An “expert” is defined as a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
It’s a term you hear a lot. I feel that using the term is lazy — a sloppy way to define good intuition or experience. People say, he or she is a social media “expert” or that Dr. Coan is a true “expert” in his field. But calling someone an expert would suggest there is only one solution or explanation to any problem in a particular area, and he/she holds the key to it.
For example, if you are an expert in crime prevention, there would be no crime. You may have very good intuition and understanding of what a criminal is likely to do, and you may apply an educated guess on how to intercept the crime or identify the criminal. But to be an expert, you would have the answer on how to end crime. You know how to change the world in a way that would alter the very nature of the human mind so that it would no longer produce or inspire criminality.
We can work collectively or as individuals to find amazing and wonderful solutions to very complex and difficult problems, but unless a person is able to remove all influencing elements that would in any way develop or inspire the given problem, they would likely never be able to rise to the status of expert.
Being an expert is self-defeating, in a way. If you have the ultimate answer to a problem, then it no longer becomes a problem. If your solution is then standardized, it would always work — thus removing the need for the expert.
As human beings, we are constantly growing and learning, doing our best to make the best judgments possible as individuals. There is no doctor who believes he or she can cure any disease or heal any wound. They realize there is always a risk of making a wrong choice. What makes anyone great at what they do is their ability to broaden their perspective when looking at a problem — to try to anticipate many scenarios so they can minimize risk. They challenge their first instinct and go further to find the answer. They reach for the expertise they will never attain with an understanding that the answer is likely in the reaching for it.
Some of us simply have more experience than others and continue to strive to learn and reach for new truths. This lends endless insight into problem-solving and can usually lead to a better result. I question the 10,000-hour rule because it depends on how each hour is spent. What level of effort is being put into each hour? Time spent without the intent to grow and learn beyond your capacity results in polished mediocrity.
We are only as good as our last result, regardless of whether we succeed or fail. Once we are done, we plant a flag in the ground — a marker that reminds us that this is as good as we are for now. Our motivation and fuel for momentum come from our ability to remember our own past successes and failures. This is why it’s so important to recap and look back at our processes and discover to what our intuition was able to lead us.
There are no experts — just those of us who have realized that we are all subject to our experiences and the lessons we’ve willingly learned from them.
Alex Raffi is part-owner and creative director at Imagine Communications.