How to Be a REAL Expert in Your Field

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Just because an ‘expert’ talks about something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the real deal. The truth is, in our social media age, it’s easy for anyone to claim to be an expert.

Nowadays, information is more easily accessed than ever before, and this means that people can pick up information quickly and use some of what they know to give the impression that they’re an expert on the subject. What used to take years of study, experience, learning from others, and so on, can be faked through a few Google searches and copy-pastes of someone else’s ideas. Yet, on the other hand, just because someone has a title or degree doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an expert in their field either, as knowledge and information change very quickly from one day to the next. Just because someone has a great deal of experience doesn’t mean they’ve learned to operate efficiently, or have kept up with current trends in their fields. 

It’s hard to know if someone is really an expert, isn’t it?

Traditional experts became experts by investigating topics, but the internet has greatly reduced the time needed to research an issue. In the past, experts were the source of knowledge, but now, knowledge is freely available online. The internet has moved control of information from the experts to… itself.

Here are the stages of truly becoming an expert in any field. 

Level 1: Beginner.

The beginner follows the rules, but they may have a hard time with new challenges and synthesizing new information. After all, they are in the beginning of their journey to mastering a certain field.

Level 2: Intermediate learner.

Someone at this stage is becoming better at utilizing their knowledge and applying it skillfully, but they are still early. They may apply the same framework of ideas to multiple experiences and challenges because they don’t know how to creatively use multiple frameworks in their field to come to workable conclusions about an issue. They may be limited in the kinds of results they can deliver at this stage.

Level 3: Increasing Competence

Here is the learner is starting to become a teacher. They are better at handling problems and approaching challenges in a more multifaceted way. They are increasingly flexible in their problem-solving process and have a better grasp on information and scenarios from more perspectives. They’re getting into a groove for their own routine and pattern, and they can anticipate the way others think.

Level 4: Approaching Expert.

At this point, they’re able to solve problems with great intuition and more speed than before. They’re also able to adjust to others and look at situations several steps ahead, like a chess player. They notice when things are outside of the ordinary because they’ve had enough repetitions working around an issue to understand how it unfolds, and they’re able to skillfully teach others in their field.

Level 5: Expert

At this point, the learner has become a master, and they’re able to understand almost any issue in their field with clear intuitiveness and precise comprehension. They know their field so well that they are able to not only teach it to others, but to equip others to become teachers as well, guiding them with creative guidelines and methods. They are in a constant state of self-awareness and learning, and they are able to tackle issues in their field that no one has addressed before.

People can become experts even if they aren’t the most naturally gifted or intelligent people. It simply takes drive, repetition, and a creativity to embrace change. 

Watch out for ‘Fake Experts’

Don’t be fooled by people who have some knowledge and experience, but don’t have the genuine process of learning and adjustment and problem-solving that makes a true expert. It’s easy to tell when you’re dealing with a fake expert when you see them and counter a difficult issue in their field and they simply revert back to their one or two conventional methods of dealing with it. Anyone who does that is not an expert.

The Journey to Actually Becoming an Expert

To become a genuine expert, you must start as a learner and embrace each stage above. There aren’t any shortcuts. Here’s how to move through each stage with precision and effectiveness. 

First, measure your experiences. Create for yourself plenty of documentation about what you’re learning. Note what is working, what is working, and where you have the most success. Get feedback from others and write down as much as you can. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Second, get in the habit of learning from and interacting with others. One of the best ways to accelerate your knowledge and move you on the fast track to becoming an expert is to spend time listening to others and teaching others, learning from them at the same time. Other people force you to articulate your ideas and develop skills in ways that just don’t happen when you’re alone with a book. You’ll be exposed to situations and scenarios that challenge you to think differently.

Third, embrace new experiences and focus on learning what you can from situations that seem unfamiliar. Don’t run away from what you don’t know or from what seems strange; instead, embrace it, as gross usually happens just outside of your comfort zone. Reflect constantly on what you’re learning and talk about these reflections with other people. 

Fourth, develop a habit of continuous learning. If you were an expert, you never stop learning and in fact develop an increasing appetite for knowledge and new ways of thinking. A true expert is not made by an accumulation of information, but by the consistent willingness to adapt that information into new scenarios and to change their assumptions. Even as you teach others, you’re learning 10 times as much. If you’re an expert, of course.

Now you know what it takes to actually become a true expert in your field. It isn’t just about being able to do a Google search and regurgitate information; it’s about meaningfully composing that information in applying it in different scenarios, constantly learning, being willing to change, and helping others grow and learn. Do you want to be an expert? Roll up your sleeves and put in the work. There are no shortcuts, but the rewards are incredible.