We’re No Experts

No Expert

I’m listening to Patton Oswalt read his book (amazon affiliate link) for nerds. It’s a totally wonderful book, and his narration makes it pop up even better still. Why? Because he’s a professional actor, as well as a darned good writer. His voice for this is perfect. His reading isn’t literal to the book. He keeps adding in liner notes. Hell, Michael Stipe from REM shows up in the reading.

This comes the day after I finished reading my own new book. This comes one week after Joe and I interviewed Sean Pratt, professional audiobook reader. Sean points out in that interview that most authors can’t read their own book for crap.

Like anyone with a low self-opinion (is that all of us?), I went into recording my audiobook thinking about what Sean Pratt said. He’s right. I’m not a very great book reader. I’m a very good author. (Not great.) But I’m not an amazing book reader. I’m passable. I don’t mumble much. I speak reasonably clearly. I probably speak a little too fast. I don’t have a deep melodious voice like Julien Smith. In fact, I think I sound like Kermit the Frog. My kids also tell me that I do a great Squidward from SpongeBob.

We’re Not Experts

The Internet and computers in general have opened us all up to opportunities to do what we want. Lowered prices on all kinds of things open this up, too. In my immediate vicinity, I have an electric guitar that I can play well enough for people to say, “Oh, I didn’t know you play guitar!” I also have two prosumer video cameras that I use regularly, whether or not I know how to do that well. I have Final Cut Pro X, so I can edit things rudimentarily. I have a blog (you’re here!), so I can publish. I write books, because hey, this computer has a typewriter. I have an MP3 recorder so I could do a podcast, if I wanted (I want to, but I have run out of hours).

We are quite often given the opportunity to do something we’re not qualified to do. We often take on projects we’re not qualified to take on. I do it all the time. I will sign up for something, learn that I have no idea how to do it the way I imagine it, and then I rush to learn how to accomplish something that will make my client feel I’ve delivered value. It’s exhilarating (which I’m not an expert in spelling, but blogging software now has spell check). And yet, I have to accept that I’m not an expert.

And That’s Okay

You’re not an expert, either. But, maybe you have passion for something. I have passion for telling stories about interesting people and human-minded business. I have passion around music and noodling around on my guitar. I have passion for making better marketing happen for companies. I have plenty of passions. And these lead me to try and do and experiment and make. My passions lead me to that recording booth to record my book. My passions lead me to share with you.

And your passions will lead you to heights you shouldn’t achieve, too. Your passions will give you warmth and encouragement while you learn to achieve and do something. Your passions and your experiments and your efforts will spur you to learn more, to gain the experience you need to climb towards (but not so likely reach) that status as an expert.

Wait to be an expert? Never. Just don’t sell yourself like that, either. Instead, lead with your enthusiasm, and then make damned sure you deliver.

Let’s go be non-experts.

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  • http://www.kaplancopy.com/blog Jodi Kaplan

    I can’t speak (pardon the expression) for Julien Smith, as I haven’t heard him talk, but I think Brian Clark would be a great ebook reader.

    I’m a recovering perfectionist, but it’s not necessary to be an expert at everything.  Just do what you can, and get help where and when you need it.

    • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

      “I’m a recovering perfectionists”. I too need that in bumper sticker format :)

    • jdrmichigan

      Listen to Tom Peters, “Winning Management Strategies for the Real World” with Robert Townsend. You can hear the passion in the way they speak. They are good examples of a couple of authors who did a great job narrating the book too

  • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

    I also like to lean into a lot of different directions because I enjoy the challenge of learning something new. Question: at what point do you pivot and recruit help (e.g. an expert) instead of slogging along trying to become one?

    Defining who and what is an “expert” is becoming harder and harder these days… because it changes based on context as well as the rapidly changing landscape we live in!

    Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’m certainly not an expert :)  But I am learning…

  • Desiree Banugo

    I love this post, especially as I spend too much darned time to get ‘just a bit more knowledge’ so that I can compete in a noisy marketplace. But yet when you market your uniqueness, nothing can match that. 

    This post is a great reminder that being an expert isn’t what we’re supposed to achieve -serving with passion, enthusiasm and compassion our main tools to success. Thanks!

  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    Out of curiosity, do you think it’s impossible for someone to be an expert?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Oh no. There are plenty of experts. : ) 

    • http://essaychampions.com/ custom essays

      Thats really nice!

  • http://www.flurrycreations.com/theblog John Bergquist

    Good words friend.  I am really looking forward to the new book.  

