Are you an expert?
Do you know more about a particular field than most people? Are you well-versed and well-read in it? Have you practiced or worked in that field for several years? Did you attend a special school to gain that knowledge?
An expert is someone, says the Random House Dictionary, who has “special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.”
A doctor is a medical expert. A contractor is a building expert. A writer is a storytelling expert.
The doctor went to medical school, and then focused on one speciality for a number of years. She knows more than the average person about the human body, and more than most doctors about her speciality.
A contractor has spent more years swinging a hammer and cutting wood than other people. He knows more about building and repairing houses than even the most enthusiastic hobbyist.
A writer may have gone to school, or may be self-taught. She has written news articles, plays, and books for a number of years. She knows more about word smithing than the average person.
These people are experts because they have studied their chosen vocation, practiced to correct mistakes, and worked to become better and more proficient.
Experts do not stop learning. They do not know everything there is to know about their field. The doctor specializes in the brain, and knows nothing about sports medicine. The contractor builds houses, but can’t build furniture. The writer is a novelist, but can’t write marketing copy.
They are not the top dog, numero uno, king of the hill expert in their field. There are thousands of doctors, contractors, and writers. There may be a top doctor, contractor, or writer somewhere, but our experts are not. That doesn’t mean they are no longer experts.
Our experts are still experts when their field changes. New advances in brain surgery come, but our doctor is still an expert in her field. New tools, new materials, and new joinery techniques are created, but our contractor is still an expert. New styles of novels are invented all the time, but our writer is still an expert.
Replace their tools with new tools and they’ll retain their knowledge. They just have to learn the new tools. The doctor didn’t quit being a brain surgeon when someone invented the laser scalpel. The contractor didn’t become an apprentice again when they took away his hammer and saw and switched him to a nail gun and miter saw. The writer didn’t lose her ability when she got rid of her typewriter and switched to a laptop.
An expert’s status doesn’t end just because they switched tools. That’s because their expertise lies in the execution, not the method. It does not stop because their field changes or grows, because every field changes and grows. To claim these people are no longer experts shows a lack of understanding about progress and change.
Expertise is not negated because they’re not the best ever in their field. To say that means only one person can be an expert at anything ever.
Expertise is not eliminated because they haven’t learned everything there is to learn. Otherwise there will never be an expert at anything.
Expertise is based on amassing more knowledge than most people, not all knowledge. That’s it. It’s not a fixed milestone. It’s not a zero-sum competition. It’s not something that changes just because there’s a new development. And it’s not lost when tools are replaced.
To say otherwise means you just don’t understand what an expert is.