Mental Health, Random Ramblings, Truths, Writing

What Makes Someone an Expert?

It seems like there are “experts” everywhere: writing experts, marketing experts, fashion experts, organizational experts… The list goes on to infinity. But what makes an expert an expert? How do we define an expert? Let’s go to the dictionary!


expert

noun ex·​pert| \ ˈek-ˌspərt  

:one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Sure, there are other definitions out there, but this one seems straight forward enough. Okay, so how do you know when you’ve attained “mastery” of a subject? Back to the dictionary!

mastery

noun mas·​tery| \ ˈma-st(ə-)rē  \

possession or display of great skill or technique

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Hmm… It seems like “mastery” of a skill is harder to define. For example, if you’ve earned the highest ranking belt in some form of martial arts (like karate), then sure, the title of “mastery” seems well-earned and fitting. YAY!!! You’re an expert! No arguments from me! However, if you organized your grandma’s basement once-upon-a-time, have you really earned the title of “expert” in organizational skills? How many books do you need to write before you’re an expert in writing? What makes someone an expert in fashion? At what point does this “expert” thing happen. Do you go to bed one evening, not an expert then write a certain amount of words the next day and BINGO, you’re an expert in writing? Or does this expertise sneak up on you?

I’m not trying to be facetious. I’m practically the poster-girl for Imposter-Syndrom. I’m always learning so I can’t ever imagine thinking of myself as an expert, nor would I pretend to be one.

But…that’s not really the point of this post.

No…the point is that I believe there are a LOT of “experts” on the Internet, peddling their “master classes,” charging a TON of money…who aren’t really “experts,” not in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary sense of the word.

I’m not talking about the website, Masterclass. I think that they do a great job vetting their “experts.” They’re pretty affordable for what they offer. I picked up Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass at the start of the year and felt like it was well worth the money. (He’s written more than 30 books in nearly every genre…so yeah, I’d say he qualifies as an expert.) At the time of this post, an all-access pass to Masterclass.com is $15 a month or a single class is $90. Each class is approximately 15-20 episodes, plus a PDF workbook. If we look at Neil Gaiman’s writing class, it’s 19 episodes plus the workbook. At $90, that’s $4.50 per episode, plus $4.50 for the workbook. That’s pretty affordable. In fact, I saved $5 a week, for 19 weeks, to justify the purchase of this class. YUP! I’m THAT girl. LOL

Meanwhile…I’ve seen “experts” in writing, marketing, and all kinds of other things asking a thousand dollars (or more) for their “master class.” What’s worse is that some of these “experts” try to berate and guilt their followers into forking over their hard-earned money. “It’s only $99 per month.” for ONE class! Really? Let’s get real. I could take a class at my local community college, pay less, and put those credits towards a degree.

If someone has the guts to ask for a thousand dollars (or more) for a class, more power to them. The problem is, I’ve vetted some of these armchair  “experts,” especially the ones in the writing world. Some of these “experts” only write books on how to make money writing. Some of these “experts” do write other books under a pen-name…but they aren’t well-written or well-edited. Again, there are exceptions to every rule, but it almost seems like the folks that charge the MOST offer the LEAST, and have the LEAST amount of real-life expertise.

Why does any of this matter?

There are a LOT of folks, sitting at home, feeling bad about themselves because they’re afraid to get started on their dreams because they aren’t an “expert.” Meanwhile, there are scammy folks who would be happy to take our money, who may not know more than you or I do!

Anyone can write a meme, make a video, or teach a class…this doesn’t mean they’re an “expert.”

If an “expert” tells you that there’s only one way to do something…you need to ask yourself, “Is this true? What makes this person an “expert?” ESPECIALLY if you’re thinking about giving this person your money. Could you borrow one of their books from the library first? Do they offer information on their website? For example: famous, prolific writers often have an entire page (or more) on their sites for new writers. (Because they really are experts and they want to help. Neil Gaiman has YEARS worth of free advice on his blog and seems consistently humble.) Meanwhile, a lot of these scammy “experts” mostly offer generic advice for free. Many haven’t been an “expert” for very long. Keep this in mind when you see these infomercial-style talks.

What are your experiences with “experts?” I’d love to read your stories in the comments below.

Take Care!

xo Juli

*Photo by Pexels on Pixabay.

12 thoughts on “What Makes Someone an Expert?”

  1. I keep thinking about taking one of those masterclasses. Neil Gaiman is the top of the wish list by Margaret Atwood has one as well. I think it might end up being a Christmas treat for myself.
    I agree with you about these so called experts though. I’ve written blog posts about blogging but not as an ‘expert’ just as someone who has blogged for a few years (about eight) and made plenty of mistakes along the way. I wouldn’t charge anyone for what I put in those posts though, because as you say, most of it is generic.
    I think a lot of mastering something is trial and error, so while you can look for advice and take it on board, without the graft and the hard work, it won’t do you much good.
    That’s my thoughts on it at least.
    Thanks for an interesting read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are sooo right!

