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The Downside of Being an Expert

The Downside of Being an Expert

Most of us strive to be great at what we do. When we keep at it, people begin asking us for our advice, companies begin paying up for our expertise, and our bank accounts begin getting bigger. As more people recognize our knowledge and worth, we begin to see ourselves as experts. This is dangerous. It’s not dangerous because we will have more money, power and respect (which is dangerous in its own way), but because we adopt the expert mindset. This point of view is actually harmful when we think that we have learned everything that needs to be learned.

When we stop learning, it is the beginning of the end. People with the expert mindset tend to close their minds and discount the ideas of those they don’t deem worthy. You can see this firsthand in people from all walks of life: executives, musicians, janitors, professors, doctors, high school dropouts, college graduates, lawyers, etc. The list goes on.

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So, what’s so bad about the expert mind? Didn’t we earn it for the hard work we put into becoming an expert? Shouldn’t we screen out what we already know to be wrong and only allow in information of value?Although it’s worthwhile to master something, and it’s praiseworthy to be an expert, by adopting the expert mindset we actually sabotage all of our efforts.

What’s really interesting is that true experts never stop learning. It is a misperception that you can reach the top of any field and rest. The only reason you’re an expert today is because you kept growing your skills and knowledge. Those who remain experts continue pushing the field’s upper limits.

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Think back to when you were a true beginner in something. You naturally adopted a beginner’s mind. This open mindset set you up for success because of the following factors.

  • You took time to learn from everyone.
  • You were open and accepting of any ideas that came your way.
  • You weren’t afraid to ask for help because you saw everyone as a resource.
  • You took risks because you had “nothing to lose” and you were expected to fail.

If the road to success is paved with failure, who do you think would be likely to fail more: someone who saw themselves as the beginner or the expert?

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When you see yourself as an expert, more energy is spent protecting this status. In the words of Carol Dweck, a renowned psychology professor focused on motivation, you shift from a growth mindset to a fixed mindset because you believed you’ve “made it.” There isn’t any more room to grow after you reach the top. Now, it’s all about protecting your identity as an expert.

Warning signs that you might be slipping into the expert mindset on a specific topic include the following qualities.

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  • You no longer read any books about that topic.
  • You are not curious about how other people view the topic you’re an expert in.
  • You give people unsolicited advice on the topic to show how much you know.
  • You find it impossible to admit that you don’t know everything about the topic.
  • You stay away from any activities that may challenge your status as an expert.

Where in your life do you feel like an expert? At work? At home? In school? With your friends? In those situations, do you still have a beginner’s mindset or are you thinking like an expert? If you’re beginning to show any signs of expert thinking, pause and ask yourself, “What would a beginner do?”

No matter what your profession or interest may be – think like a beginner. It’s much easier than being an expert. Ironically, this way of thinking is what will make and keep you an expert at the end.

Featured photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Robert Chen

Executive Coach

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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