Achieving “Expert” Status
I recently contemplated what it takes for someone to achieve ‘expert’ status in any given field, mostly wondering if my persistent and dogged determination is enough to pull me through the slalom course of obstacles and distractions that continue to entertain me on this lifelong path.
Being actively involved in real estate over the past 16 years as an entrepreneur, investor, manager and mortgage associate, I am still amazed how this business has continued to provide plenty mind-jarring opportunities to challenge my stamina and question if someone changed the mailing address on the coveted ‘expert’ trophy I’ve been expecting in the mail.
When contemplating what it takes to be an expert in any given field, there are many opinions out there that claim the title is built by characteristics such as persistence, proficiency, competence and innumerable other standards of perceived excellence. Invariably, the old ‘10,000 hour’ adage surfaces and trumps the crowd. Pioneered by the renowned performance psychologist Anders Eriksson, the 10,000-hour theory seems to hold the most rigour when contemplating excellence.
Although this theory is backed by seemingly endless and extensive research, believing this theory was still a bit of a stretch for me. There seems to be lots of “experts” out there, but how many are truly and successfully skilled at their craft? Deciding to dig a little deeper, I recently came across an interesting publication by Ericsson in the Harvard Business Review titled The Making of an Expert.
How Much Time To Become an Expert?
In this, Ericsson and his co-authors argue that each of the 10,000 hours required to truly achieve expert status be compiled by deliberate and concentrated practice. Simply putting the time in alone is not enough. The time must be wisely invested, focused and ‘deliberate’, meaning the practice be consistently focused on tasks beyond the current level of ones competence and comfort.
Experts become experts by pushing themselves constantly, raising the bar and persistently driving towards an ever-advancing finish line. Erickson goes on to suggest that there are no shortcuts on the road to becoming an expert; expertise requires struggle, sacrifice and honest self-assessment.
I find the concept of ‘deliberate practice’ quite interesting, and worthy of further discussion. Erickson defined ‘deliberate practice’ as “considerable, specific and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well, or even at all”. This suggests that the classic entrepreneurial habit of ‘being perpetually busy’ alone won’t produce expert status. In Michael Gerber’s e-Myth terminology, just being the best pie-making, cabinet-building, bean-counting technician out there won’t cut it. You really must assume the lead role in your mastery production, constantly strive to extend your intellectual envelope, and consistently challenge your limits with ‘deliberate’ intention.
Well that all seems easy enough; your expert status is almost complete! Only one final necessary ingredient remains; Motivation. Ericsson outlined the importance of motivation as being vitally necessary to sustain individuals engaged in deliberate practice day after day for years on end. There really is no end to the opportunity to be motivated by any one of the many masters in the industry of motivational coaching. Still, being motivated enough to follow their sage advice can remain a challenge, as the missing link to our impending success assuredly lies in our own ability to self-motivate our own ambitions.
If being an expert is on your to-do list, committing to the process inevitably requires that you are truly doing what you passionately love to do every day. The path will challenge your commitment, sharpen your focus, set you miles apart from your peers, and if your persistence and determination prove successful, mint true expert status. As far as my earlier question of whether of not the coveted ‘expert’ trophy will ever appear on my doorstep, I think the prize is truly in the journey. To the experts in all of us!