What’s Your Expertise?


What makes an expert? Knowledge? Experience? Or acceptance?

Daniel, a master glassblower with 35 years of experience.

There are a lot of experts in our daily lives. We see their books on the shelves, hear their voices on radio and see their faces on TV. But what is it that made them experts?

In an attempt to answer that question, here’s a quick case study of three experts, all from the financial arena.

Who Are “The Experts”?

Suze Orman is an expert. She’s written 7 books, hosts a radio and a TV show, won awards, and been on Oprah.  BUT, she is not a financial expert by education. Her degree is, actually, in Social Work not Finance.  She does not have an MBA.  She is not a CPA.  As a matter of fact, the extent of her financial education credentials is the Merrill Lynch training class.  She traded for Lynch, then was a VP at Prudential Bache until 1997, when she started writing financial self-help books primarily for women.

Jim Cramer gradauted Magna Cum Laude from Harvard with a degree in Government.  Later he graduated from Harvard Law school and passed the NY Bar Exam. He does not have an education or any professional certifications in finance.  He did trade stocks and commodities, with a very solid record, for Goldman Sachs and later left to form his own fund which also did extremely well. He formed a company, TheStreet.com, which provides investor services and information. He’s been the host of Mad Money since 2005. He’s written six books, all bestsellers.

Robert Kiyosaki graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy as a deck officer in 1969, and later served in the USMC during Vietnam as a gunship pilot. Most know him from his books — he’s written over a dozen books on finance in the RichDad series. He has no business education or certifications, spurns them in fact, and prefers to learn from life. He formed two businesses: one in velcro wallets, the other in heavy metal t-shirts, before starting the RichDad franchise that made him famous.

Nathan Sawaya, a man who is passionate about LEGOs.

All three of these people are “experts” in the field of finance. Not one has a degree in business, finance, economics or management.  Not one has an MBA. Not one has a CPA. Only one, Jim Cramer, found true financial success before writing financial self-help books. All three have found tremendous success giving advice as a “financial expert”. And what is their advice, exactly? A combination of common sense, basic finance, and an underlying message of personal responsibility for our own  financial health.

In other words, for many of us, the stuff our parents told us that we never listened to. Which is exactly what I’m getting at.

There is no single bestowing authority of expertise in any subject.  There isn’t!  Education doesn’t provide one an expert label.  Experience is no golden ticket to professional acceptance.  It is acceptance by our peers that is the final arbiter of the title “Expert”.  And what is the first step of professional acceptance?  Writing a book. Not a blog.  Not an article.  A book.

A book has meaning.  A book has gravitas.  A book reaches deep into our collective psyche and screams “Wow, that person really knows their stuff!”  It doesn’t have to be deep or world changing.  Often, the most successful simply present basic ideas.

Above are three people who’s passion for the subject of finance, not education or professional certification, brought them success.  For two, at least, the main vehicle of their success was books.

A Call To Action

If this blog post does anything, I hope it leaves you with these two concepts:

1.  You don’t need a special degree, angels from heaven, or a glance from Oprah to be knowledgeable about a topic that fascinates you.

2.  The knowledge you possess has value.

Every one of us has accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and experience. Each one of us is passionate about something.  And, chances are, whatever you’re interested in, someone else is, too.

Digital publishing combines the information democracy of blogs with the old school methodology of paying for a product.  Books are no longer hidden behind the stronghold of publishing companies — services like Kindle and PubIt! allow anyone to share their thoughts with the world through digital eBooks.  A whole new breed of everyday experts are flourishing as more and more people are willing to pay for the insight and advice of their passionate peers.

So what are you waiting for? Close this web browser, open up that word processor, and ask yourself:  “What is my area of expertise?”  Write your book, upload it yourself (for free!) and charge $2.99 a download.  Maybe you’ll make a little money.  Maybe you’ll make a lot.  But no matter what, you’ll be able to say “I wrote the book.”

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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