Learning a new skill is hard. You not only have to learn how things work but you also have to put in the work to actually get the results you want. So most times we look to people who have gotten the results we want for advice, tips and tricks to either shorten or make the work easier for us to get similar results. We can learn from two types of people: the well-known experts or someone just a few steps ahead of us and who have mastered some skills. In this post, we will go through three reasons for learning from experts.
But first, who is an expert and what makes an expert an expert?
So let’s consult the online Cambridge dictionary for a definition for expert: An expert is someone with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or activity.
We also recognize someone as an expert either from the results they obtained in applying their skills and knowledge, like professionals or as someone who has created or studied a particular subject area in depth such as professors. Experts have evidence of their knowledge and skills.
Thus, experts have particular characteristics that comprise their expertise: knowledge, skill and achievement. The word achievement is used instead of experience because achievement refers to some form of results that were delivered.
Experts would have spent a substantial portion of their time and energy in putting in the hard work to acquire and practice their knowledge and skills.
Newbies can learn certain things from experts:
- for insights into a field
- for key strategies and techniques
- the appropriate context to apply strategies and techniques.
1. Experts provide Insights into a field
Experts typically have deep knowledge about a specific field and that knowledge is typically acquired over time.
Experts also have a deep interest in their field and tend to keep up to date with new developments in a field.
Therefore, experts are the best persons to turn to for advice on trends in their industry. They tend to collect historical data which they use with their current knowledge and skills to project how the direction of their field may change.
Experts are not lone rangers. They tend to network with other experts in their field. They hold conferences and workshops to network and meet upcoming talented people. They create their masterminds or clubs. You may even find that some experts may have been students of another expert. This combined state of knowledge and skills help experts to see patterns that lead to deep insights into how a field is evolving.
2. Learn key strategies and techniques from experts to shorten your learning curve
Experts would have invested significant sweat equity in trying out different techniques to get incremental and massive results. They can easily tell you which techniques will bring you results and which one will not.
In addition, how experts think about a subject is significantly different from how newbies think about the same.
So experts can tell you which knowledge and skills are fundamental to becoming an expert. They can tell you which one to prioritize and get good at first before going on to another skill or subject area.
Experts tend to evaluate new skills and knowledge. And, because of their network and crowdsourcing of expert skills, they can also tell you whether other experts experience similar results.
When you are learning from an expert, adopt the questions below (thank you Tim Ferris). You may ask them directly or if you can’t then you can get the answers from other interviews such as from podcasts and Ted talks. The answers to these questions will help you to optimize your route to success.
- How did you learn to become great at what you do?
- What are the top 3 things to do?
- What are the main 3 things not to do?
- What are 3 counterintuitive ways people have used to achieve success?
- As a newbie, what are 3 resources I can use to improve my skills?
3. Experts provide context for their strategies and techniques
Sometimes when we learn from others who learnt from experts, we may lose the context the expert had given his or her advice.
An example of this is the 10,000 hour rule to become an expert. This rule was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. One of the original researchers in the area of expert performance, Anders Ericsson, had to write his own popular book Peak to clarify that the 10,000 hour rule is only one part of becoming an expert and that e deliberate practice is one of the key techniques for developing expertise. Also, some areas require less than 10,000 hours and others more than 10,000 hours.
The way forward
The main takeaway from this article is that if you are developing your skills and knowledge in a new area, seek out advice from the experts. They will help you to see new trends in the field, optimize your route to success, and provide context into how to do so.
Then implement the strategies and techniques are closely as possible. Proven techniques will give you results.