Expertise != Omniscience

One of the problems I think we all have, in almost every field, is a good definition of expert. Experts don’t necessarily know everything, right? Take a neurosurgeon – definitely an “expert” by anyone’s reckoning, but they’d likely be the first to tell you that they’re always learning new things, too. So, being an expert doesn’t mean “I know all the things.” Go read “Timothy the Blacksmith” if you need a different perspective on that.

So if knowing nothing makes you definitely not-an-expert, but expertise exists somewhere short of knowing everything, then what, exactly, makes an expert?

I’ll offer a taxonomy for you to consider. This is based on Part 4 of Be the Master (which you can get for free by signing up below).

A beginner is someone who is just getting started, as the name implies. Someone who doesn’t yet know enough to work in a field on their own, but is still learning the basics. Call this an “apprentice.”

A practitioner is someone who can operate independently in their field. A practitioner in one topic, in one organization, will be different than one in that same topic in another organization, right? That’s because their two jobs probably have slightly different demands, which they have evolved to meet. But they’re both holding down a job, so they’re both practitioners. Call them “journeymen.”

An expert is someone who can help someone else learn. Perhaps a beginner. An expert isn’t necessarily someone who can impress other experts; they’re someone capable of helping a beginner, and likely a practitioner. Experts often create improvements in their field, perhaps through a streamlined process, an innovation, or something else. Experts never stop learning, but they’re also able to teach. Call them “Masters.”

Where do you find yourself on that scale? Are you “merely” a practitioner? I doubt it. If you’ve learned enough to hold down a job in your field, then you can certainly teach some of those things to other people. And that, I would argue, makes you an “expert.”

“Success” Doesn’t Have to Mean a Rat Race

I had a fantastic conversation with some folks last week around the idea of “success.” One gentleman said something to the effect of, “I’m fine where I’m at. I make enough. I don’t need success, and I frankly don’t want the rat race that goes along with it.” I thought it was an especially pithy comment, but I disagreed. In the end, I brought him around to a different perspective.

I do agree that the rate race sucks. I agree that “growth for the sake of growth” sucks. When Greg Shields and I owned Concentrated Technology together, we were both working really hard, almost all the time. That’s not a complaint: we made good money, we could take the time we wanted to take for vacations and such, and we enjoyed the lifestyle the company let us live. People would occasionally ask us, “when are you guys going to hire someone?” We’d ask why we should, and they’d say, “well, it’s probably the only way you can grow, right?”

Sure. Except we didn’t want to grow. We were fine right where we were, and we didn’t see the point in growing just for the sake of growth.

You see, growth ≠ success.

Promotion ≠ success. Payraise ≠ success. Job title ≠ success.

I know what growth means. I know what promotion means, and payraise and job title. What I can’t define is “success.” At least, I can’t create some universal definition of success that everyone will agree on. Sure, our culture pushes us toward a better job, a bigger paycheck, and so on. People who are “passengers” in their lives will often take those, much as you might tae a free upgrade on a plane. But the upgrade isn’t necessarily getting you anyplace. Drivers look at promotion opportunities and ask themselves, “how is this getting me a step closer to my success?”

Key word: my.

Only you can decide what “success” means for you. In the case of the gent I was speaking with, he’d already achieved much of what he needed to be successful. He was making as much as he needed, he was getting the time he wanted with his friends and family, and he wasn’t “paying” any more in job stress than he was okay with. He’d never actually written those things down, though, so he was still thinking of “success” as some thing he hadn’t reached and didn’t want, when in reality, he’d already come really close to it.

So define your success. It’s the first step in The Grind™ for a reason. And if you don’t know what that means, I’ve got a book you should download.

[politics] An “Independent” Justice Department?

Because it’s been in the news – and not just for our current administration; this comes up a lot – I thought I’d look at the Justice Department, and comment on its “independence.” This came up in a recent conversation with a British friend of mine, who drew some interesting parallels I hadn’t realized. Anyway…

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Interested in a Monthly “IT BYOB Chat?”

OK… so, I’m wondering if there’s room in the world for some kind of monthly “IT BYOB” video chat. I’m going to state some of my assumptions; you can like/dislike to let me know if I’m on-base or off-base. Here we go:

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[Disney] Imagineering Marching Orders

I love little more than Armchair Imagineering. And although I recognize how freaking busy WDI is these days, and how much capital Disney is sinking into their parks worldwide… I have needs.

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“Leading to Learning,” Part 5: Advice for Learners

Be sure to read Part 4 (and the preceding parts) if you’re not caught up.

In the last installment, I focused on some takeaways that business leaders can consider for making learning a more “production-like” part of a tech environment. This time, I want to wrap-up with some takeaways for learners.

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