The Illusion of Expertise

There’s an old saying: “Fake it, until you make it.” And I truly believe there’s a whole lot of faking going on—at least a measure of it. Certainly there are experts… but probably not as many as it seems. And there are certainly people further down the path than you or I on any given topic… but probably not as far as it seems.

What I’m beginning to believe is that what mostly separates the so-called “experts” (and by “so-called”, I mean those that might not be quite the experts they appear to be) from the mainstream is confidence, and the assertiveness that comes with it.

People can deliver material and information on a topic confidently and appear like they know-it-all. Could it be that they know just enough more about the matter than you do and are only experts in appearance? Or just in your eyes?

If you’re anything like me, you’re keenly aware of just how much you DON’T know about your industry or trade. As your career or particular interest has progressed and matured, you’ve graduated from “You don’t know what you don’t know” to “You know what you don’t know.” That’s kind of a scary realization and can lead to diminished confidence with what you do know.

I believe many of those who emerge as experts in any given field have simply come to terms with what they don’t know and fully embraced what they do know and walk in confidence with it. Of course, they don’t just sit on their haunches—they continue to learn about those things they don’t know and convert them into do-knows. But they haven’t allowed their don’t-knows to intimidate and silence them.

Have you ever been at a conference and realized you know at least as much as the person up front speaking? Did you then wonder how they came to be chosen as expert to present on the topic? I’m telling you, it’s because that veil between “expert” and layman is way thinner than you might believe.

Author and entrepreneur Jeff Walker briefly touches on this topic in this video, which is what got me thinking about this matter. I caused me to do some soul-searching for why I lack confidence in my do-knows.

Check it out. I think you’ll find it encouraging.

Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a blogger, marketer and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

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