Don’t Be an Expert

All across the Internet, bloggers want to showcase their expertise. To help you, of course. So you can get closer to their level. There’s even expert posts on how to become an expert.

It turns out it’s not so hard, these days. Anyone can position themselves as an expert. It’s easy–just take some classes or get a certification. Read some books on the topic. Put it into practice.

Bite me, Internet experts. I am sick of you.

There’s been an interesting shift among blogs. It’s not a particularly new trend, but I’ve recently gotten fed up with it. Here’s the thing: it used to be that blogs were successful because they were written by experts–those who truly held an exceptional degree of wisdom on a particular subject.

But blogs are easy to set up. More and more people started their own. We can’t possibly all hold that exceptional level of expertise. And yet so many blogs still follow the expert positioning model that others were successful with.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, and a tempting one. I’ve been there. But really, it’s a pretty presumptuous thing, to assume that any individual has something to say that is worth your time every week–perhaps even multiple times a week.

I’m fed up with it, even from myself. It’s one of the reasons only one of my three weekly posts is a true article like this, while the others direct you to other content I found useful or inspiring.

Like many other bloggers, I know quite a bit about my subject area. I have my own perspective to share. But that’s not the same as being a true expert. And the title of expert is getting all muddied and tattered as more and more of us try to climb up on it.

So don’t be an expert. Just. Don’t.

Instead, be a student. 

What’s the difference? To me, it’s all about attitude. 

For students, the priority is learning. Not knowing. A student’s foundation is the belief that there is always more out there to learn. When a new idea is put in front of a student, the first reaction is to understand it, not to judge it as correct or incorrect.

It’s not about you. A student doesn’t use his or her online space as a podium. It’s more of a gathering place where those interested in exploring a topic can meet. Ask questions, don’t dole out answers.

The spotlight doesn’t need to be on you. A blog doesn’t have to be all about you to help you build a platform. Interview successful people in your niche. Share other resources on the topic, and your reflections on them. Invite your readers to share their reflections in the comments. What makes a platform isn’t a number. It’s a dynamic community.

I think there’s still room for and value to having lots of voices in the blogosphere–after all I could hardly continue THIS blog if I didn’t. But why do we all need to be experts? What’s with this need to make these grand claims that we cannot all possibly really live up to?

And keeping a student mentality doesn’t mean you can’t offer advice or other valuable information. It has to do with the attitude you present it with. It can be tempting to take an absolute stand and leave no room for exceptions … in fact, ask some blog experts, and they’ll tell you that’s a great way to get a spike in traffic. But it’s short lived. What lasts? Connection.

So be a student. It’s a more generous, more genuine approach to blogging for most of us…and also, I think, likely to be more rewarding. It’s a mentality I try to hold onto in all facets of my life, and one I try to integrate into this blog.

Where and how do you keep learning?


6 thoughts on “Don’t Be an Expert

  1. I feel like you read my mind with this post! In my blogging class I cite the personal essayist Montaigne, who would “teach” what he thought and knew by writing about how much he didn’t know and how much he had to learn. It was a bit of a conceit on his part, but a highly effective way to engage the reader. For me, a compelling blog is when the blogger admits he/she doesn’t have all of the answers, but he/she is looking hard for them.

    • Thanks Patrick! That’s a great thought from Montaigne! Sometimes knowing what questions to ask is half the battle.

  2. Bite me, Internet experts. I am sick of you – how well you have summed up my own feelings, Emily. I’ve read so much of this “knowledge” and realized I already knew a lot of it myself. I do not consider myself any kind of expert either. Since I consider myself a professional student I should view my blogging the same way.

  3. Wow! Thank you, Emily. You voiced what I’ve been thinking for a long time. I’ve signed up to receive posts from so many bloggers in the past, only to realize, as time passes, that their approach has shifted from “we’re in this together” to “you can’t be doing it right unless you’re listening to me.” I’ve actually just begun this week to unsubscribe to newsletters that no longer make me feel happy or inspired. And on my own side of the coin, I always hope no one sees me as the “expert” in anything. I want to always stay aware we’re all on this journey together and I’m hoping all of you can share with me how to reach our destination.

  4. Emily, I really enjoyed this blog! I don’t think any of us could possibly be reminded enough about how important this mindset really it is! “It’s all about attitude”… Thanks for sharing!

  5. Pingback: How To Become An Expert In Your Niche

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