Have you ever felt underqualified? Do you worry that nobody will trust you if you don’t have enough qualifications, certifications, or expertise?
Here are some guidelines that will help you decide whether you really need to wait until you know more, or if you can do good by helping others now.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he wrote that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours to become a true expert.
It’s easy to get discouraged by this. It’s easy to think, “I haven’t put 10,000 hours into practicing coaching/business/glassblowing, so I’d better keep my mouth shut because I’m not an expert.”
So let me ask you this:
What have you put 10,000 hours into?
Have you spent 10,000 hours learning how to love and be loved? You’re an expert on love.
Have you spent 10,000 hours appreciating nature? You’re a nature appreciation expert.
Have you spent 10,000 hours practicing knowing yourself in all your parts? You’re a self-knowledge expert.
Have you spent 10,000 hours struggling through heartbreak, grief, and loss? You’re a grief expert.
Have you spent 10,000 hours following your heart, seeking your purpose in life? You’re a pathfinding expert.
Sometimes we’re blind to our expertise because it doesn’t fit the mold of a commonly accepted profession, like glassblowing or accounting. But shine the spotlight of your attention on the parts of your life you take for granted. Listen for the backing vocals instead of the lead melody.
That decade of working odd jobs? Maybe you were learning resilience and flexibility.
Those long years getting into and out of that abusive relationship? Maybe you were learning self-respect and boundaries.
That dead-end tech career that wasn’t aligned with your heart? Maybe you were learning analytic problem-solving.
When you don’t need to be an expert
And even if you don’t have 10,000 hours, even if you’re not an expert, you can still be of service by helping those who know just a little bit less than you.
What do you want to teach? What do you love doing? How do you want to help others?
Rate your expertise in that area on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is a complete beginner and 10 is a master-class expert.
If you rated your expertise at a 1, then you need to learn more before you can teach it to others. If you rated your expertise anywhere between 2 and 10, you can teach anyone with less expertise than you.
As you can see from the Pyramid of Expertise, the beginner’s market is always the largest. Even if you’re only a 2, you’ll have plenty of readers, plenty of customers, plenty of people to help.
When it’s better to not be an expert
In fact, you’ll probably be better at teaching beginners if you’re not an expert. Consider these two explanations of how to install the WordPress blogging software.
How to Install WordPress (written by an expert)
Installing WordPress is easy. Just google for the latest version, unzip, FTP it to your webhost, create a MySQL DB and a user for that DB with all permissions, then put that login info in wp-config.php. Then tack /wp-admin/install.php onto your URL, follow the instructions, and you’re good to go!
How to Install WordPress (written by a non-expert)
1. Go to http://wordpress.org/download/ and click on the link that says “Download WordPress”.
2. Once the file is done downloading, unzip it by double-clicking.
(and so on for 18 more steps…)
Which set of instructions would be more helpful to you? (If you’re a tech geek, imagine which would be more helpful to you if you were a beginner.)
The curse of knowledge
Experts suffer from what’s known as “the curse of knowledge”. Experts forget what it was like to be a beginner, so they skip steps that seem obvious to them.
This is why non-experts are actually better at teaching beginners.
So wear your 2 as a badge of pride, and get out there and help those 1s!