      I got Neil Gaiman’s class as a birthday gift for myself. (I turned 45 this year.) The homework assignments were really helpful. Best of all, I learned that it’s okay to put myself out there. I needed that boost, as I am NOT a confident person.

      I think we can learn new things from anyone. (I learn new things almost daily.) It’s great to take what works from MANY sources. We’re all unique. What works for one person might not work for another. What bothers me is when people are unkind to one another in order to fill their own pockets. We all have bills to pay. I get that! But it’s unkind to bully anyone into buying products that most of us can’t afford.

      I’ve read some GREAT self-help/how-to books from authors who feel like they’re still a work-in-progress, but feel like they have good advice BECAUSE they’ve made so many mistakes. I honestly LOVE those kinds of books. They feel sooo…human. LOVE THAT!

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Take care!
      Juli

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG! Don’t get me started about the plethora of “experts” in the horse riding world. They are called “rail birds” because they lean up against the fence rails outside the arena, usually at shows, and critique the riders they are watching. I must add that they , themselves, do NOT show or compete or even ride that well. They also sit in tack rooms and prattle on about how to do this and that and how it should or should not be done. Exasperating!! To be honest there are few expert riders of horses. The ones at the top who have been riding for many years and who have been successful on a number of horses , they are the true experts. But those very experts are the riders who are the most humble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG! I’m sooooo glad you commented with your story.

      You brought back so many memories of my horsey days. I did my best, but quite frankly, If I could NOT look like a sack of potatoes on my little Quarter Horse, we were having a great day! LMAO! We didn’t show, but I did take dressage lessons. (I think they helped.) It was fun. I learned a LOT but I never gained any level of expertise. I was always one of the worse riders in my class. Not self-deprecating, just not as much experience as the rest of the riders. Honestly, this wasn’t a bad thing.

      You are absolutely correct! The BEST riders are so humble. The barn next door to my former stable once hosted the Lipizzan Stallions when they were on tour in Michigan. (This was about a million years ago.) We had a chance to visit the horses and EVERYONE was really nice. I felt like such a country bumpkin by comparison. Meanwhile, some of the worst “experts” I’ve met couldn’t even ride as well as my sorry-self and some of their advice was really horrible and even brutal.

      I remember one of these “experts” giving my sister advice that she should fill a piece of garden hose with sand and bop her horse over the head whenever her horse threw his head up. She hadn’t had him very long and it took time for the two of them to learn to trust each other. OMG! They sell head bumpers (we used to call them “dummy caps”) for a reason! I don’t think this “expert” understood how horrible his advice was. Not only would beating my sister’s horse accomplish NOTHING, advice like this has the potential for being fatal. Again, that was about a million years ago and it STILL make me so angry!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post is honest, insightful, and timely. Especially since I (we) get so many notices from experts whose services we should subscribe to, whose products we should buy. I know an expert when I see the work, especially If I get to see the working. The plumbing, the glass-blowing, and so forth. I went to graduate school to I could learn how to deal with literature as professionals do. I learned that. Does that make me an expert in text and text interpretation? Maybe. I blog, but am I expert at blogging? In no way. Maybe we need a watchword for experts so-called as we need for consultants. Something like what is said in Fiddler on the Roof: Lord, keep the Czar–far away from us. Great work! I hope you have a splendid week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You are absolutely right. There are MANY levels between student and expert. Anyone can offer advice based on life experience, education, or BOTH. The problem is that many of these “experts” (trolling my email inbox) are setting themselves up to be some sort of master-level teacher, but don’t seem have put in the time to back up their claims.

      This is going to sound like ageism so I’m afraid to even write this, but if a person is in their early twenties, and they are claiming to be a master-level anything, the odds of this being true are NOT in that person’s favor. They simply haven’t been on the planet long enough to put in the work. Yes, there are exceptions, but these exceptions are going to come from people who have been putting forth time and effort since childhood, and that still doesn’t mean that this person is emotionally mature enough to teach what they’ve learned to someone else. Emotional maturity takes longer to develop. (I’m 45 and still figuring stuff out! There’s no way I’d consider myself at a “master level” of ANYTHING. LOL)

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I enjoy the poetry you share on your site.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 100% this! I am always wary of anyone who says they are an expert. I prefer people who say things like, “Well, I’ve done a lot of this, but…” This means they’re acknowledging that they’re still growing and evolving, which they should be doing until they die (maybe afterwards, even, depending on your belief system).People who say they know it all are after something – either compliments or cash, and I am tight with both, LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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