To develop an expertise is to develop an unique power— a skill or competency that distinguishes you and that has the possibility of creating a particular self-confidence for you as well as the value that you give to create your form of wealth. So, what are you an expert in? What have you spent at least ten years in concentrated focus on that now you can take pride in as a legitimate talent that you have turned into a skill? Oh, yes, did I mentioned that it generally takes ten-years of deliberate practice to cultivate a talent or disposition into a legitimate expertise?
That was the discovery that Anders Ericcksson , the Swedish Psychologist, discovered in his longitudinal research on expertise (The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 2006). More recently Malcolm Gladwell has popularized this discovery and so you can now read about it in lots of books.
The power of expertise is that it enables you to develop what we call self-confidence in a given activity which you know that you can pull off. Why do you know that? Because you have done it. You have history with doing it. You have practiced, deliberately. And when you develop self-confidence again and again in various areas, that allows you to draw a larger or a meta-conclusion and create another really powerful state— one that we call self-efficacy. This is your sense of being efficacious— being able and skilled to trust your wits, intelligence, learning, emotional intelligence, etc. to handle the challenges of life.
Self-confidence is about the past—you have evidence that you have done something and proven yourself over and over. Self-efficacy is about the future—trust in yourself that as you have learned to become competent in other things, so you can in yet more activities.
Now if there is any solid way to create wealth, it is through the development of an expertise that adds value to people’s lives. That’s because when you have expert knowledge and skill in an area of importance, you have something valuable to give and contribute to others. And that’s what wealth is and where financial wealth comes from. (See the book, Inside-Out Wealth, 2009). Of course, to develop the power of expertise requires that you use and apply several other powers that you have: the power of response, of responsibility, of ownership, of execution, etc.
Yet on the other hand there are lots of things that can undermine and sabotage the power of expertise. You probably already know what they are, do you not? Some may surprise you. Perhaps the most surprising one is that of multi-tracking, that is, trying to do too many things at the same time. In recent years, the field of the neuro-sciences have demonstrated that multi-tracking undermines the efficiency of concentration and focus and that no one does as well in multi-tracking as most people think they do! Yet because you are dividing your attention when you attempt to pay attention to two or more things at the same time, the quality of your attention will inevitably suffer.
Another sabotage is living off of the thrill of the chase of every new thing and new fad that pops onto the scene. This is another significant sabotage to the power of expertise and also, at the same time, an occupation hazard for most people who want to be on the cutting edge and achieve as much as they can. Yet if you are changing your mind every three or six months, or every year or other year, you will never be able to tap into the power of deliberate practice, of persistence, patience, resilience, and perseverance that’s required for true expertise.
Another sabotage is the attitude of having arrived and of knowing-it-all. The seduction is that as you do indeed master an area and develop true expertise, you may not want to be a novice again. And so you may refuse to enter into a new area of your field and be a novice again. After all, you may frame being a novice again as to be inadequate since you are receiving instruction and training from others. Yet here is the paradox. Those who do attain expertise seem to have something in common—namely, they have a childlike mind of curiosity, continuous learning, surprise, delight, playfulness, and the fantastic ability to say, “I don’t know.” “But I want to know, and I will! Tell me what you know!” It is the non-expert who puts on airs and acts like a know-it-all and doesn’t ask questions for fear that someone may think he doesn’t know something!
Have you become an expert in a certain area? The danger of our age is that most people end up “a jack of many trades and a master of none.” Yet it is in thinking long-term, for at least a decade, and giving yourself intensely, deliberately, and in a focused way to a given activity or area that expertise emerges. Why is that? That’s because mastery is in the details.
After all, what’s the difference between someone who is very good at something and the master? Between the person who plays the violin in the back row of the orchestra and the front seat player? What’s the difference between those golfers who play in the Masters and are listed in the top 100 and the 5 or 10 players who we know by name and who regularly play in the first five positions? The master of the details of that profession. The discipline of being consistent and focused.
Do you want more personal empowerment? More power to make a difference? Then take your mental, emotional, physical, and personal energy and focus it like a laser-beam on something so that you turn on your passion, your commitment, and your persistence. Do that and you will begin to unleash your unique powers!
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Everyone as best as he can...