Being an Expert

Earlier this week I was working on a project with two colleagues from work.  These two had spent a significant amount of time with the dataset we were working with, and it didn’t take long to realize that these two had a significant understanding of the intricacies of this data.

As we struggled to figure out a solution to our specific problem, one colleague said, “I feel like I should know more about be an expert at his point.”

His comment intrigued me and caused me to consider what an “expert” is.  We hear this term thrown around frequently, especially during this pandemic.  After thinking about his comment, I told him that I thought an expert was someone who has spent more time learning, understanding, and experiencing a topic than most folks.  Being an expert doesn’t mean we have all the answers (in my searching through definitions of expert, not one mentioned being all -knowing… that’s God’s domain!) it means we have knowledge, skill, and experience that we can apply to solve new problems and address new questions.

I told my colleague that definition would qualify him as an expert on the dataset we were working on.

We’re not required to have all the answers to be an expert, and we certainly don’t have to possess all the answers to offer our knowledge and experience to solve a problem.  So, the only expectation is that you share the knowledge, skill, and experience that you have.

Start At Disaster

I’ve been playing the electric bass for 3 years now, and while I know a whole lot more than I did 3 years ago, I’m acutely aware that I have a lot more to learn.

When I listen to professional bass players, or those who have put in years of effort, I’m amazed at the skill and mastery they possess.  To me, their playing looks effortless, and reminds me how far I still have to go.  Yet their skill also reminds me that every master was once a disaster.

I know for certain that the best bass players didn’t start out that way.  When they first picked up a bass for the first time, they were likely a disaster… just like I was!  They didn’t stay there however.  They put in the effort to eventually become a master at their craft.

I think that’s cool.  Mastery isn’t the starting point, disaster is.  When we begin something new, we’re not supposed to be any good at it.  You know why?  BECAUSE IT’S NEW!

It’s only when we continuously learn about our chosen craft and apply what we’ve learned, that we’re on our way toward mastery.  And if we continue this process, we are, by definition, a success:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”  ~Earl Nightingale

So, embrace the disaster that you’re sure to be at the beginning of your next new undertaking.  For it’s the starting point on your journey toward mastery.

Honoring Others With Our Thinking

Have you ever asked someone for their input on a decision you were facing and received one of the following responses:

  • Maybe.
  • I don’t know.
  • It’s 50/50.

Those responses, when delivered as a complete answer, are completely useless and provide no value to the person asking for an opinion. They also reveal, of the person whose opinion is being sought, an unwillingness (or inability) to think critically and form an opinion.

When someone values our opinion enough to ask us for it, let’s honor them by turning on our wonderful brains, forming a thought, and offering it to them with the hopes that our opinion will aid them in the decision-making process they’re currently facing.

What Goes In Comes Back Out

I’ve recently finished listening to a couple of audio books that has some “colorful” language sprinkled throughout.  Not a big deal.  In fact, I use to swear a lot as a teen and young adult.  However, now I prefer not having those words in my vocabulary.  The just don’t align with how I want to present myself to the world.

While the audio books were extremely interesting, I noticed that they sere influential in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Since listening to them I’ve found myself muttering expletives under my breath when I get frustrated with something.  It was hardly noticeable at first, but I’m noticing it occurring more often. I’m reminded how what we allow into our mind has a way of coming back out in our thoughts, speech and actions., especially when we’re squeezed or under pressure.  Therefore, need to be more discerning with regard to the content I’m allowing into my mind.

I like what Philippians 4:8 states,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

I’m going to focus more on doing this, because I want to make sure what comes out, through my thoughts, speech, or actions, is a positive result of the good things I’ve placed in my mind.

We Choose

Weird times going on in the world today!  We have an abundance of uncertainty, and with it comes the potential for fear, anxiety, and worry.  It’s important to realize this, because left unchecked, these feelings can cause us to behave in ways that we might otherwise not.

We choose how we behave.  Circumstances don’t make us act poorly; we choose to act poorly.  Situations don’ cause to treat others badly.  We choose to do that too.

The good news is that in spite of situations or circumstances, we can also choose to treat others well.  We can choose to treat others with compassion and dignity. That choice is completely up to us.

So, let’s pay attention to how we’re choosing to treat one another.  Let’s choose to treat each other well; not just during these crazy times, but from this moment forward.

That sounds pretty good to me!

Thinking About Our Sources

I love living in the Information Age!  Just before writing this blog, I dropped my fountain pen on the floor, leaving 2 black spots of India ink on the carpet.  Not good!  My wife looked online and told me I needed to blot the spots with rubbing alcohol.  Five minutes later, the spots were gone!

How great is that!!  I needed a specific piece of information and within seconds, I not only had the info, but was applying it to solve my problem.  Amazing!

The downside of the Information Age is that there is SO much information out there, from so many different sources, it can become overwhelming to know which sources to trust.  This is especially true when we’re seeking more important information than how to get ink stains out of your carpet.  When searching for information we need to make important life decisions, we should employ some critical thinking to help us vet which sources we will rely on.

