Becoming an expert

The Expert’s Dilemma: Why You Really Don’t Need to Know It All

Being an expert in your field should be your ultimate goal. Becoming an expert is a byproduct of years of dedication, commitment, application and mistakes.

*What defines an expert is up for interpretation. We live in the age of information, so being a true expert requires ongoing learning and is a continual process rather than a state of being.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “ok…becoming an expert is the goal, that’s not worth a blog post, Nate.”  But wait, there is much, much more to this. This article has a very important message for anyone who serves a demographic or niche (software developers, content creators etc.) This message is so important in fact that it could quite literally, change your business forever.

If I hadn’t followed the advice I am about to give to you, I wouldn’t have accomplished anything yet. I wouldn’t have provided the content, products and services that have helped thousands of people in my market and made me a good living as a result.

The Truth

While becoming an “expert” in your field should be your ultimate goal, what you do with the time leading up to this level of experience is critically important. How you handle yourself before you are well-known as a leading expert will have a huge impact on your business success and credibility throughout your career.

Please, take the next line very seriously and trust me (it is the core of my business model and I promise you, it is true.)

You don’t need to be an expert in your field to serve your target market immediately.

You do need to be an expert at something, but that doesn’t mean you need to know everything in your field.

So, you may be a little confused at this point. Let’s continue…

You Need to Become an Expert at This One Thing

Ok, here is what you need to understand, you need to become an expert on the problems and needs of your audience.

You can’t help others without knowing what their problems are. I’m not referring to just the obvious ones (although low-hanging opportunities are frequently overlooked by competitors and there may be opportunity here.) I am referring to acquiring a deep understanding of the following:

  • What wastes your target customer’s time?
  • What causes your target customer to lose money?
  • What causes your target customer to become frustrated?
  • What is your target customer’s biggest fear?
  • What does your target customer value?
  • What opportunities are your target customers overlooking?
  • What does the future look like for your target customer and how can you help prepare them for it

You should also know the answers to some of the questions about:

  • What solutions already exist?
  • What do they do well?
  • What are they lacking?
  • Why do people use them over other options?
  • What do your target customers love about the existing solutions?
  • What do your target customers hate about the existing solutions?
  • Are the prices on these other solutions too high or too low?

Asking and answering the questions above requires both empathy and creativity (two of the traits I respect most in people.)

Test the current solutions for yourself. Literally buy them, try them, read them, whatever you need to do. I buy and try a lot of things in my process of identifying needs for my target customers. I often learn a lot in the process from my potential competitors. Oh, and don’t be a jerk, if you buy something from a competitor just to check it out, don’t return it. That is tacky and EntreResource readers are above that.

The Expert’s Dilemma

The title of the post wasn’t written that way just to grab your interest. Being an expert truly has a bit of a downside.

When you are an expert in your field, you may no longer suffer as many potential problems as a novice or even the majority of others in your field. You begin to focus on higher-level problems (ones that many in your field don’t even know about yet). This can become limiting if your goal is to service that market and see things holistically.

An expert can begin to lose empathy with the typical member of your market. They no longer share as many of the same problems as someone with less experience. The truth is, these are frequently the people who need to be served the most. Of course, you can service those people like you (other experts) who face your similar problems, but it is quite limiting.

When you are an expert, you do have an opportunity to help your market on a larger scale, but you will be limited greatly if you lose empathy for others facing different experiences. Quite often, this is the case, hence, this article needed to be written.

There is quite often a disconnect between having a lot of experience in a field and the ability to create products that serve it. Many great products (services, softwares etc) are created by a common member of a market who identified a problem, corrected it and had the audacity to share it in spite of lacking massive credibility. There is also no better way to boost your credibility than by creating something that serves the community well.

Why Being Negative Can Be Positive

I have 8 brothers and sisters. Aside from DNA, most of us McCallisters share a common personality trait: sarcasm.  It isn’t exactly a beautiful character trait, but sarcasm can be a hilarious way to make a point.

My sister Anna is arguably the best at expressing sarcasm, flinging subtle sarcastic darts that cut your ego straight to the core. Although I am typically a very confident person, I admit that I give my words an extra second or two of thought before I say them around her. This must be a conditioned response from past sarcastic burns that were the emotional equivalent of being karate chopped in the throat.

Sarcastic people fight the urge to view the world with a “what is wrong here” approach. When channeled correctly, this is perfectly conducive to identifying problems. In business, the word “problem” is synonymous with “opportunity.”

You have an advantage over others if you decide to approach things by asking  yourself “what is missing here?” Or, “how is this not perfect?”

Now, being negative and not leveraging it for improvements and change but merely as a reason to complain, makes you, well, a bit of a douchebag.

Self-help books typically suggest we change the way we see things. That we train our minds to see things in a positive light. I’m not sure if this really works or not (to me, how you see things is more about brain chemistry than some adjustable mentality, but I am no neuroscientist and I rarely ever stay at Holiday Inns) Either way, whether we can change how we see things or not, we can change they way we respond to them quite easily. Do this!

Important Advice for Those of Us Who Aren’t Yet Experts

I will be the first to admit that I don’t consider myself an expert in entrepreneurship. I am not an expert at copywriting, e-commerce, outsourcing or anything that I teach here at EntreResource. There is simply too much that I know I don’t know yet.

“Then why the hell are you writing so much!?” you may be wondering.

Although I don’t know everything, everything that I say, I believe to be true. I feel this way because I have experienced it, researched it and considered all other options known to me. The points I make are based on facts, experiences and testing.

Fortunately, I don’t have time to talk about everything in these fields even if I knew it all. I have plenty of valuable information to share each week as it is. You do too, just make this promise to yourself:

If you don’t know something, accept that you just don’t know. Never let your desire to be seen as an expert cause you to give advice that you aren’t sure is sound. This is how you lose credibility, not by not having all the answers but by proving you are too dumb (usually just too proud) to know (or admit) that you don’t know. 

Take Action

I hope that you now understand the following

  1. Being an expert is not a state of being, but an ongoing process.
  2. If what you say is true and based on facts and experiences, your advice is just as valuable as someone who has far more experience.
  3. You are doing a disservice by holding back information, products or services you know would provide value and solve problems because you are afraid of being an “imposter” or feel you need to be an expert to be heard.
  4. Being an expert at the problems facing your target market and practicing empathy for potential consumers is the best way to find success.
  5. Some people are wired with a glass half empty mindset. If this is you, you can turn this into a great advantage.

I hope that you approach the market fearlessly, with empathy and a problem solving mindset. If you do this, your success is inevitable.

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About Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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