Three ways to be an expert at something

Expert world-record-for-spoons-sticking-to-body

Between Linked in, Facebook, Twitter and G-d know what other sources are available in print or online, there are experts at everything nowadays. Many an expert is self-proclaimed. But also bountiful are those with third-party credibility because there are so many “news” sources running 24 hours a day that need experts to provide “authoritative affirmation” of whatever opinion the aforementioned news outlet is trying to avow.

Feeling like you are missing the boat? Like you are too willing to think that possibly you could have more to learn and are not actually the true definition of an expert: “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.”

Don’t despair. There is still time for you, too, to be an expert in something. Here are three ways to get started.

  1. Study really hard and stay with it (or be the only one or the one who knows the most about a subject).

Okay—this one would be the true definition, actually learn more than anyone else about a particular subject and stick with it for a very long time. That was the definition given by Dr. Robert Rotenberg, my Anthropology professor at DePaul.  Seemingly the more narrow, the more depth, and the longest length of time are key to this.

Think of this in terms of big pond/little pond. You could be a world renowned expert on international tax law, let’s say (big pond) or you could be the only one in your community (small pond) who knows something.


I can still picture my sister’s thumb and forefinger in the shape of an “L” on her forehead when I was paged by the media as the  best person in all of Chicago to give a quote about the mating habits of Alewives for the evening news (those are the fish that show up dead on the beaches of Chicago every 4 years or so—no, the water is not polluted….they mate and then die on a four year cycle). And if you like that show, I’m great at cocktail parties with my little known facts about smelt—all part of being the Marketing/Communications Manager for Chicago’s Lakefront Region of the Chicago Park District.

So, you could get a PhD or just be in a position to know odd things.

  1. Outlive anyone else who is doing it.

For this one you might have to wait until you are 80+ to get the recognition—but if you just keep at it, your day will come.

Two examples of experts in this category are Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest yoga teacher at 98, who is in high demand at all the conventions and has been on Dr. Oz and more; or  the World’s oldest salsa dancer, a finalist at 79 on UK’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2014 (you have to watch her, below)

So, basically, keep practicing and outlive everyone else. Eventually you will be the expert.

  1. Find something that no one else is doing and become the best at it.

The other option, and a great one if you are averse to competition, is to find something that no one else is doing and become really good at it. For example, look at the guy at the top of the post who can make 50 spoons stick to his body—do you know anyone else who can do this? One on the nose, sure, but 50 on your shoulders? That’s skill. He must be an expert (among the 39 who set the “strangest world records ever” according to Business Insider.)

Another example of this is the world’s best Mongolian Throat Singer. Granted, you have to be from Mongolia to qualify, but who even knew throat singing was a thing (sorry—it’s probably a centuries old cultural tradition.) You can imagine Batzorig Vaanchig’s pride when his superior skill was be broadcast to the world via YouTube. Here, see for yourself. Is he the best? Sure…have you ever heard any other throat singers?

There’s even a World’s Best Thumb Wrestler (I’m pretty good, so I thought I would see if that title was available. But there’s a whole society around it, so competition must be tough!)

An Expert in Interpretive Aerobics

The one I think I might still have a chance to be the expert is in “Interpretive Aerobics.” I don’t think it’s currently “a thing” so I can claim it: I’ve got my playlists (Sample here for Father’s Day); I can lead a class to act out Michael Jackson’s Thriller in step, hi-lo impact or aqua aerobics; I can get an entire class to spell out H A P P Y with exercises in honor of anyone’s birthday; I can show you the disco version of most boot camp drills—really, as I am writing this out—I think I’m onto something. I just Googled “World’s Best Interpretive Aerobics” and came back with this (watch below), so if this is my competition I think I have a chance.

Why do you want/need to be an expert?

Sometimes we think we need authority from an outside source to be able to serve people. Even if you are not on the list of Forbes Top Online Marketing Experts it doesn’t diminish your own work. There were 28.2M small businesses in the US in 2011—that means there’s a huge need for marketers.

If you have a skill and it’s something that someone else needs, it can be the basis for serving and building a career. Ahh–that is the ultimate reason–a belief that being an expert will bring more money–but really, doing good work with measurable results will probably bring more.

Expert by Type

In the “olden days” the official white man in suit” was the go to expert. Not so anymore. Expertise comes from all walks of life, whether because of knowledge or position, or because people organize, like with Shesource, an “online braintrust of female experts on diverse topics designed to serve journalists, producers and bookers who need female guests and sources.”

I notice they do not yet have an expert for interpretive aerobics.


Photo Credit: 39 of the strangest world records ever set, via Business Insider