A colleague was debating launching a new pod, but seemed concerned about whether they might be “good enough.” There is a longer conversation to be had about the future of media, and whether are we early or late stage in podcasting. But what intrigued me about the discussion was how it got me thinking about expertise: All of this debate was a metaphor on how we develop new skill sets and become competent or expert at a task.
The TL:DR is this: Any potential subject that interests you can be turned into expertise, so long as you put in the requisite time and effort.
I don’t really talk about my ADHD much — see Q? 2 here — but my experience has been it is less about “inattention” and more about “hyper-focus” — but only on the subjects I find interesting. It is both a disability and a superpower.
Hyper-focus is part of a formula I use to develop my own skill stack. Dive deep into areas that intrigue you, learn the basic data inputs, catch up on the current information, find a way to properly contextualize all of the above. Add some sweat and blood, and before you know it you have some expertise in the space.
The basic formula is really quite simple:
Time + Effort + Knowledge = Expertise.
Sure, it is obvious, but it is effective: We learn by reading and studying but also by doing. Often, it takes years of practice to suck less; after more time you rise to be half-decent. Once you are many years in, you start to amass a solid skill set and a genuine knowledge base.
This concerted effort over time allows you to become pretty good at almost anything.
The time element includes consistency; the knowledge aspect means you are researching and learning not only the main topic but all of the ancillary and (apparently) unrelated subjects that help you understand this subject holistically.
I am fond of the term “Autodidact” for those who teach themselves new things. Just because you are no longer in school does not mean you cannot choose a subject you want to learn more about. Dive into the material and keep going. Do this consistently and soon you have a working knowledge of the subject. Repeat for 7 or so years and you develop expertise.
The weekly car posts I do stem from a casual interest, which became a hobby, which led to a way to learn more about the subject. My knowledge base today is 20X what it was before I started writing these weekly posts.
When I was on a trading desk in the 1990s, my curiosity led me to explore why some traders were successful while others crashed and burned. That sent me exploring the field of Behavioral Finance, and I devoured everything I could find on it. It has been hugely helpful professionally, and we have integrated it deeply into RWM.
People have a hard time conceptualizing the passing of time. I have a buddy who has a healthy perspective on time. He once announced out of the blue that he wanted to speak fluent Italian.
“How long do you think that will take?” I asked him.
Him: “About 5 years”
Me: “Gee, sounds like a long time”
Him: “Those 5 years are going to go by whether I am learning a new language or not.”
That little anecdote has stayed with me for a long time. Partly because it is so obviously true in hindsight, but mostly because it is so insightful.
Your professional success is a function of your skillset, your knowledge base, and what you can provide to the people who buy your services or pay your salary. There are many more nuances to this, but that is the basic formula: What you know, what you can accomplish, and how that gets monetized.
The big takeaway to consider: The next 7, 10, and 20 years are going to roll by, whether you are developing expertise or not. It’s up to you what expertise you have or not after that time has elapsed…
The Halfway Point (November 20, 2020)
Intelligence Hierarchy: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (December 1, 2010)