Overnight success can come after decades of work. Work, work, work, smile and nod at those that think you’re wasting your time, and maybe, but not assuredly, something good can happen. I’m finally going to read Malcolm Gladwell’s frequently referenced book, Outliers, in which he talks about various aspects of success (I think, I haven’t read it yet) and the 10,000 hour rule. A lot of seemingly sudden success is backed up by overlooked work. Anyone who has been awake for 10,000 hours (sorry kids) might reach that goal. It can happen sooner (hey kids, there’s a chance after all). It also might never happen (rats). But I suspect that expertise is more common than appreciated and we have more experts than we realize. We could use some experts right now. The trick is getting them to recognize themselves. Recognition can happen in an instant.
I’ve heard about the 10,000 hour rule through many sources. Sometimes such concepts spread because they are appealing. Sometimes they even have data behind them but many of the ideas that pervade the media are hollow. The 10,000 hour rule seems to be backed up by data and research. I must learn more.
Even though I am “retired”, I was in a meeting the other day. Lots of ideas were being kicked around, and as is usual for volunteer organizations, there was more passion than people, more ideas than money, and more jobs than volunteers. Amidst the cross talk someone asked me to talk about social media and whether it could help. I’m no expert but I mentioned this blog, and how I spread the word beyond my subscribers by also announcing each new post via facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn. A comment or two later someone asked me, seriously I think, about when I was going to teach a class in that, whatever “that” was. I directed them over to a friend who is an expert, Russell Sparkman.
Ducking out of the limelight is common. I see it done by artists, dancers, money managers, tradesmen, orators, and organizers. In some cases they point to official organizations that bestow accreditations, as if the organizations are the only possible authority. I definitely dodge being called a money expert because 1) I don’t think I’m an expert, and because 2) the state and the feds are very particular about financial advice. (If you haven’t noticed, I try to write about what I do with my money, not what you should do with yours. I am an example, not an official authority.) Yet, the lack of a badge or certificate does not change where knowledge and wisdom resides.
There are very few topics that aren’t covered with expertise within my group of friends, officially stamped or not. I suspect we are all in that situation, though to various degrees.
Our worlds are changing. Environmental, financial, cultural worlds are being modified by natural cycles, the impact of our civilizations, and the coupling of the two. New types of problems are arising to which conventional solutions are ineffective. A friend asked me what to do about the debt ceiling and possible economic collapse. We’ve never experienced that in this country. Fortunately, another friend who is an expert addressed this in his regular video. Friends helping friends is one of the frugal person’s most powerful tools. Other problems aren’t so readily addressed. How does an artist exhibit their work online without losing control of the image? How can I know whether my attempt at an organic garden will provide me with a balanced diet? The slugs’ diet seems to be fine. My corn, squash, and beans were all mowed down though.
I’m learning to let others judge whether I am an expert enough or not. The only thing I do better than anyone else is being Tom Trimbath. From engineering through writing across photography and into charitable work, I can always point to people who are more accomplished and effective. But what I’ve learned is that sometimes being considered an expert is a personal thing, and that personal judgement is made by the person seeking the expertise.
Pardon the small personal plug but allow me to mention my upcoming series of classes. Every month for the next few months, and maybe beyond, I’ll be teaching a clinic or a seminar about Modern Self-Publishing at the Center for New Media in Langley. I’ll also help teach a class on Creating Your Photo Book with the folks at Fine Balance Imaging in September. There might even be another class or two at each of those sites. I’m not an expert at the modern version of self-publishing, but I do have some expertise and am evidently good enough at passing it along. I didn’t set out to teach people about publishing their own book. I started out by bicycling across America, which turned into a book, Just Keep Pedaling, which encouraged me to write another book, and then another, which also produced compliments for my photos, which resulted in my series of photo books on blurb. Along the way I started passing along what I’d learned about publishing and now I have a history of teaching those classes. It wasn’t a sudden thing and it wasn’t intentional.
And yet it was sudden, despite how it felt.
I didn’t and don’t consider myself an expert, but at some point, at some moment, someone else did. Within their mind, I was labeled an expert. And maybe I am expert enough for them even though I am very aware of how much more I have to learn.
My point isn’t about me. It is about all of us. Regular readers may guess the quote that comes next.
“You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” – Will Rogers
And that I enjoy his unspoken and my inferred corollary which is that everybody is also brilliant only on different subjects. If you’re lucky, your brilliance is right for this time and place.
There’s a lot of work to do. And I am optimistic because within ourselves and our billions of neighbors, we probably have all the experts and expertise we need. But sometimes the key finding a solution is to acknowledge that moment when someone recognizes you as an expert. It will happen in an instant.