What is the similarity between Tony Robbins (motivational speaker), David Allen (productivity guru), Darren Rowse (professional blogger), Jamie Oliver (television cook) and Jillian Michaels (well-known fitness trainer)?
They are all very successful in what they do – and they are also top experts in their own field.
How did they reach this status?
Did they just read a book on a topic and decide that they automatically go-to experts in their own field? Or did they one day just announce to the public that they are gurus?
What about you then: Do you wish to be an expert? Do you think that you can start a blog, write a couple of “6 tips” articles and announce that you are an expert? Can you reach an expert status overnight – by doing something haphazardly and hoping that someone will notice you?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are on the wrong track. In fact, you will never reach that recognized “go-to person” status in your field if you keep this mentality.
Goodbye book signing tours and goodbye TV appearances; you will be left in the dust of mediocrity with other wannabe experts.
The missing elements of expertise
For some reason, many people want to reach to expert status overnight. They are not willing to work their asses off to reach that “go-to person” status. Rather, they want to take shortcuts; they want everything faster and easier.
Another major issue on their path to being an expert is the lack of focus. They hustle around and they think that they have to specialize in every possible aspect of their field. Otherwise they feel they are going to be left on a level of mediocrity.
Even if they start to focus on one area only, quite soon they move back to their original patterns – being generalists rather than specialists.
Just shut up…and do the work.
I’m willing to say that if your mindset is right, then reaching expert status someday is going to happen.
When your mindset is right, you understand that you are committing to a long-term project. This is not a sprint — it’s not even a marathon. No…it is going to be a 100-mile run.
With the right mindset, you have to also have the courage to stay on your path with solid focus. This helps you to gain valuable experience over time.
Finally, you also understand that you cannot set any deadlines as to when you will become an expert. It will happen eventually – with enough time and experience.
What is required to become an expert?
So how do you become an expert then? What is required if you want to reach the “go-to person” status in your field?
The short answer is: Time. And lots of it.
I’m not just talking about spending “X” amount of years of doing everything possible and then burning yourself out. Instead, I’m talking about taking slow, consistent, fearless and focused action.
Now you may be asking: “What does slow, consistent, focused and fearless action mean?”
It means that instead of trying to do everything in your field, you slow down and start focusing on a certain subset of the expertise; you take consistent action on things others are not willing to do.
To break down the components in the previous sentence, consider these points:
- Slow: This is a long process, so learn your theories well. Then apply those theories to real life scenarios and test them out. Add your own personal tweaks to the mix. Create your own systems and theories – don’t just take everything for granted. Let the material to sink in well into your head. You are going to study a lot: reading books, watching videos, listening to live lectures or teaching others. There is no reason to rush – just take your time. This is a 100 mile run and not a marathon, remember?
- Consistent: Build your expertise on a daily basis. If you are able to do this, over time you will learn a great deal about your industry and your specialty within that field. Consistency keeps the momentum alive.
- Focused: Don’t try to master each and every area of your field. Instead, be superior in one particular area. For example, if you want to become an expert in Internet marketing, knowing everything about PPC, affiliate marketing, article marketing, building niche sites or building an e-mail list is not reasonable. Instead, pick one area and become a recognized expert in that particular topic.
- Fearless: Do what others are not yet doing or are afraid of doing. For example, if everyone else in your field is running text-based blogs, you can start creating videos or podcasts. If the rest of the community is afraid to do public speaking, step on the stage and start sharing your knowledge with others. Many times if we take bold action on things that we feel uncomfortable with, the rewards are going to be bigger than if we had just stayed inside our comfort zones.
- Action = This one is pretty self explanatory, but is still worth mentioning. Instead of just studying about your topic, it is also important to test and implement what you have learned. Test your knowledge by answering questions (on podcasts, videos, question/answer sites, etc.) or by teaching others (seminars, workshops, community colleges, etc.). Implement by turning a theory into practice – then report your findings to the world in the form of a blog post, case study or a free report. It’s the action that counts. That is the only way to create new experiences and ideas which could be once again be tested and implemented even further.
Now that you know what it takes to become an expert, my questions to you are:
- “Are you still willing to become an expert? Or do you see this as too tedious and too long of the path to take?”
- “Are you willing to slow down, put 100% focus on a specific area of your field, and realize that this is going to be a long journey?”.
- “Is becoming an expert overnight just unrealistic?”
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you are on the right path.
It’s time to roll up your sleeves.
Although the path to becoming an expert may be long, use these steps to move towards to your goals:
1. Find your speciality.
The first thing to do is to find the overall area you are passionate about.
Is it cars, is it model airplanes, is it internet marketing or is it personal development? Only you know an answer to that.
For example, when I looked at my bookshelf it was evident that I had plenty of books related to time management. That’s what I was (and I still am) passionate about. Later on that topic was narrowed further, and now my focus area is time management for work-at-home dads.
The reason why I decided to focus on that specific area was because I’m a father myself and I’m passionate about time management. Since those two topics coincide with each other, it was natural for me to focus on that particular area of time management.
If you are still unable to figure out what your strengths are, you can take a DISC test to find that out. I took the Anthony Robbins DISC test and it literally changed my life. The results were very accurate and it showed me what areas I should be focusing on (and yes, time management was one of them).
