Become an Expert – Linchpin Series Part 2

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”
― Seth Godin

This is the second part of a 5 part series inspired by Seth Godin’s book Linchpin. Be sure to catch up and read the first post with an overview of the 4 aspects of a linchpin.

Forget about 10,000 hours

Everyone seems to think Malcolm Gladwell told us we need 10,000 hours or the equivalent of 10-20 years practice to become an expert. This is a misquote. Gladwell said:

“To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” — p. 41

The 10,000 hours he is referring to is the average time it takes to become the absolute best of the best in the world. Most of us don’t need a movie made about our lives. Becoming an expert in our field is relative to our environment and competition is good enough, right? Shoot for the moon but don’t feel like a failure if no one calls you G.O.A.T.

Expertise is Relative

Luckily rising above average and becoming an expert individual or team can be accessible to even those of us who get bored after 7 or 8 thousand hours of strenuous practice. No one is born an expert – we all have to start somewhere. Be humble about where you are now as well as excited about your potential.

Think about it in terms of who you are comparing yourself to. I painted for 4 years for a painting company. To someone that rarely paints, I was an expert. To the guy that had been there over 10 years, I was painful to watch. Your team can be experts relative to the people you are interacting with and that is where your value lies.

Learn, Practice, and Get Feedback

It’s easy to be average. To become an expert, you need to constantly evolve by staying open to new ideas and being willing to learn. Stretch yourself and delve into learning new things, even those that seem too difficult. Just as Mr. Miyagi has taught us, there is “no such thing as bad student.” Push yourself to continue seeking new inspiration. The journey to expertise is paved by getting out there and discovering the newest and brightest ideas.

Focus on combining learning and practicing to advance your skill. Do not get too focused on one and leave out the other. One great ‘trick’ is to always try and find ways to teach something that you have recently learned. This does wonders in solidifying the concepts for you and makes you more comfortable to discuss them. Try teaching someone who you consider to be an expert. This puts more pressure on you and makes you strong like bull. Also, ask for feedback from peers about your performance.

Use Resources

Advancements in your field can feed your hunger to become an expert. One resource that is particularly valuable for me are webinars. They can be boring, but they can also be a great inspiration as well. Google is really good at constantly evolving its products. Their webinars always get me excited about what they have coming down the pipe.

Recently one of the masterminds here at Newmind sent out an email to everyone asking what resources we used to gain knowledge about new technology. The responses included websites, newsletters, favorite writers, blogs and youtube gurus.

Seeing some of the ways our experts learn and keep on top of new tech was awesome and encouraging. At first – because I immediately stole all the tools they used. Then I had the realization that the smartest guys here don’t simply wake up and understand the newest tech; they study and immerse themselves in this world to continue to be the experts they are.

Begin Building an Expert Team

Encourage your team to become experts and make sure they know it’s possible. Pool resources of how to most efficiently get the knowledge. Start competitions by having weekly quizzes or have everyone create short instructional videos as a way to solidify new things learned as well as to exist as an internal resource.

Start now. Get your team excited about learning and practicing together. Actively share webinars, related blog posts, and other valuable resources with each other to show that you are interested in their development.

Posted in Collaboration and tagged , , .
Featured image: “Student in Silhouette” by @mikebaird via Flickr

About

Ben Morris is the reigning Funniest Newminder (yes that’s a thing), a father, and is a new member of Newmind Group's Google Apps team. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Western Michigan University and is determined to uncover the secrets of how humor can help organizational communication. Ben loves the great outdoors and spends his time outside of work camping and boating with his wife and three children.