One of the most coveted roles in our society is that of an expert. Experts are not just average people. They command respect, and get it. People hang on their every word, and make them their go-to source for information. Often, experts can create wonderful new income streams, because their information is that valuable.
Let’s face it. If we want to solve a problem, we look for an expert. If we want advice, we seek out an expert. And if we want to stay on track during a particularly arduous process … yep, same person … the expert.
More than ever before, people want to be perceived as experts. They understand that there is a willing audience for their work, and all they have to do is package and sell that information to as wide a market as possible. But there’s a lot more to being an expert than just calling yourself one.
The word expert derives from the Latin expertus, meaning, “to try.” As this word passed from Old French to Middle English, it was often used as a noun, to mean “a person with great skill or knowledge of a certain subject,” or an adjective, to mean “demonstrating great skill or knowledge of a certain subject.” That’s also how it survives in our present-day understanding of the word.
What’s interesting about this mini-lesson in etymology is that, at our cores, we are all experts. We all “try” various fields, until we find the one that make us happiest, or the one for which we show the greatest aptitude. When we find something we’re good at, we start to glow. Nothing seems outside our reach. The task seems to take shape all by itself. Athletes, performers and other creative people often describe their amazing feats as being done with very little conscious effort. The classical composer Beethoven even said, “I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.”
Because of this, calling ourselves experts rarely works. We are free do this all we want, but only when others trust us enough to come to us for information that can help solve their most intimate problems has this really taken shape in the world. So becoming an expert starts with some serious internal work.
What are you good at? How do you assert your authority? What have you mastered? In which field do you show the greatest proficiency?
After all, we all may want to be muscle-studded athletes or gorgeous supermodels, but is that what we’re really good at? Is our greatest proficiency throwing a football or striding confidently down a catwalk? Probably not.
Instead, we all have skills we’re aware of, or which may be lying dormant inside us. The trick is to tease out your inherent expertise, without crushing your creativity in the process. Because becoming an expert demands that we unleash the creative side of our brains.
This may seem counter-intuitive to some, because most of us are taught that creativity is analogous to finger-painting—all over the page, without rhyme or reason. Business and making money are the purview of the left brain, which strives to create order amidst chaos.
But if you’re a true entrepreneur, using guerilla marketing tactics, you’re probably a little of both. You have a drive to create something that caters to your unique set of skills, and betters the overall quality of life. But you also have the desire, along with the methodology, to generate some serious income.
By establishing yourself as an expert in a particular area, you get to serve both needs. Your creative, or right brain, side is fed by constructing books, workshops and products that solve common societal problems. Your rational, or left brain, side gets to see your finances improve as your books, workshops and products help others to live richer and more rewarding lives.
Of course, the first step to becoming an expert is to give yourself permission to be an expert, not just call yourself one. We may feel that we know a particular subject matter fairly well, or that we’ve had a certain amount of experience with it. But how do we know when we’ve become experts? Is there a line we suddenly cross? Does a bolt of lightning descend from the sky?
Not by a long shot. We know we have achieved expert status when we can honestly say that we have more familiarity with a particular subject matter than most people. There will always be someone that knows more than we do. There will always be someone smarter. But there is only one you, with your ideas and your unique and creative ability to help others.
The psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” This is definitely true for entrepreneurs and guerilla marketers. We do not know how a particular book, workshop or product will turn out, or if it will be widely accepted by our intended audience. What we do know is that we have a burning desire to exercise our creativity, and that that need, to let go of our certainties and take the leap, is more important, and more life-affirming, than anything else.
Experts know this feeling intimately, and that’s why we instinctively trust them—because they have gone, quite willingly, where few would dare to tread.
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