Why it still pays to be an expert

Last week, I related the central idea of a terrific book, “The
Death of Expertise” (Oxford University Press, 2017), by Tom
Nichols, as follows:

“In our culture today, we not only don’t trust our experts, but
openly argue with, ignore, defy them, and at times even treat
them with outright contempt.”

Though I also noted that, despite the growing disdain for experts
in certain fields in some quarters, there are still many who
flock to experts for guidance and advice.

Therefore, becoming an expert — that is, ideally (a) a true
expert who really does know his stuff and (b) is also recognized
as such by his industry or field — can be a big boost to your
career and your business.

Reason: recognized experts or “gurus” are more in demand, have an
easier time getting clients, earn more money, and sell more of
their products and services.

But how do you become a genuine, recognized expert in your
specialty — and gain the kudos, prestige, and financial rewards
that go with it?

Well, on page 30 of his book, Nichols says there are 4
requirements needed to truly become a genuine expert in your
field:

1–Education — What he really means is knowledge gained through
study.

Broadly, to be a genuine expert requires deep understanding of
your subject, and part of the way to gain expertise that is
through diligent, persistent, and careful study.

As an autodidact, you can study on your own. All experts I know
do.

But obtaining some of the knowledge by getting a degree in your
field, especially from a prestigious university, can also be a
plus — and in some fields, like physics and medicine, is
requisite.

And in many other fields as well, not only does a formal
education accelerate your learning, but people tend to take you
more seriously when you have your degree.

2–Talent — People are typically talented in a discipline through
some combination of training, practice, and natural aptitude.

3–Experience — Malcom Gladwell, Mark Ford, and others have said
that to become good at something you have to do it for a thousand
hours — and to become a master, you have to do it for around
10,000 hours.

4–Peer and public affirmation — It usually takes both
achievement and recognition by both one’s peers and the general
public to be considered an expert.

Examples include movie directors being recognized with an Oscar,
musicians with a Grammy, scientists with a Nobel Prize, and
journalists with a Pulitzer.

Of course, those are at the top of the game, and multiple lesser
prizes and publicity can also help you achieve expert status —
everything from giving a talk at your local library to writing an
article for your industry trade journal.

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