Checking Out the Expert

checking out the expert

There are experts everywhere. Some are self-proclaimed, some lauded by others. But before we give credence to their words, we really owe it to ourselves to begin by checking out the expert’s credentials.

How much can you trust your “expert”? How much can a person teach you? Do they have any experience in what they are teaching? All valuable questions.

I am a Student.

I really don’t see myself as an expert in anything. There is always more to learn, and I am willing to learn it. I see myself rather as a student of many things, seeking out teachers to help me craft a meaningful and deliberate life. And like any student, I have successes, but I also have rather spectacular failures. I really try not to hide any of those on the blog, because even a negative example might have some good for someone.

I have some formal teachers: my voice teacher, my spiritual mentor, and the person on our work team who has mastered the reporting tool we use. I have plenty of informal teachers as well: programmers who work in the industry and blog; productivity enthusiasts who share their successes and failures; authors who have done their research and more importantly, practice what they preach; and my daughter, who shows me all the tricks to use with Animal Crossing.

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. My teachers never seem to show up on my doorstep, but most come at me through random snippets seen or heard while listening to other students, or by chance recommendations.

Sometimes, though, I have an issue and I need to seek out a teacher. And it was recently that I ran across four different “experts” that made me wonder how much they could really teach.

The Writer

The first incident was in seeking out a writing teacher that would help me map the parts of a mystery into a usable format. I sought out a book by someone who had helped me before, and at the bottom of the page was a slick book whose title promised a systematic way to outline a novel.

I clicked over, and was encouraged by the writeup and the first reviews. But then I clicked on the author’s name to see what else he had written. After all, if he is promising a systematic way to outline a novel to speed up your writing and publishing, he must have an impressive list of books, right?

Nada. Not a one. He had never published anything other than this three book set on how to write a novel. A teacher of noveling who had never done it himself.

At first I thought it was because book contracts are so hard to land. But these days anyone can self-publish on Amazon. So why didn’t he have any novels?

The Household Manager

The next day I was reading an article sent to me by a friend. The article was written by a woman who advocated her method to getting everything organized in the home from menus to inventory to schedules. The specific article was about how a woman could manage work and home and children’s needs so that nothing got left behind.

It was intriguing enough for me to start digging. And I realized that this particular mom worked part time at her own solo business, and had a part time housekeeper and nanny to help with the kids.

How much can I learn about managing all those things from a woman who doesn’t do two of them, and sets her own rules (and demands) on the third? Sure, it’s easy to say “work less” when you’re the boss and no one is dependent on your output.

The Distraction Guru And The Productivity Expert

I recently thought about revisiting a book I had read last year about becoming a minimalizing digital distraction. But how much stock can I put in a method to minimize the impact of social media that comes from a man who has never had a social media account?

The same applies to a productivity expert who says you should ignore tasks that don’t get you closer to your goal. Can I really take seriously the same person who has a staff to do those tasks for him?

The Difference Between Theory and Practice

In theory, theory and practice are the same thing. In practice, they are very different.

It’s great to have a theory, but if you can’t apply it, what good is it? It’s where the actual performance comes in that the true results are seen.

It isn’t enough to know the theory: I spend my days with a coworker who has a master’s degree in computer science and can’t program her way out of a paper bag with code mostly done for her.

There used to be a saying, “those who can’t do, teach.” I’ve always hated that saying, even before I became a teacher.

Just because someone can teach something doesn’t mean they understand the nuances that come from the experience of doing it. Nuances that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Practice What They Preach

What it boils down to is whether or not the teacher has the experience to teach. Has the person walked the road? Because it is only in this way that they can truly know what is helpful and what is not.