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.
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.
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?
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.
- 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.
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