Are You an Expert or an Explorer?
How-to…(fill in the blank)
One of the distinctions I make in my course on How-to Writing, is that I talk about the difference between being an expert and an explorer.
Although, ultimately, all boxes we put ourselves in are of our own making, it can be fun to role play. In this scene, an ‘expert’ is someone who is doing something from the perspective of what they know; and an ‘explorer’ is someone who is—well literally—exploring! They’re on an adventure.
I make the distinction, not because it’s real, but because it’s helpful at a point in time.
I see students and clients put off doing something because they think they "don't know enough", yet it's often those journeys of discovery that turn into the most compelling projects and outcomes.
think about books like The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, The Julie/Julia Project that became a hit movie. Those authors weren't 'experts' before they started; they simply documented their journey as they meandered in search of something.
Can I Be Both??
The distinction is pretty easy to understand I think—you already know a lot and you're writing about it, or you don't know and you're exploring.
A student asked me,
I love these distinctions, Cathy, but can I be / do both? How can I take both the expert AND the explorer perspective and bring them into my work?
The Ideal Place to Be…
This is such a great place to be!
It’s that place between both teaching, and learning. Doing both at the same time. And, really, this is what’s true for most of us.
We are on a lifelong journey to get better at what we do and to explore new ideas and skills as they come up. To take new paths and see where they lead, and to light the way, or offer a helping hand, for others as we go.
When Will I Get There?
In reality we never become an 'expert'. AND, we’re always an expert.
And the same is true for an explorer—we’ve been places, and seen things, that inform our expertise AND there are plenty of places left to explore—and more keep appearing the further we go.
It looks to me as if there’s no magic formula: we simply apply what we learn and continue to add layers of depth and understanding to that knowledge and experience. I find that in order to teach something, I have to understand it better than I think I do—and the teaching, or explaining, often shows me new places to look and leads to lightbulb moments of my own. And so I continue to explore.
So… What to Do?
Now, let me ask you: is there somewhere that you can apply this concept to your work and life?
How about at work? Or at home? As a parent, or a pet-owner, or anyone in any kind of a relationship, there are always levels beyond where we are, places to go deeper, to enjoy more, or enjoy again.
It's a lot of fun to be an explorer, but I know it can be even more valuable if we choose to pass on our learning to others.
If you’ve been holding yourself back ‘until you get there’, I’d love you to try on this concept and see if it frees you up to offer a helping hand.