Experience Is The Way to Become an Expert At Anything. Right?
What does it take to become an expert at something? Well, if you talk to best-selling author and storyteller Malcolm Gladwell, he would say you will achieve expert status at pretty much anything you spend at least 10,000 hours doing. Experience. Lots… and lots of experience.
Another opinion is offered by Nobel Prizing winning physicist Niels Bohr who once said that an expert is someone who has failed in all the ways possible “in a very narrow field”. There it is again: experience.
A good friend of mine, Aaron Trolia, is a former pro pitcher with the Seattle Mariners’ organization. His method of mentoring young players, as he helps them get to an expert level of play, makes the most sense. While the two fellows mentioned above are pretty smart guys, there is real wisdom in Aaron’s rationale.
Aaron says that getting really good in any sport is more about repeatedly utilizing the right techniques correctly than in doing unproven techniques repetitively, even if you spend ten thousand hours at it.
For example, if you are swinging the bat the wrong way, doing it wrong ten thousand times for ten thousand hours will not get better results. You will only become an expert at striking out.
However, if you are shown the right way to swing a bat by someone who really knows how to do it; the right positioning of your feet; the correct turn of the ankle at just the right time; moving the hips properly; keeping your head in the right place and keeping your eyes on the ball; being given advice about the wrists; knowing where your elbows ought to be; and when to step into the pitch; well, then your trainer’s expertise will start to get you pretty exciting results within a couple of minutes.
Then, to maintain those exciting positive results over a sustained period of time, you must practice the right techniques repeatedly. In sports training – including physical conditioning and body building – this is called doing “reps”. Repetition is the key to consistently achieving awesome results and, thus, the sure path to expertise.
Ah. So the right kind of experience.
In Life As In Sports?
The same is true in other areas of life. You can practice unproven methods and hopefully become an expert exclusively from sheer repetition or from the number of hours you have committed. Or you can experiment with all the possible methods you can think of to get good at something and, thereby, find all the incorrect ways to get the desired results, which is a sure way to ultimately stumble into success and expert status… eventually.
Or what about trying Aaron’s wise way?
Be humble enough to admit that, if you are not getting the results you want, you need to find someone who is already an expert – someone who is getting the results you want – and seek their knowledge. Have them show you their technique(s). Have them explain why their way has worked and why it will work when you do the same thing in the same way. Experience. But not just any kind of experience. The right kind of experience.
“What a glorious revelation humility is of the human spirit … True humility is one of the most life-enhancing of all virtues. It does not mean undervaluing or underestimating yourself. It means valuing other people. It signals an openness to life’s grandeur and the willingness to be surprised, uplifted, by goodness wherever one finds it … False humility is the pretense that one is small. True humility is the consciousness of standing in the presence of greatness.” — Jonathan Sacks
The first two approaches to becoming an expert do not require any humility. Neither requires you to pursue a change in course. Neither requires a different attitude or bigger thinking. And neither requires accountability and vulnerability. But neither do they ensure that you will get the results you really, really want.
The third approach – Aaron’s Way – does require humility.
Humility is, first, personal. The individual must have that “light bulb moment” where he admits to himself that he doesn’t have it all, that he doesn’t know it all, that he needs something more than what experience has taught him thus far.
It then becomes interpersonal, and now very powerful, when he identifies a potential mentor and confesses his need for help in order to get to the next level.
The vulnerability required to do this comes easy when we can redefine vulnerability from being a sign of weakness to being evidence of strength and courage. Being vulnerable enough to exhibit humility gets even easier when we are convinced that it is the quicker, easier way to become an expert. It is the wise way.
One More Selling Point
One more selling point on Aaron’s Way to achieving expert status in any field: it is guaranteed to get the results you want. Imagine that: guaranteed results. I can guarantee that you will become an expert if you go about it this way.
If you have a serious desire to become a world class performer in a particular field, you will take this advice. You will connect with an expert. You will watch them, you will ask them every question you need to ask, and you will listen to them. Then you will do what they say you must do… repeatedly. That is the guaranteed way to become an expert. Period.
This is not a theory. This is not speculation. You cannot fail to become an expert in literally any pursuit you can imagine if you are willing to do what the experts in that field have done to get where they are.
I am an expert in the topics I write about (and endeavoring to get better all the time), but I staggered and fell forward in order to get into this position in my life. My expertise is the result of massive failures in business and in relationships, by spending countless hours practicing the wrong moves and by doing a lot of the wrong things.
A few years back, after making a few million bucks as a marketing consultant, I lost even more than that and found myself in a deep hole of debt, followed by divorce, because of my unwillingness to be accountable to anyone who would have told me to stop investing in vague ideas and undocumented promises.
Just between you and me, I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I was too arrogant at that time. Somehow I had convinced myself that expertise in marketing naturally translated into expertise in investing. How foolish I was. It was a tangible consequence of a lack of humility.
But I know you are different than I was. I know it because you’ve gotten this far in this article. And if you’ve gotten this far, you are more mature than I was. You are now aware that you can become an expert, but with far less pain than I brought upon myself and others.
Want to be an expert? Do it Aaron Trolia’s Way. Quicker. Easier. Way wiser.
Experience. Experience through doing the right things the right way.