    Two weeks ago I was the guy in our company that maybe had some creative direction in the development of our video games.  For the most part I have been the connection guy. My title after all is Dir. of Comm.  But for so many years I have been facinated with attention to sound in movies, games, tv shows and such.  In my own “very un- expert” video work I have l loved finding sound effects and music to use.  I never thought I would ever be a sound engineer.  For our last game though I ended up being in charge of all sound assets.  I don’t even know how it happened.  Yes I did have to take the teasing and regular hazing of my seasoned game development team as I learned the ropes of Unity 3d and such.  In the end they were pleasantly surprised at the finished work.  I loved doing it too.  You are so correct Chris.  Opportunities abound for us to try new things today.  And being an expert can actually keep us from diving in.  

    Now in fact it looks like they want me to handle a good portion of future sound work.  Yikes!

  • http://clausfberthold.de/ Claus F. Berthold

    Thanks, yes we’re no experts at all, but we could only improve by training and failure. There a millions and million who never give it a try, so just do it, try it to become a little bit more improved in one thing.

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    I have to say being a non-expert has let me capture many projects that I have been able to learn new things supporting the previous things I worked on and had strengths. 

    I guess those that put the standard very high making false claims end up hurting themselves in the long run although short term they might feel like the won a few battles. 

    On the other side you have until April to Sing Happy Birthday to me with your Guitar keep on practicing.. LOL Thanks again for sharing

    • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

      I always try to disclose up front if it’s something I don’t fully know how to do… YET. Most of my clients know that I can learn things quickly enough (80/20) and get the job done instead of trying to spend more time and resources finding ‘the expert’.

      But yeah, you have to be careful to not promise the world… or else you’ll  get burned more often than not.

      • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

        That is the best approach so everyone is on the same page. But over promising can put everyone in a very complicated problem. 

  • http://LisaJohnsonFitness.com/ Lisa Johnson

    I agree with this in almost all areas accept for health and possibly also money issues.  You don’t want someone who’s “figuring it out as they go” recommending an investment for instance and I don’t think you’d want someone who doesn’t know the first thing about health doling out potentially dangerous (dare I say lethal) advice. 

    At the very least you’d want them to clearly label themselves as such, “I don’t know much about X but I’m going to try this and see what happens”
    This has been on my mind a lot lately … 

    But as far as playing with stuff and figuring it out as you go which things like video (at the moment for me it’s Photoshop) then yes, I’m all for it.  :-) 


  • http://www.dogwalkblog.com/ Rufus Dogg

    I’m not much of an expert either except when it comes to making really complex things simple. Every other skill I learned is merely average. But what gets to me in the wee hours of the night in the recesses of my brain, is the general lack of respect for those who are accomplished experts at what they do by the new batch of technologists who believe that Google can make them an expert. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does at times. I think it contributes to (or is symptomatic of) a general lack of respect for each other that seems to be pervading our culture.

    Whenever talk turns to this, I think back to the film “A Mighty Wind.” In the director’s notes, there is a bit about how Eugene Levy was talking about how he needed to learn to play the guitar. He admitted to just being able to strum even with hours and hours of practice, but the real musical talent came from the professional musicians behind him on the stage at the live performances they did for the film. It’s just folk music, right? Apparently to sound as good as a merely average folk singer, they needed some exceptional talent. Media — especially film — is that big lie. You don’t know how merely average something is until an exceptional expert adds their expertise.

    I just wanted to pop my .02 into the conversation. I just wish it wasn’t so easy to disrespect those who truly are the experts by those who believe that their enthusiasm will always mask their unwillingness to hone the skills they are passionate about. Passion without craft is merely a hobby. 

    You may now kick the dog :-)

  • http://bit.ly/qXCn0D Konrad Rutten

    One of the things I’ve noticed is that many of us try to use this medium as a static form, you post something as if your handing in a paper and many times that is the end of it or you react, react and react and not act ….. One of the biggest virtues of this medium and or should be is that it is fluid and malleable. You can massage the hell out of an idea. I can post and idea her and hopefully get feed back and then try it another place as the same or with modifications… It’s so easy to replicate and alter but just how many people try this ?

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    Love this piece, Chris!
    I’m not an expert in anything, but I have lots of passions and I use those to get where I want to be (so far it’s kind of working).

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/2011/11/29/how-small-business-can-leverage-social-media-to-fight-back-against-their-big-business-competitors/ Ryan Hanley

    I don’t like to use the word “Expert”… instead I think “Authority” is more important.

    Chris, you say you’re not an expert and with due respect I agree because the word expert has the connotation of Mastering a topic.  In writing, in storytelling, in building relationships, in online business… Can we ever truly master these topics?

    I would say NO we can’t… However Chris I would without a doubt consider you an Authority on the topics mentioned above if not THE Authority.  

    Maybe this is just semantics, but I tend to think that semantics matter.  Humans are so emotion driven… Why should semantics not matter?

