What Defines An Expert

Expert. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot. We hear about people who have been in the game since the dawn of the internet. We hear about people trying to establish themselves as an expert. We hear about tools. We hear about continuing education. We hear about the debt of continuing education (I’m not going there, promise.) But there are a lot of ways that we define experts because guess what? The title of expert isn’t something like a tiara that you just pop on one day. It is given to you by popular opinion.

We hear about people trying to establish themselves as an expert. We hear about tools. We hear about continuing education. We hear about the debt of continuing education (I’m not going there, promise.) But there are a lot of ways that we define experts because guess what? The title of expert isn’t something like a tiara that you just pop on one day.

So let’s take a look at what by definition an expert really is and maybe in the process, show people how truly badass they are for being the kind of expert that doesn’t even know it.

A Definition And Society’s Rules

    EXPERT: (n.)

a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

Notice that this definition does not include mention of the following:

  • Education, higher or otherwise
  • How long it takes to become an expert
  • Who gets to pop the expert tiara on your head
  • What exactly the qualifications are for expertise (with the exception of “a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill”

I’ve been reading (listening to an audio book) called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently and she tells the most magnificent story about a 90 year old woman that became an expert in ancient Mesopotamia at the age of 80.

The review for Big Magic is coming super soon. As soon as I get through it. Vote yes or no in the comments.

This woman did not go to grad school. This woman devoted a decade of her life learning everything that she possibly could, networking in the ancient Mesopotamian academic community, and at the end of a decade, at age 90, this incredible woman became acknowledged as an expert in the field.

So this is what our culture expects of our experts:

  • They be educated by a formidable institution
  • They be middle aged (not too old, but not too young)
  • They be what we expect them to be

But why is that?

What if we could shift our mindset around experts to include the people that are

  • Self taught
  • Known what they wanted since they were in their teens
  • Been working toward that goal since they were in their teens (sometimes unknowingly)
  • Experienced rather than “educated”

Would that include you?

What An Expert Looks Like

This is the one that kills me most I think. I saw expert in their field and hopefully you don’t conjure an image of a salt and pepper haired man in tweed with elbow patches. But in society and media and all the shit, that is what we are conditioned to expect.

Well hate to rain on anybody’s parade (and I do know that elbow patches are kind of in right now), but there are no tweed club jackets. There is no stereotype that fits the expert.

Here is my favorite example.

Recently I was discussing this with a friend. We were talking about when we close our eyes what do we see? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Albert Einstein?

Funny enough, when I close mine, I see Marie Forleo.

The woman is a phenom and brilliant and has amazing hair. And why shouldn’t she? Where in the expert’s guidebook does it say that someone who knows their shit like Marie Forleo shouldn’t have great hair? Or frizzy hair if they want. Or hair at all?!

You get what I’m saying?

What This Means For Everyone

I’ve written before about establishing your expertise and what that can mean for your business. After this post, hopefully I’ve shared something that resonated and makes you feel a little more confident about sharing what you know.

This, like most of our business endeavors, are not ever really complete. Expertise is something that you gain by not only dedicating yourself to the education (formal or informal) that a field requires and sharing what you know when you know it.

If you have something that you are amazing at, do it. Share it. Learn about it. Expertise is an objective thing that you cannot control. But what you can control is how you’re sharing what you know with the world and how you are applying it in your business and of course your hair.

If you walk away with nothing else, walk away with this.

There is nothing preventing you from becoming an expert.

I think that was kind of my mic drop moment. Oops. Guess that’s as good a place as any to stop and ask what you think. Share with me in the comments who your favorite expert is and what makes them so badass to you.


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