Today we are going to tackle this thing called imposter syndrome. As far as I know, John Lee Dumas over at Entrepreneur on Fire coined that term. Really it’s about this feeling that you have, this little voice inside of you when you go to pick a niche, or create a blog post, or create some content, or do a course, it’s that little voice that says, “Who am I to teach this? After all, there are tons of people out there that know more than I do. I’m not an expert. How is it okay for me to try and help people if I’m not an expert?”
It comes from the dictionary definition, I think. The dictionary definition of expert is a person who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of a skill or in some particular area.
Malcolm Gladwell kind of cemented this in his book Outliers, he talked about the fact that it takes 10,000 hours of time investment for somebody to become an expert. If you spent an average of three hours a day, seven days a week, that would be 1,000 hours a year; it would take you 10 years to be an expert. So there’s this idea out there that you need to be this 10,000 hour expert to help people.
This came up because Cliff Ravenscraft and I were just talking in Episode 463 of The Cliff Ravenscraft Show and we talked about this idea that you don’t always have to be an expert. It just came up in conversation because we were talking about a tutorial that Cliff had created years ago (that I had happened to buy before I really knew Cliff) about this piece of equipment that I owned. I had bought this piece of equipment from Cliff, it’s a complicated piece of equipment, I didn’t know how to work it and the instruction manual was big and complicated. Instead of figuring out myself how to work this thing, I paid Cliff to teach me.
I’ll let you hear that clip right now…
Cliff: I put it off for a couple more days and then finally one day I thought, “I have some time, I want to figure this piece of equipment out. I opened up the manual and I literally spent nine hours reading line by line over and over again until finally it started to click a little bit.
Then I started playing with the dials and all of a sudden, “Oh, now I understand what the gate is. Now I understand what it’s supposed to be doing with the compression. If I tweak it just a little bit it actually doesn’t cut off the first few seconds of what I’m saying.” I don’t understand this like an audio engineer would, but I understand it enough to where I got it to where I have exactly the sound I want and it sounds amazing.
What I did was I thought, “I’m going to teach this to other people. There are other people that would love to know these settings.” So I spent days figuring it out and now in a one hour tutorial ($39) I’ve made it available for everybody.
Mark: Before we get back to Kajabi, I have to unpack that one thing. Because how many degrees in electrical engineering do you have?
Mark: I have two and I’m an electrical engineer every day. Well, sometimes on Saturdays I don’t do any electrical engineering, but that’s what I do for a living. I paid money to learn something in my own field about connecting wires together and doing stuff from you because I saw you as an expert.
All of these people out here that are wondering whether or not people are interested in what they have to say, that’s a really strong example. Those people out there who are saying, “Who am I to teach Mark Mason about electrical stuff? He’s an engineer.” Well, Cliff Ravenscraft knew something, took time to figure something out that I didn’t want to spend time on. That made you an expert on that topic and I paid real money to learn that so I wouldn’t have to spend the time.
Cliff: Absolutely. The cool thing and what I love is that you spent $39 and you literally shaved hours, if not days, off the learning curve of how to set that thing up. You watched the video, it walked you through step by step what cables you need, how to hook it up, and exactly where to turn the knobs, and if you like the sound boom you’re set up and ready to go in an hour.
Mark: And I didn’t buy $200 worth of wrong cables.
Cliff: Since 2010 I’ve sold over $15,000 of that digital product.
That’s the thing. Cliff did something, he went and figured something out and then he taught me how to do it.
Do I know more about electrical engineering, audio engineering, and the fundamentals of electronics than Cliff? Maybe. I have a couple of degrees in electrical engineering, so you might call me an expert. I spent years in school learning about how to do things like what I paid Cliff to teach me, but I didn’t have time for that. Ain’t nobody got time for that, sometimes.
Sometimes that means that someone who knows something and has spent the time to learn how to do something can help someone else. If you need permission to help people, I give you permission. I give you permission to talk about stuff that you care about as long as you’re trying to help people, doing your due diligence and learning and telling people about your experience.
The reason is expertise is relative.
Let me give you an example. Some of my listeners back around Episode 106 didn’t know anything about copyright law. They knew they needed to worry about it, but they didn’t know anything about it. They have no expertise, they didn’t know anything about copyright law. I did research, I’ve been reading about copyright law. I’m not a lawyer, I made that very clear in the episode, but I was able to help people (at least I think) learn about copyright law and help them know what questions to ask their attorney and do a better job of complying with copyright law, at least as it exists in the United States.
I’m not an expert, but I have enough expertise to help people. My kid brother is a patent attorney, he deals with intellectual property law all of the time. He would say he is not an expert in copyright law. In fact, I bet if you took him a copyright case and offered to pay him to work on a case he would say, “That’s not my area of expertise.” But my brother, having gone to law school and studied intellectual property, took at least an entire course in copyright law, he is more of an expert in copyright law than I am.
