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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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