I get many opportunities to meet experts.
Some are openly proclaimed experts, people who are respected by their peers, who have a long trail of recognitions and publicly recognised accomplishments.
Others are people whom I consider to be experts, people who inspire me with their contagiously great attitude and profound ability to contribute wisdom around a specific subject.
Regardless of the credentials, there is a perhaps more profound difference, one that does not necessarily correlate to the level of public recognition or generic idea of success. It is anchored around our attitude towards experience.
The words expert and experience are both founded on the same latin root which can be translated as “derived from testing/observation”.
The key word is not “testing/observation”, the most important word here is “derived”.
It implies that we have acquired something valuable through the process.
A person who has lived through a specific event has experienced it. However that is no assurance that they have learned from it, and that the lesson that they have gained from it have augmented them. In fact for most people the very opposite is true. We all accumulate experiences throughout our life, that is something we have in common with every single other person.
Experience on its own is actually a rather poor representation of a person’s depth of character.
For example, you woke up this morning. You also did that yesterday, and the day before. Perhaps you had to hit the snooze button a few times before extracting yourself from the comfort of your bed. Or perhaps you leap out of bead every day ready to get underway with your day’s activities. Either way you could consider yourself an expert in the art of getting up. Sure, this may look like completely ludicrous example, but here is the catch: Have you ever thought “I need to stop the snooze thing because it makes me late for work”, and not altered your behaviour as a result of this simple insight?
It may not be the snooze button for you, yet I bet some things are immediately coming to mind.
This experience loop goes far beyond getting up: it is how most people live.
Every moment of our lives we experience something, and for the great majority of time it is something that you have experienced before.
The entire work and career industry lives and dies by this idea of expertise. It is not to say that having done something before is not valuable, but beware of the claim that having done something 300 times makes you a master. It does not!.
The question is not how many times we have done something, but how much of what we learned the previous time were we able to apply the next time.
We must set ourselves a new yardstick for expertise. One that gauges not what we have lived through (sometimes repeatedly), but how much of what we have experienced have we used to transform ourselves into a better person.
When someone offers you advice on the basis of their expertise, ask what they have learned from it and how have they used it.
Put aside a few minutes to reflect on each day, perhaps even journal it. Every moment of our lives we experience an unfathomable wealth of wisdom.