If you were able to find an attorney practicing in New York City and litigating copyright law every day and that was their area of expertise and their practice was around copyright law and they had been practicing that for the last 10 years, they would know more about copyright law in the United States than my brother. From my brother’s point of view, that would be an expert, that’s who he would send you to.
But, there’s probably someone else somewhere who is a law journal author at some university, maybe they have a PhD in copyright law in addition to their law degree and they just released The Comprehensive Survey of the History of Copyright Law in the United States and Trends Into the Future. They’re probably the ultimate expert in copyright law. I don’t need that guy. I don’t need the PhD guy to help me decide whether or not I can use a picture on my website.
Expertise is relative.
I think a question you might ask is, “Why do I want to be an expert? I believe you that I can be an expert, I can be more of an expert than someone else and therefore I can help them. But why do I want to be an expert?”
I read this great article by Yaro over at Entrepreneur’s Journey and there are at least four really good reasons that Yaro points out why you should strive to be an expert, why you should want to be an expert.
One is that the more expertise you have the more you can help people. That’s the reason that I want to know more about stuff.
The second thing is the more you’re an expert that means the more respect you get and the more people will hear your voice, and therefore the more people you can help. When you have respect people listen to what you have to say and if you’re helping people that means you’re helping more people.
Of course, being an expert means you can teach people, which is another way you can have access to people to help them.
Ultimately, all of this results in the fact that being an expert means you have an opportunity to profit from your work and your expertise. So there are four really good reasons that Yaro calls out in his article over at Entrepreneur’s Journey.
The question I thought I would tackle today is how is it that you actually move towards becoming an expert. You’ve decided, let’s say, that you want to build an internet business around some expertise and you like this idea of helping people, and you want to create an affiliate website or you want to create products, or whatever it is that you want to do. You know you have that in you, but you still wonder, “How do I become an expert?”
So I have a set of tips for you that I think will help you be an expertise. And as has become my custom over the last few episodes, there is a going to be a big button in the show notes where you can download these tips. I’ll give you a flowchart of tips on how to become an expert.
I think the first thing to understand if you want to become an expert is understand exactly what it is that you want to become an expert in.
I think one of the tendencies of people that start online businesses (or businesses in general) is they want to be an expert on something but they’re not sure what. Maybe they have four, five, or six interests and they can’t decide whether they want to be an expert on guitar, or whether they want to be an expert on carpentry, or whether they want to be an expert on the stock market. They’re just all over the place. Obviously, and maybe it’s not obvious, I think the one thing that you need to do is really get straight in your mind what you want to be an expert on.
If you’re going to invest the time to be an expert on something, I really recommend that it’s something that you really like. If you’re an accountant and you think it might be easy to be an expert at being an accountant because you have 10 years of experience in accounting and maybe you’re already an expert, but you hate accounting; that may not be a very good choice.
On the other hand, if you don’t know anything about how to play guitar and you want to start talking to people about beginning guitar, it’s really easy for you to talk about your journey playing guitar and to create expertise because you’re going to have a lot of energy around that. You can chronicle your own journey as a beginning and tell people what you’re learning on your journey. I think it’s really easy when you care about something.
The first thing is you have to figure out what you’re interested in. The second thing is you have to niche down.
If you want to teach people about guitar, is it bass guitar, acoustic guitar, or electric guitar? If it’s acoustic guitar, is it classic guitar or is it guitars with metal strings? Is it a 12-string guitar or a 6-string guitar? Are you focused on finger picking or strumming? Is it blues or country or rock’n’roll?
You have to niche down. I think the more you niche down, especially when you’re trying to become an expert, the better off you’ll be because the scope of the material that you need to claim expertise in gets smaller every time you niche down. As a practical matter, from an expertise building standpoint, that’s advantageous to you. You get more leverage the smaller the topic is. We know from a marketing standpoint that’s also very valuable, too, because you can specifically address a very narrow segment and we know that’s a very strong position to be in from a marketing point of view.
Once you’ve decided what you’re interested in and you’ve niched it down and you’re on this journey to become an expert, you have to dig in. Let’s face it, you can’t fake it until you make it. You need to study and practice.
I think the thing that is so helpful here when you’re on this journey of expertise when you’re talking about the things that you’re learning is to be completely transparent. There is no reason at all to pretend like you know more than you do.
I’ve already told you expertise is relative. People are going to self-select. If you’ve been doing something for “only a year” then people who have been doing it for 10 years you’re probably not going to be able to help them. There’s no reason to pretend that you can help those people. Focus on helping the people that have been doing something for 10 days or 10 weeks, because you’ve already been doing it for a year or 10 months. You’re way ahead of them and you know things that they don’t know and you can shorten their journey and help them.
