I hear the same things from my clients and students over and over again:
I’m still new at this. I need more experience.
I need to get <insert Official Certification here> before I start.
I can’t charge that much (or at all) because I’m not an expert yet.
Sometimes that “newness” is expressed in *years* – and the “certification” is *yet another* one, not the first one.
Interestingly enough, in every case, when I ask: “So, have you *helped* anyone?” there is no hesitation. (“Of course!”)
What exactly is an expert? And who defines it?
Dictionary.com defines an expert as: “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field.”
When we hear the word “expert” – we immediately think of the people who know more than we do.
There are degrees of expertise.
Picture it as a ladder.
The ladder represents All There is to Know about a Given Subject. (In many cases, there is no “top” – it expands infinitely into the sky.)
Once we decide to learn about something, we start climbing the ladder.
We look up and ahead to people who know more than us: our teachers and mentors. We look sideways towards our peers.
If we’re keen on the subject, we’ll climb past our first teachers and seek out new guides higher up the ladder.
And when we’re at the very bottom of the ladder? All we see are the people ahead of us.
We may even mistakenly think that those people are at the top.
As a woman I spoke with recently said: “To a 3rd grader, a 4th grader is a God.”
Somebody has to teach the beginners
The bigger the knowledge gap between learner and teacher, the harder it is to communicate.
You’ve probably had this experience.
You were new at something and you asked for help from an “expert” – and they overwhelmed you with jargon and left you more confused than you were to begin with. (Remember your first computer? First time on the internet?)
Sometimes the best person to teach someone is the person just slightly ahead of them. (Hint: if you are capable of overwhelming someone with jargon, you know enough to teach them something.)
We need teachers at all levels of the ladder.
You can start teaching as soon as you know more than other people. In fact, teaching other people is a great way to cement and accelerate your own learning.
If you have any desire to teach, speak or write about a subject, I suggest the following “test” to determine whether or not you are “expert enough.”
- You know more about the subject than the people you’re going to help.
- You feel confident you can help them.
- You’re aware of the limitations of your expertise. You know when to refer people to someone with more knowledge/experience.
No matter where you are on your path right now, there is someone behind you who looks to you as the expert.
Go ahead. Teach them something.