For example, we should determine the reason the source is providing this information.  Is it to:

  • Educate
  • Persuade
  • Generate a sale
  • Influence my opinion
  • Move me to action to support a cause, belief, or ideal

Some other things we should think critically about regarding our information sources are:

  • What tactics they are using
    • Fear
    • Scarcity
    • Emotional hooks
  • Is the information based on facts or opinions
  • Is the source considered an expert or authority in the field

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather serves as a reminder that we should question our sources to determine whether we can trust the information they provide.

Ultimately, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to be discerning of the information sources clamoring for our attention.  Because our thinking shouldn’t cease when Google returns our search results.

Fill Your Own Mind

“The test of a person’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.” 

~ Jacques Barzun

There are so many voices today, clamoring to fill our minds with their thoughts, ideas, or opinions and repeat them as our own.  Since each one of us is blessed to have total ownership of our mind, we should be aware of what we’re letting into them.

We should actually use our minds and think critically regarding the formation of our ideas and opinions.  Our minds are like a garden that we should tend to with care.  We need to give attention to what we allow to take root, and root out anything that doesn’t help to produce the positive mind we’d like to cultivate.  Our minds are too valuable, too precious, to be treated as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with someone else thoughts.  Filling our minds is OUR job.

There’s a lot going on in the world today and a lot people eager to do our thinking for us, with regard to how you’re to respond, act, and think.  Let’s make sure that the opinions we have and the actions we take are the result of exercising the super computer between our ears, rather than sopping up what someone else pours inside.

Unintentionally Training Others

How do you go about learning a new skill?  Usually, your training will involve many correct repetitions of the skill you’re attempting to master.  Through repetition, you can train yourself to become competent, if not excellent, in any skill you choose.  Repetition is a remarkably powerful training tool.

One thing we may not realize, is that we can also training others (often unintentionally) by what we repeatedly expose them to.  If we’re continuously on our phone, or have our face in front of a screen, whenever we’re with those close to us, what kind of message are we repeatedly sending them?  What are we “training” them to understand?

If we’re always checking our phone or interrupting those who are trying to have a conversation with us, make no mistake, we’re training them that they are not important enough to warrant our full attention.  We are training them to know that we will tap out of our interaction with them the moment something more exciting comes along.  We are training them that they really don’t matter much to us.  Regardless of what we may tell them, or actions are what will train them.

While it’s easy to get sloppy with regard to how we’re training others, it’s also easy to start changing our actions and behaviors to train those around us that they are indeed important and that they matter.  We can decide to train them to know that we care about them.

Consider you’re recent interactions with those close to you.  Through those actions, what have you been training other to understand?  If you don’t like the training you’ve been presenting, then intentionally change your behaviors to align with the training you’d like them to receive.

Two Part Process For Building Skills

I’ve been taking lessons to learn the electric bass for 3 years now.  There have been a number of skills to learn, and I’ve struggled grasping many of them!  When I do find myself struggling with a concept, I have come up with a 2 step process for speeding up my understanding.  The 2 steps are:

  1. Write down my understanding of the concept and present it to my instructor
  2. Be open to, and ready to apply, feedback

Jotting down my understanding of a concept helps me clarify my thoughts and also presents my instructor with a glimpse into my thinking.  From this glimpse, he can easily tell whether I’m grasping the concept or not.  It’s really difficult to fake my understanding when I’ve just handed him a chart, summary, or sketch of how I’m interpreting what I’m learning!

It’s nice when my understanding is correct.  However, most times, I’m usually missing something.  It’s at these moments when my instructor can jump in and clarify a point.  This is where I need to be ok with the fact that my understanding is flawed.  When it is, it’s not a knock on me.  It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a bass player.  Frankly, isn’t that the point of lessons: to find out in what skills you’re lacking and learn how to get better?

If you’re struggling to learn a concept, consider jotting down how you currently understand it, and give it to someone who knows the topic and will give you an honest assessment.  Then be ready to learn from and apply their feedback.  You’ll have inaccurate understanding to lose and new skills to gain.

A Quick Word On Moving Slow

When we start out on a new endeavor, we usually want quick results.  Whether it’s getting in shape, learning a new skill, investing, or building solid relationships, we like to have positive results come quickly.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s fun and encouraging to see results!

In most cases however, results don’t happen quickly.  They usually arrive slowly.

Therefore, we must put in the effort day after day, month after month, or even year after year before results begin to appear.  The time between starting and results showing up is an easy point to lose heart and give up.  Yet this is also the time when it’s also most crucial to look beyond the present, to that day when the results will have shown up.  When the results are slow, we must be quick to remind ourselves why we want these results and also to remain committed to the process that will ultimately bring us the results we’re working toward.

If you’re currently pursuing something and you’re not seeing the results you want yet, take heart.  Know for certain that results follow actions.   Focus your attention knowing that your results will occur, they must occur, if you simply continue to take the actions required to get you there.