    I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very safe and happy holiday weekend even if you’re not celebrating… Stay Merry My Friends…

    Ryan H.

  • Diane

    Your blogpost couldn’t have come at a better time. I just agreed to teach a college course at my alma mater on PR Research. I am not a professor! But it is something I have always want to try, so here goes. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/MissAmeliaSmith Amelia Smith

    I love buying audio books that have been read by the author

  • Ashley

    This post came at a good time for me. There’s a passion building up in me for a particular area, and it’s helpful to be reminded that I don’t have to be an expert, but just keep the enthusiasm. Thanks!

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

    I’ve always wanted to be a ninja reader out louder. Ever since I was a kid called on in class to read in front of everyone. But even more since I heard Edward Herman read “Atlas Shrugged” – probably the best narrated book I’ve ever heard. Chelsea Handler’s are pretty well read by her also.

    You know who I want to hear read a book out loud? Sonia Simone! I bet she’d be good with that made for audio voice of hers. :)

    Thank you Chris for encouraging me to stay grounded on my mission to make this world a little happier. :

  • http://twitter.com/susan_silver Susan Silver

    This year I have realized how hollow a title like “expert” can be. As much as bloggers will tell you to position yourself as an authority, that doesn’t really work in practice. You can read a million tips, but it will never match the experience of finding your own way through the challenges. Plus, it’s just a lot more fun to take a few risks and tread some new ground.  

    Those who have gained the magic titles are those who have been translating their passions into results for their clients/audience and have been recognized for it. They become people that we look up too because they often have some good advice for us. We will never reach those heights if we don’t push ourselves to follow our own passions and translate them into results. Can we end the “Guru”, “ninja”, “expert” title stupidity fight?Let’s agree that we should be judged on our results not our titles. 

  • Nathan Lynn

    Chris, I agree with you that awesome author does not automatically equal awesome narrator.  My own experience with Ray Bradbury reading Fahrenheit 451 was just god awful.  I had to stop and still have not read and or listened to this classic. On the other hand I really enjoyed listening to Jack Welsh with his Boston accent and Bill Clinton read their books.  Sometimes the hardest part is understanding your own limitations and not seeking out the “experts”  Thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/spaceyslater spacey slater

    Should we really be encouraging people to be “non-experts?” Forgive me, but isn’t the internet full already?

  • http://www.peppervirtualassistant.com/ Agatha Tefora

    I would want to be an expert in photography but I don’t really want to do that. I just want to enjoy carelessly in taking pictures of my desired subject. Thanks for this post. I know now that I am not alone.

  • http://www.mikewhite.co.uk/ Michael White

    The business approaches between the Americans and the British often sartle me. My experience with American business has shown that employees are trained against their strengths, whilst the British tend to train against an individual’s preference regardless of their strengths. The cult of the amateur has already greeted the internet, it doesn’t need further promotion but I agree with the sentiment in your blog post. We should all be non-experts but with the prospect of being experts. We can learn so much from each other. 

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Well said Chris! I agree with you. Nice way of presentation.

  • http://twitter.com/changeleader Todd Garretson

    Chris, been subscribed to your work for sometime now, both your newsletters and network posts.  Enjoy reading daily!  Your message today struck a cord – want to thank you for the inspiration/reminder.  Outstanding.  I too, have so many passions that I sometimes put off the ‘start’ as I grapple with where to ‘focus’ my efforts to get the best return.  I am convinced it truly is the ‘start’ that stops most people, and directly a result of your comments here….waiting to become experts.  Appreciate you bringing the message.  Just like leaders, experts are made, not born.  Cool stuff. 

  • Maureen Mc Bride

    Thanks for hitting that nail on the head Chris. There are plenty of main street media examples of local direct advertising (small business owners who advertise locally are referred to as local direct advertisers)  on radio and tv who are just abominable. The sales persons know that ego sells like nothing else and will pitch these people based on the notion that they will “star” in their own commercials. At least half the time they might as well have flushed the money they paid to promote their business down the toilet. This phenomenon of egoistic over-reaching is not really new. 
    I agree with you that bidding your longest and your strongest works in marketing as well as cards. BTW your hard work in the gym is showing up in your face! Congratulations. 

