Stefani Wilkens
Stefani Wilkens | Graphic Designer

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Avoiding The Expert Trap

In order to give credit where it's due, I'd like to start off with a bit of a disclaimer. This post is a part of a series based on what I learned at the Revolve Conference. The specific talk that inspired this post is Caroline Nuttall's  Stop Generating Leads, Start Driving Demand for Anything You’ll Ever Sell. Learn more about her and her work here.


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There are too many experts in the world today. You may be giving me some major side eye through the computer screen right now but I promise you, it's true. The fact is, it's easy to be an expert. Take a few classes, watch some tutorials, and bam! you sooner or later will know what you're doing. It's not rocket science. Heck, there are probably far more rocket science experts out there than we actually need. The reality is that with enough determination and some time, you can become an expert in anything from string theory to ancient Mesopotamian chanting.

Collecting and spouting off knowledge is not hard.

Don't believe me? Look at all the listicles that pop up when you search How To ________ in Google. 

I guarantee you that those articles are written by people who consider themselves experts in that particular field. The problem with this is that none of these people are actually contributing anything innovative to their specified arena of expertise. They're simply listing out known quantities. 

If you're a millionaire, it's easy to list the things you did to become that wealthy. If you're a certified yoga instructor, it's simple to name the best poses to relieve stress. If you're an extreme couponer, knowing where to find the best deals is second-nature. I guarantee you that each of these people did not start out as millionaires, yoga gurus, and coupon powerhouses. They decided they wanted to become something, and figured out how to do it. Piece of cake.

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with being an expert. We should all aspire to be an expert in something. However, expertise is not a one-way road to success by any means. The majority of the world's experts (AKA everyone) won't do anything significant in their lives.

Experts are the new average.

We all have access to more data than ever before and we're all capable of aggregating it. Hell, my listicle posts are some of my most popular content. But there's no innovation in them – I'm simply helping to create more experts. Knowing how to do things the "done" way never changed the world. Thinking that it will is a lie. Unfortunately, it's a lie that's all too easily sold (and bought.)

Don't you aspire to more?

So, how does one avoid The Expert Trap? Start asking the tough questions. Start asking why. Start questioning EVERYTHING. 

Asking hard questions can lead to major innovations. The inventor of the cell phone asked why phones had to be connected to walls. TiVo's creators asked why it wasn't possible to pause live TV. The Wright Brothers asked why we were limited to traveling on the ground. Ancient philosophers and scientists were willing to question whether or not the world was flat!

The world used to be full of people who questioned what was generally accepted. But when was the last time you heard a truly visionary question? When was the last time you asked one?

Questions are the key to moving out of the expert category and into the realm of the world-changers. It's not easy to do, but it's completely possible if you're willing to deal with the discomfort of not knowing the answers right away. 

So, where's the list of what I have to do to change the world? Yes, I know that's what you're all really wanting, so here goes:

  1. Find your question. What can you ask that Google can't answer?
  2. Hypothesize. What are the possible answers? 
  3. Test your hypotheses. Some ideas will flop, others will gain momentum.
  4. See what works and run with it. Build your audience and community. 
  5. Ask another question.
  6. Repeat.

That's the process, pure and simple. Every world-changer out there has used it. Now it's your turn.

The hardest part is asking the right question.


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