- Take a DISC test (Note: Although you are going to be registered to Anthony Robbins e-mail list, this test actually showed my strengths and I’m very grateful for that. In that sense, giving my e-mail address was a secondary thing.)
- Brainstorm ideas: What are you passionate about? What do you love to learn about? Doing some brainstorming will help you to put your ideas and thoughts into a visual format on the paper
2. Start a blog
One of the great ways to build your expert status is to start a blog.
There are many online courses out there that teach your blogging. What I recommend is that you find a teacher who has a proven track record of running a successful blog (Corbett Barr, Darren Rowse or Derek Halpern are the ones to name a few) and follow his/her teachings.
Blogging is a great way to teach others about your subject, gain more expertise and grow your audience. Also, creating a blog may lead to other major milestones on your way to becoming a “go-to person”, like book deals or even TV appearances.
When you start a blog, you don’t necessarily need to publish new content on a daily basis. In fact, there are many successful bloggers, who have a slower publishing schedule, and yet their blogs are very successful and they have a massive following.
Instead of publishing mediocre stuff on a daily basis, focus on the quality content instead. In fact, every time you publish a post, let it be epic shit instead!
- Join a blogging course
- Focus on quality, not quantity on your blogging
3. Study every day
You need to keep your skills up-to-date, and also you have to learn new stuff on a daily basis.
To learn new stuff, read books related to your topic, watch videos or listen to podcasts.
It is also worth remembering that studying other material (not just related to your industry/area) is a great way to feed your creativity. All of a sudden you may come up with ideas and topics which could be explored further.
- Dedicate a time block for studying – for example 30 minutes to 1 hour every day. This can be reading, watching or listening.
- Find the 5 biggest blogs regarding your niche and subscribe to their RSS feeds. Learn what topics they cover and participate to the discussions
- Install iTunes client and look for podcasts in your field
- Don’t just focus on the literature of your field – read other materials as well
4. Write every day
Not only should you study every day, but you should also write daily too. Writing is also a great way to learn more about the topic.
For example, when you turn an idea to a text format (a blog post, e-book, report) you may need to do some further research. This forces you to check the facts and learn more about that topic.
- Dedicate a time block for writing (for example 1 hour/day)
- Choose the part of the day when you are less likely to be distracted (and when you are alert enough to focus).
For example, I wake up early and write almost every morning before going to work. I’m productive during the morning hours and our home is quiet, so I can concentrate well on my writing.
Not only is it important to study and write, but also to experiment with the knowledge you have. This in turn leads to other valuable innovations, which improves your experience level even further.
- Spend time testing and experimenting with all the theories you have learned in practice
- Take enough time to experiment with a theory to see if it works or not – then report your own findings (blog post, report …)
- Create case studies: Demonstrate how something was changed after applying this particular theory in practice
6. Strengthen yourself
Although you need strong technical skills as an expert, there are other set of skills that you should master too.
These skills are related to your personal time management and presenting skills.
- Learn some basic time management skills. When you work, you should focus enough on the tasks at hand and avoid distractions if possible. Also, knowing what parts to focus on is important so that you are not wasting time on unessential things.
- Learn about public speaking. There will be times when you have to teach your expertise in front of the crowd. By learning about public speaking, you make a good impression on your listeners. Amazon has plenty of books related to this topic. A more effective way to learn about public speaking is to take a public speaking course or join Toast Masters. Only practice will make you better at speaking publicly.
- Finally, taking action is also a great way to get more self-confidence. Rather than sticking to theories, actually do something – take action! This is a great way to boost your confidence.
7. Teach others
One of the best ways to learn a new topic is to teach others. With the help of the internet, it is possible to teach others online – you aren’t restricted to just teaching physically in classrooms.
You teach others by doing guest posting, videos, podcasts, webinars or teleseminars. Once you are comfortable with these ways of teaching, you can start speaking on stage, in classrooms or at your industry events.
- Write guest posts on other blogs
- Create videos or podcasts on your blog where you teach about your topic
- Have webinars and teleseminars with other experts in your market
- Offer your training at community colleges
- Conduct workshops
- Perform public speaking presentations to a smaller groups first, then bigger ones
- Consult via Skype
8. Ask from others
Asking is a powerful way of learning more and you should take advantage of this method.
For example, I have realized that interviewing others is a great way to learn more from experts in my industry.
Asking has also another great benefit: When you reach the top experts in your market, you are going to be on their radar and it may be easier to form new important relationships with the top players in your market.
- Interview the top experts in your market by e-mail, podcasts or on videos and publish the material on your blog.
Becoming a recognized expert is not a sprint, not even a marathon – it’s a 100 mile run! That’s why you have to be dedicated and committed fully to this journey. For example, I have been studying time management since 2007 and I still have plenty of things to learn.
So how do you know when you are an expert? You will realize this when others start noticing you and what you do. Little by little you’ll begin to be asked for interviews and opinions. Let others acknowledge that you are an expert rather than you declaring it yourself!
Remember, there is no deadline in becoming an expert. It will happen gradually over time.
Over to you: When did you realize that you were an expert in your field? How long did it take you to reach this status?
(Photo credit: Slow Down Sign via Shutterstock)