  • http://twitter.com/CharlesTaggart Charles Taggart

    You nailed it again Chris… 

    Some people just aren’t made to be true public Story Tellers- you’re so right, it’s all in the voice and the way the words are served…  Makes me think to Garrison Keillor whom I very much enjoy the way he reads and paints stories with his

    So true on Exerts, no one truly is… 
    During a photo shoot that my grandfather insisted I was there to watch, the photographer told me; “To be good, you have to always learn, create and recreate again, learn from your mistakes”…  Then he continued by telling me he shoots more then one photo, making mistakes is part of the process, it’s learning from them that is key…  “The final photo is chosen from the many, like practice and trying to capture the light just right”, then winked at me saying; “I’m always learning” with a smile… -Yousuf Karsh
    It wasn’t until College that I realized who he was and the people he had taken photos of… 

    Thanks for the early morning memory!!!  Time to go learn some more stuff…

  • jdrmichigan

    Chris, nice work, and you hit the target dead-on. I have watched the cycles of striving to be THE expert in so many areas that you end up becoming a knowledgable generalist. Waiting to be the expert is like being in college, you gain the knowledge but have no experience. On the other hand, learning to gain expertise in an area as you work in that area (or project) that gives you the ability to learn by doing and as we all know, experience is a huge teacher. Along the lines of a Tom Peters, Try-Fail, Try-Fail, … just do something.

    Enjoy those daily blog posts as well, keep ‘em coming, love the fresh ideas.

  • Matt Searles

    I can never understand why you are so against the expert thing

  • Karen Baker

    Chris ~ Looking forward to your new book. I will enjoy the “Non-expert” status till the bitter end .. Merry Everything!  Happy Always!  You never cease to amaze me….

  • http://dslrhd.com Adriel Brunson

    Thanks for reminding us – never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


  • http://twitter.com/susangiurleo susangiurleo

    I want to follow up on a few comments below regarding the pros and cons and focusing on being a non-expert. Chris, you are an expert blogger and public speaker. This isn’t your
    hobby and you have told me before you are good at those things you work
    at. So, don’t sell yourself short here.

    We need experts and we need people who focus on one thing long and hard enough to be an expert on things such as brain surgery,  bridge building, international negotiation in politics,etc. Sure, we can pick up a guitar and strum, write a passable blog post, but is that a worthwhile use of time in the long run? Doing what one is truly skilled at allows good things to come into the world that people who just stumble around experimenting wont’ ever produce.

    This is especially important to consider as we raise kids in this new digital age. They could literally spend a lifetime being a jack of all trades, master of none. They would feel busy and productive, but what would they really produce of any value?
    And it is infinitely easier to  hack at 100  new things, than to focus intensely on one. Because as soon as the thing gets hard we can flit off to the next new, not-yet-challenging thing.
    I see this among many people to profess to want to make money from a blog or work from home. They aren’t experts at this and fiddle around the edges, but when it becomes “work” they struggle.
    I think people need to strive to be an expert in something.

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  • http://www.mpoweru.co Bill Park

    Perhaps the expertise resides in the doing….

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  • Anonymous

    The moment some

  • http://twitter.com/SimpleCEO Michael Werner

    I rarely comment on blogs, although I’m a regular follower here and on many others… it’s just that I’ve put my own energies into other areas.

    BUT, Chris, I must tell you… this is one of the WISEST posts I’ve ever read by anyone any where!  Really.  I constantly battle with people I work with to GET STUFF OUT THERE.  Do it, try it, test it, come on just this once.  I see perfection, or the quest for same, the single biggest limiter to growth and, eventually, to success.  Passion for what you’re doing, if it’s genuine, can cover lots of flaws, especially if you’re willing to be humble and honest about your limitations.

    There’s an entire book on this topic, sir!

  • http://www.getcreativethinking.com/ GetCreativeThinking.com

     Thank you so much for writing this. The last few days I have been feeling a bit…well, down honestly.

    I started reading more blogs related to my field (web design) and saw a lot of upcoming functionalities that I know nothing about. I’m learning them, of course, but I definitely started to feel a bit…defeated and behind.

    This was definitely right on time for me and will provide me with the fuel I need to get through this next push.

    Thank you so much,
    Bridgette Bryant,

  • Becky Cox

    Non-experts, love it!

  • George Geroulias

    A very good post especialy for newbies but the experienced marketers as well.
    It helps you stay motivated day by day until you reach the level of success you want to. Continue the good work and the excellent writing

  • tina MorenaBlog

    nice shoot bro! ;) yep you are right we’re not an experts but we try right! ;)

  • http://rubenquinones.com/ Ruben Quinones

    Beat me to the punch, although, its coming from a bigger expert non expert here, :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lindsay-Manahan/100003214191551 Lindsay Manahan

    my best friend’s aunt makes $70/hr on the laptop. She has been out of work for 6 months but last month her check was $8183 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read this site NuttyRich. cöm

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  • http://twitter.com/amsettle Ashley Settle

    Great post! I really believe that taking ourselves out of the “I need to be an expert” mindset helps to fuel more creativity and learning… thanks so much for the reminder.

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