Study your craft, study the thing that you want to learn, find mentors, follow people, and practice what you preach. Another thing that I see a lot of times, especially in the internet marketing space, is that people talk about a thing that they don’t actually do. This drives me a little bit crazy. They talk about affiliate marketing but they don’t actually do any.
I’ve been doing affiliate marketing since 2009. The last affiliate marketing course that I took was three months ago. The last affiliate site that I started was a few days ago. I still have affiliate sites running. Why do I do that? I do that because I want to have credibility in what I say.
You need to study the things that you want to be an expert in and you need to practice them, and be transparent the whole time. That way when you’re transparent about the things that you’re actually doing you’re claiming the expertise that is yours to claim. Since it’s a relative thing, you’re not tattooing the word ‘expert’ on your forehead, you’re just saying, “I did this thing and here’s what I learned,” and people that haven’t don’t that thing yet and didn’t know that are going to say, “Wow, how awesome is that? I had no idea that was the way you do that. I’m going to try that myself.”
Then they’re going to send you emails and the emails are going to say things like, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. That was so helpful.” That’s what they’re going to do. I just had a conversation with a guy last night who was telling me, “Thank you so much for the domain name checklist. There were a couple of things in there that I knew but had forgotten. Thank you so much for sharing that.” They’re going to appreciate your expertise because their focus is elsewhere or they forgot something or they hadn’t been doing it very long. So be transparent.
Then once you start this thing you have to make a helpful noise. You have to really get out there and start sharing what you learn.
Part of that sharing, maybe the biggest part, is advocating for your audience. By that I mean creating content. Create a checklist and share it with your audience. Create a list of things to think about when you’re trying to become an expert and share it with your audience. Speak in front of people.
Maybe it’s speaking in front of 4,000 people at Social Media Marketing World. That’s probably not where you’re going to start. Maybe it’s speaking in front of your local Chamber of Commerce in front of 10 people about how to start a website with WordPress, something that you just did two or three months ago and now you’re kind of an expert because you know how to set up an account at Bluehost and you know how to one-click install WordPress, and you know that there are themes out there that you can configure, and you know what the Yoast SEO Plugin is. You know 100,000 times more than the average person about website creation, so tell people about it, help them.
Then at some point you may collect up enough expertise that you can write a book. You’re thinking, “Mark, write a book, what are you talking about? You’ve lost your mind.” Have you looked at Kindle lately? There are a lot of 10,000 word books and 20,000 word books out there that cost $2.99.
Create content. Create a blog. Create posts that help people. Advocate for your audience.
Another thing that you can do is appear on podcasts. You can call Mark Mason and say, “Hey Mark, I want to tell my story on your podcast. This is my story. I think it would be great for your audience.” You can do that with any podcaster.
Eventually all of that advocating for your audience and trying to help people will trigger trust with people. Another thing that will trigger trust with people as you create content and that content is shared and you appear on other people’s podcasts is you’ll become associated with other experts and the result will be your expertise will increase.
All this time while you’re doing all of this stuff you’re still learning, your expertise is increasing, you’re still doing, you’re helping people, people are sharing the story of how you helped them, and it just builds and builds on itself. All of a sudden you went from the level one expert of someone who is just telling their story to a level two expert of someone who has been doing something for awhile and has some success to a level three expert who is someone that somebody calls that people know your name. One day you might be “the expert” in your particular field.
All because I gave you permission to go ahead and recognize the fact that you have expertise right now that other people don’t have and all you need to do is go out and start sharing that expertise. Here’s the bottom line on this. This kind of expertise thing where you’re not sure if it’s okay for you to be doing the thing that you want to do, this is one of many of the limiting beliefs, these self-limiting self-doubt kind of things that you have to go identify and then crush. Today I’m giving you permission to crush this one and I hope that is very helpful to you.
If this resonates, I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message in the show notes or give me a shout out on Twitter @LateNightIM. I would absolutely love to hear how this has helped you and what you’re going to do about it.
That wraps it up for this week. I want to encourage you to come to the show notes to download the cheat sheet for how to become an expert, it’s a nice little PDF I’ll email straight to your inbox. And leave me a comment and tell me if this resonates with you. What do you think? Tell me about your expertise journey, I’d love to hear about that.
Next week we’re going to be talking about content workflows and some tools that I use to manage my content, content creation strategies from a tool perspective and some of the things that you can use. I have a couple of other things for you, too. I can’t wait, I’m really looking forward to it.
Until then, go get some stuff done in your business. Talk to you soon.