How to Become an Expert
Becoming an expert in any field is no easy task. Fortunately there are a few fundamental practices and traits we can implement in our pursuit, that will increase our chances of earning true expert status.
1. Constantly Educate Yourself
Obtaining a new skill, new information or a new perspective creates an environment for the mind to stay young, creative, inspired, healthy and relative. Educating yourself through reading text, listening to content, watching videos, going to workshops, conferences and/or taking courses are all things eventual experts embrace.
I make it a daily practice to read some sort of material on wellness, fitness and self-improvement. This is not a Tuesday, Thursday investment, true expertise requires a year round effort to improve our skills and enhance our education.
Make it fun by engaging in material you love learning about; material you can apply soon after, or content that can aid in greater efficiency and impact in your life. Do this and educating yourself will rarely be seen as a chore.
2. Learn from Mentors
Mentors and experienced experts give us insight into the future that would normally take us years of personal successes and failures to learn about.
“A smart man learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others”
There are endless resources available providing great teachings from the world’s most accomplished experts in their given field, as well as a ton of high achievers within hours of where you live.
I recommend a variety of local and virtual mentors.
In terms of local, who’s the best in their field within your company, within your city? Virtual, who’s the best in the world/country to accomplish what you are seeking to achieve.
The good news is, quality mentors want to share their knowledge. They want to see the growth of the next generation.
Local vs Virtual
Local mentors – those you can converse with, meet with, share ideas with, and receive actual feedback from, are great for all the reason ‘s mentioned. They’re tangible. These mentors keep you grounded, focused, and are great to brainstorm with.
Virtual mentors (the best in their field that you don’t have access to via in person meeting) are still phenomenal resources – and commonly your most used resources. Regardless if you can actually get a hold of them or not, virtual mentors are still invaluable. These individuals will always share great insight, and can give you a glimpse of what true unadulterated expertise and determination looks like.
I suggest finding multiple mentors, with different points of view and perspectives. You never want to get locked into an ideology, as information and knowledge is always evolving. Learn from a diverse group of experts, and expand your learning tree.
3. Take Chances
Living within your bubble, scared of risk is a sure fire way to never become great. Greatness requires risk. Betting on yourself is a risk. Doing what 90% of people in your field aren’t doing is a risk. Seperating yourself from the ‘pack’ is a risk. They’re risks because they’re unconventional and underutilized.
Chances don’t always have to be seen as a major risks, where it’s an all or nothing gamble. Chances can be as simple and basic as investing your time, energy and attention into something you believe in, that no one else can currently see.
Turning down a job so you can write a book is a chance. Travelling the world to photograph is a chance. But if you love doing them, these “chances” will always be worth it, regardless of the outcome.
You have to be willing to choose the unorthodox path when trying to earn expert status. That doesn’t mean this will always be the path to success, but you can’t be afraid to take the unpaved path.
Experts do what 90% of people don’t do. This is the reality of the situation. Experts live in a different creative space, with a greater sense of self-belief and live life with a higher risk tolerance. Experts also enjoy taking chances on themselves, and see risk or pressure as an opportunity to do something great.
4. Apply Your Education as Often as Possible
Educating yourself and learning from mentors is a great first step, but action is the most crucial step of all in terms of obtaining knowledge. If all we do is consume knowledge, yet never apply it, the knowledge is to some degree pointless.
As the great Author and expert in communication Dale Carnegie writes,
Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.Dale Carnegie
Expertise requires we practice what we preach and learn, over and over and over and over again. You get the point. Then and only then, can we create true impact and change.
Every job or skill I’ve become a relative expert in (Top of the company, record setter etc. in sales, fitness, wellness), was surrounded by a relentless amount of hours applying my learning. Teaching new hires. Sitting in front of people. Opening doors. Hearing 20-80 ‘no’s’ per day. Working out for hours and hours every day.
This constant application was the fastest and most efficient way to develop my skills to expert status.
