Ten Steps To Establishing Yourself As An Expert: Steps 5 and 6
An expert is useless unless he or she is credible. Credibility comes through any number of ways, none of which actually have to be based on reality. Once again, perception is King.
You know, I once was an artist. Not just any kind of artist, but a real one. I was the kind of guy who labored 25 hours a day for three years to create something magnificent that I couldn’t sell for a frikkin’ penny. My parents kicked me out of the house and into the streets because they couldn’t stand to look at the damn thing. The art piece was based on a mirror.
But, like I said, I wasn’t a cheap substitute. I picked myself up and began the process again, this time with another art form. I was an artist, after all, and, really, neither the medium nor the money ever mattered as much as the fact that I was a "Principled Artist" and carried that sensibility into everything I did.
This went on for years and years. I received my sustenance through my ideals and values. I also learned the best mixtures of dry and wet cat foods to produce a flavor somewhat like chunky chili.
And then, I woke up.
I realized this whole aura of goodness and integrity and aesthetics and sacrifice that surrounds the artist was a total crock! I began to leave behind the haze of illusion surrounding the romance of the artistic life and got down to brass tacks.
“Life is money. Money is life. Screw satisfaction of Spirit. I want a Condo on Maui!” I called out on the first morning I was sober in perhaps six months. It was actually my third morning in jail but I guess it takes your body a little while to get purified.
Anyhow, in that moment I realized I could leap away from my old impoverished life into a new one filled with riches. It’s the experts that make all the money, and here I had discovered one of the most powerful steps to becoming successful as an expert, which, in my mind IS all about money:
STEP FIVE: HAVE A CONVERSION EXPERIENCE AS THE HUB OF YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE
A “conversion experience?” you may ask. Well, since your question lives only in my head, I may as well answer it quickly so I can make room for the next voice.
Simply pick the area of your life in which you have the most experience. Now figure out what is the exact opposite of that way of life, or business, or being. There you have it. That is now a viable area of expertise for you.
Do you follow? Okay, I'll explain, that's my job, you know.
The conversion experience is about that moment when you realized your life was so vile that you vowed to devote the rest of your breathing days righting that wrong. As an expert, that is the most valuable commodity you have to sell because that passion makes you instantly believable. The inner voice of your target sounds something like this: “Who better to follow than someone who has lived the other side?”
We don’t have to go very far for one of the most potent examples of how this works. You may have heard of Paul of Tarsus. Saint Paul. He’s the guy who was the expert on Jesus. Without Paul, we’d ALL have stale Matzoh in our cupboards.
Everybody believed him -- and not only during the time he was around, but for about a couple thousand -- THOUSAND years -- after.
Why? Because before he had his calling he was riding through the countryside exacting monetary tributes in the most violent ways, literally terrorizing the followers of Christ.
And then, one day he got struck from his horse by a bolt of light. He must have hit his head or something because from that day forward, every moment of his life was spent in opposition to the life he once had.
Do I have to say more?
Well, yes, actually because I’m the expert and that’s my job, too. Why am I getting through to you? Because I, who once was the artist espousing the value of poverty am now the expert urging you on to riches. I am the Anti-Paul. I’ve been there, done that, just like you, and now embody how you, too, can leave your past miserable Spirit-driven life and join me as an expert.
As long as you don’t be the expert on becoming the expert.
At this point you might be wondering why this Step wasn’t Step #1. After all, doesn’t it make sense to choose your area of expertise first?
To be perfectly honest, it probably does. But remember, I promised Ten Steps. I didn’t say anything about them being in a straight line. I would hope you’d have more faith in yourself in being able to piece this all together.
Step #5 provides a very valuable hint about what it takes to be an expert. Passion. But there’s another force almost as powerful in the perception of your targets. It’s called Pity. As in, “Well, somebody’s gotta do it. Glad it’s not me.”
You see, experts do things that none of the rest of us really have the balls to do. (My apologies to the women out there, but I’m not too expert at finding better analogies than what I was taught in Brooklyn.) In our minds, they see things in the here and now that we couldn’t even imagine under the influence of 42,000 micrograms of Orange Sunshine. As such, they are the only ones qualified to take on these huge projects. Who else but an expert would do something so humongous? And dangerous.
The expert’s job has more to do with attitude than it has to do with almost anything else. (This, too should be a Step in itself, but I thought of it too late and I already published the title. Since I always completely forget about at least two steps of the Twelve Step Program at any one time, I figure, like me, you start zoning out, so I’ll slip it to you here.) The most important part of that attitude is that you don’t look like you have an attitude.
Yes, I know, that’s what you do now and nobody respects you as an expert, if for anything at all. You’re obviously doing it wrong. Now, you’d think I’d tell you how it works. I can’t. You have to figure it out yourself and make mistakes. What? Do you possibly think I’m going to do everything for you?
Try this: Next time you go into a Starbucks (TM, probably) don’t leave until you’ve managed to mention (something like) this to the Barista, AFTER you receive the most exotic roast they have: “I used to prefer this roast when grown at 11,000 feet. This couldn’t have been grown at more than maybe ten-five at the most, and I love it!”
If the Barista says anything to you beginning with or leading up to the words “Are you…” you’ve blown it. If the Barista says anything at all to you, you’ve blown it. People know an expert when they come across one and usually feel too inadequate to even follow through on a conversation, unless of course they are somewhat expert themselves in which case you should get out of the coffee shop as unobtrusively as possible.
Go from coffee shop to coffee shop until your target Barista gets you another cup of coffee of a different roast, for free, hands it to you and asks your opinion. When you can take a sip of that coffee and simply reply, “I like it” or, “Not my preference.” And then drop it completely without the need to explain yourself, AND the Barista asks you no more questions, then you have attained the attitude of an expert.
But, back to danger.
The experts you question least are usually the experts who are embarking on some sort of journey that may get them killed. Of course you pity the stupid fools. But bottom line, you’d rather see them die than you, and since you feel like such an idiot for not seeing what the expert sees, you’ll be happy to do anything you can to support them in their cockamamie quest – as long as you’re the one not catching the bullet.
STEP NUMBER 6: ALIGN YOURSELF WITH A CAUSE THAT COULD KILL YOU
Things like attaining world peace or ending hunger for children are prime examples of causes that are not adequate to the task of establishing yourself as an expert. They are far too doable. Perhaps even more important; they are far too clear and safe.
Slogging through Dengue Fever-ridden waterways into the deepest most inaccessible part of Mozambique to build a research-facility and hospital from the ground up that will be using you as a research subject in a study of the effects of the Coalanga spider whose bite can take down an elephant but when prepared properly also makes the lost tribe of the Queaxicles immune to hemorrhoids is just the sort of thing that an expert would pursue that none of us would ever undertake, but could clearly get behind. (Way behind!)
The glorious part about this step is that the expert does not even have to be an expert in any aspect of the cause that’s being adopted. All that has to be said is this amazing computer expert is putting all she has into the task, as a human being, because, in the end, that’s all we have. The “Everyman” factor alone flocks people to her. The operative concept, however, has to do with death. Whatever it is, the gamble must include the threat of it; directly or indirectly, physically or emotionally.
An impossible cause can be effective as well, but you have to be careful. There are a whole lot of unemployed experts on the Berlin Wall and the Irish/English Troubles running around out there.
Drew says, "I'm just a nuts and bolts kind of guy, checking out the angles like everyone else. I'm not much for slowing down because, well, they really will catch up with me. What keeps me going is the wonder of how amazing things come through people when they just go about the business of being themselves. I go to http://www.thestoryofthis.net for my inspiration."
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