bring the subliminal need to “be right.” If you’re a pilot or surgeon, you should be an expert. No one wants you to be wrong at your job.

But if you’re an “expert” or “specialist” in a creative field, or if you’re in a field that’s not life or death, it’s important to recognize the need to not always be right. And it’s important to examine word choice. Because words frame your thinking. And thinking frames your creative expertise:

Specialists often get stuck in inside-the-box thinking. They can also get distracted with the politics of their field or in debates about minutiae. To avoid that, specialists must talk regularly with colleagues from related but different disciplines, and seek out rebels and dissidents at the margin of their fields, listening to their perspectives with an open mind.

Everyone’s reality is structured differently. When your reality is structured so that you’re an “expert” it can limit perspective. And it can give off a sense of self-important intellectualism that makes a soul as stiff as cardboard.

Be careful how you choose words. And be conscious of what your words convey.

“Expert” speaks for itself (literally and figuratively).

But results scream louder.


12 responses to “How To Not Be an Expert”

  1. […] And you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?). So even if you’re like me and try not to be an expert, bite your tongue and call yourself one. Roll with it. Talk with authority and sound smart. Just […]

  2. […] our reality, which impacts how we do our work. I’m not a psychologist. And I’m not an expert in thinking, […]

  3. […] our reality, which impacts how we do our work. I’m not a psychologist. And I’m not an expert in thinking, […]

  4. […] tried hard not to be an expert. But no one thinks the way you do. And no one has your knowledge or expertise. So you create an […]

  5. […] Hire a professional. But try to avoid the gurus or fauxperts. […]

  6. […] you one of the “experts” who promises results overnight? If so, do you find that you’re trying to prove something? […]

  7. […] of not thinking that you are better than other people – which is why it’s important to not be an expert. And while it’s important to be regarded as credible and trustworthy leader in your industry, […]

  8. […] when you curate your way to quality content. And it may happen when you’re not being an expert in your industry. So, what is kitsch and how do you avoid kitsch in your […]

  9. […] could have called himself an expert on history. He was a historian, after all. But he knew how to not be an expert. He did not say “history is the best!” Instead he proclaimed “humans are the […]

  10. […] get it. It’s more reassuring to think of yourself as an expert preacher than a non-expert practicer. But when you realize that none of it matters, you can surrender into the art of being […]

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