But expertise is overrated.
When you want to learn something, you don’t have to seek out the most knowledgeable person in existence on that topic. You don’t need the foremost experts in the field. Heck, you don’t even need someone who’s more knowledgeable than you! You just need someone who knows something you don’t.
If I decided I wanted to learn to do magic tricks, I don’t need to learn from Penn & Teller or David Copperfield. I just need someone who knows a trick I don’t know.
This is wonderful news, because it means your pool of knowledge sources just expanded tremendously. You don’t need a guru or a thought leader. You just need someone who knows something you don’t – and that’s everyone.
Even if you’re far along in your journey on a particular topic, you can learn from a wide variety of people. You might know a hundred times as much about the Civil War as someone else, but they could still have some knowledge about the topic that you don’t.
Now you might be thinking, “Sure, I could learn from anyone. But people who aren’t experts might also have a lot of false knowledge, things they think are true but aren’t. If I learn from them, I might be learning the wrong stuff.”
Absolutely true. But I’m going to let you in on a secret – that’s also to your benefit.
Why? Because everyone might be wrong, and you shouldn’t trust anyone 100%. You should always think critically and have a framework for evaluating the information you receive against other sources, your own intellect, independent research, etc. But when we learn from “experts,” we often ignore that advice and trust blindly. But experts can be wrong for years about things (for example, see: all of history, pretty much – but the food pyramid comes to mind as a recent example), and even people with correct information have agendas and motivations. So you should be in the habit of critical inquiry anyway. If reducing your reliance on experts helps you remember to put on your thinking cap, then so much the better.
The flip side of this is also very encouraging – if you don’t have to learn from experts exclusively, then you don’t have to BE an expert to bring value to the table! It would be silly for me to claim that within my industry, I’m the best of the best and have no room for improvement; that I know absolutely everything. That’s preposterous. But I don’t have to – I just have to have knowledge that my clients don’t have, which is useful to them. And I definitely have that!
So if you’re feeling a little self-doubt the next time you have the opportunity to help someone – if you’re thinking “I have no business speaking on this topic, I’m no expert” – get that thought out of your head. You don’t have to be. You can share the knowledge you have and provide value in doing so – and pick up a little knowledge in return while you’re at it!