The constant repetition I experienced enhanced my confidence and built a machine like programming to converse about the material I was learning about while developing a robust and resilient mind and body.
All this repetition allowed me to answer questions on the subject with ease, and learn how to present and apply my teachings in a way that connected to people in a valuable and insightful manner.
5. Build a Support System
Support might not be fundamental to expertise, but it certainly can speed up the process and prevent a lot of talented individuals from giving up on their dreams and ambitions.
As much as I’d like to say I was always 100% motivated to crush the day and be the best possible human being and professional I could be, this simply isn’t the case. A support team has an outside perspective, which we all need from time to time.
Life becomes too stressful and blurry when we keep looking at life through the same lens. Love, positive words of encouragement, reminders, and suggestions are all necessary to keep us running optimally.
Expertise takes level headedness. A support system provides us the ability to slow down and rationally think things through. A great support system could consist of your partner, family, trusted and respected friends and colleagues, and anyone who can provide constructive criticism without deflating your excitement.
Pick your team wisely and don’t be afraid to cut out people who are holding you back.
6. Self-audit Your Development
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”Albert Einstein
The last thing anyone wants to do is run around in circles pursuing an empty dream. This is an unwise way to spend one’s saturday afternoon.
By self-auditing your development, you have a clear blueprint of what’s working and what isn’t. Knowing this is a massive advantage and step in the right direction towards becoming an expert.
You should want to work smart, not hard. Hard work is required, but smart work is desired. The more you accomplish, with as limited amount of stress and setbacks as possible, the more you will enjoy the path to expertise, and the greater the likelihood of you sticking to said path.
I suggest regular self-audits (at the very latest, quarterly) to see if progression has plateaued, or if what you’re doing is working. Knowing either, will save you a lot of time, effort and money.
7. Follow a Passion
If you’re not a following a passion, what’s the point of becoming an expert? You won’t actually enjoy what you’re doing, and you’ll inevitably fizzle out to try something new.
Finding something you truly love learning about, talking about and doing is critical to becoming an expert in it. If you don’t have an odd obsession about the subject matter, it will be hard to become one of the very best. Why? Because all experts have a weirdly unique relationship with their field of study.
Experts go to bed thinking about their craft. They wake up wanting to dive into their field of study. Experts simply don’t want to pursue anything else.
Truthfully speaking, expert status is too hard to obtain if you don’t intrinsically love what you’re learning about.
Honestly ask yourself, “what would I do everyday of my life for free, if money wasn’t an option?” Answer this question truthfully and pursue expertise in this field, if you care to do so.
Passion is a driving factor behind consistency. And consistency is the only way you will after achieve any level of expert status.
8. Perform at an Extremely High Level: Deliver
I cannot over state this. To be an expert, you have to deliver.
Talking the talk is bush league. People want to see results, and they want to receive value from what you are providing them.
If I have the audacity to say I want to be a leading Canadian Ultra Endurance Strength Adventure Athlete, I have to deliver on results. I have to go out and set new records, take on new, inspiring, spectacular challenges that put me in a league of my own.
Then and only then, do I gain credibility to educate people on what it takes to become truly physically and mentally strong enough to handle the most brutal challenges a day can throw at you.
The more I see people talk about being a “fitness professional” while providing absolutely no value to what they’re saying or doing, the more I want to shout out, BE BETTER!
Experts are amazing at what they do. They are the person they say they are. They’re not trying to be somebody they’re not. They’re not faking it. They’re the real deal. If you want to be an expert, be the real thing. Earn your stripes. Earn true unwavering credibility. Stop with the entitlment, and deliver on being the person you tell other’s you are.
If you’re not willing to make the sacrifices to deliver on the biggest stage and do the things the very best in the world (within their field) do day-in-day-out, stop the pursuit and do something else that doesn’t require years of consistent high level effort and application.
Experts earn their place. Earn yours.