The Counterintuitive Way Of Being An Expert

The Counterintuitive Way Of Being An Expert

A few days ago, I gave a TED talk-style speech at the “Morning Buzz” event of the Chamber of Commerce in Lewisville, TX! Thank you for the opportunity and to everyone who attended live at the Chamber and via Facebook Live.

Here’s the recording of the talk (you can also see the complete recording, including the excellent talk by Ross Powell, who talked before me, here):


Do you consider yourself brilliant?

What I’m talking about is different from the Elon Musk type of brilliance. What I am talking about is your experience, expertise, and wisdom you have acquired throughout your life thus far. 

Now, do you consider yourself brilliant?

Today’s talk is about the counterintuitive way of being an expert. It comes down to this question: How much brilliance are you losing because of how we’ve been taught to be an expert?

Bill’s Story

Let me share a story about Bill. He is in his early sixties, married, has several daughters, and runs a specialty staffing company. Like me, he loves woodworking. 

But how much time does he have for woodworking or his family? When he gets sick, do you think he is working or resting? 

If you said “working,” you are right.

He always works because Bill has developed a secret sauce dear to his heart. The people he serves with his company fall into two groups: job seekers and companies looking for talent. He wants to make an unbreakable match between them.

He created a “Secret Sauce” that involves five key things to make that happen. He calls it “Five Things.” He has attempted to teach these five things to everyone in his company. But it felt a little like bashing his head against the wall. He tried it several different ways, but none of them worked.

Why is that?

The Learning Process and Teaching Challenges

The challenge arises from the way we learn. Initially, you are blissfully ignorant; you don’t even know that you don’t know a particular subject or skill. Then, you might become aware of something you don’t know. If you care to learn it, you do. Now, for a little while, you are conscious that you learned it.

But then something else happens: You go on autopilot. The knowledge becomes a habit. It becomes unconscious competence.

How do you teach something you don’t even remember that you know?

Poorly, if that.

The answer is: Basically, you don’t.

You think you are teaching someone steps 1 – 2 – 3 -4 – 5; it’s easy, just do it! That is how we attempt to delegate. That is typically the only way we know how to delegate.

But, actually, we didn’t say steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Instead, we gave steps 1 – 5 – 10 – 15 – 23. All the other steps are unconscious competence.

Which result is the poor person you delegated to getting? Your result is much better than theirs!

Then you say, If I want to get it done right, I better do it myself! 

Then you find yourself doing all the heavy lifting with the tasks you have difficulty teaching to other people completely.

What do we do about this?

The Problem with Bill’s Situation 

Here is the problem Bill has. Bill doesn’t have time to rest or do many things he wants to do. Worse, he says, I will rest when I retire.

But how do you retire? How do you sell a company that depends on you that much? 

I tell you how that normally happens. First, Bill has to compete against other baby boomers who want to sell their businesses. That is called the “Silver Tsunami.” Over 70% of businesses do not sell.

If he is in the lucky 30% of businesses that do sell, he probably will have to work with the new owner for at least one or two years. After 30 years of being the boss, he is an employee. Think about that. How would you feel about that?

The Solution to the Dilemma

I’m going to show you what we can do about this. It spells the word BIL (with only one “L”).

Step 1: The “B” Stands for Brilliance

The first step is to recognize your brilliance. The bad news is that you don’t know all of your brilliance because some of it is unconscious. You will have to resort to some tricks to get at it all. A fresh set of eyes, an external set of eyes, is very helpful. 

A few other techniques can help you: whenever you see yourself doing something, you might notice, “Oh, that is something I need to teach others!” which previously was unconscious to you. Let’s write that down quickly because I promise you, you will forget that aha otherwise.

Step 2: The “I” Stands for Initiative

If you don’t take the initiative, here is what will happen: You will take your brilliance to the graveyard. What is that? 

Paradigm Shift in What It Means to Be An Expert

We’ve been led astray, I think, for many years. It is beginning to change. We need a paradigm shift, which is why the title of this talk is “The Counterintuitive Way of Being Expert.” 

In the old days, which are still going on today, we’re taught that you learn something, you get good at it, then even better, and finally, you become excellent and indispensable. Being indispensible is why they pay you the big bucks because they can’t do it without you. I call that Expert 1.0, 

I’m telling you right now: We need to abolish that model. It’s time to get rid of it. 

In the Expert 2.0 model, you learn, you get very good at it, but you share your knowledge and capture it in a training system. We still teach people, but you also put your knowledge (your brilliance, as I call it) into a training system. It makes our knowledge scalable and immortal. You’re not taking it to the grave this way.

But then why would they still need me?” you might be asking.

Are you asking that? 

“They could maybe get rid of me. They don’t need me if I share all that brilliance into a system now.”

That’s very short-term thinking. The role of Expert 2.0 must include having enough time left in their day to think of new things. That is the type of expert we need today and into the future. 

By the way, if we’re burning out our experts, that’s no good either. Burnt-out people don’t do us any good as a society. You get that. It’s not a luxury. 

Thus, making your brilliance scalable and immortal is what we must do. We don’t have apprentices who start with us at a young age and stay with us until retirement. That is not happening anymore. What’s the average time of somebody being in a job now? It’s a few years, maybe? 

From the audience: It is 18 months! And that’s the older generation. 

18 months or less! So, take the initiative, or you will end up with a “double” death. We all die someday, but without taking the initiative to pass on your knowledge, your brilliance dies, too. That is why I call it a “double death.”

Step 3: “L” stands for Leveraging Your Brilliance 

When it comes to leveraging, the first thing we typically think of is money. 

  • It’s not just money. 
  • It’s time. It’s time to rest and avoid burnout.
  • It’s time to innovate. 
  • It’s also freedom. It doesn’t end there. I
  • t is also about building and leaving a legacy. 
  • It is about you giving the building blocks for the future, the immediate future, and the future future. 

Let’s Get Back To Bill’s Story

Bill is not his real name, but this story is. He is a fabulous person. I wanted to help him because you can feel how serious he is about wanting to create that unbreakable match. It makes his company stand out. I wanted him to succeed and have his company last beyond his involvement. And he deserved to get the reward for what he has created.

Bill’s Success and Its Implications 

Within a few weeks, we created the first usable version of a training system that teaches these five things. By Bill’s estimation, as we teach his employees, all of them, on the recruitment and sales sides, his $6 million company will double in the first year. Double the business. Wow. 

That’s the financial part, but let’s think about what it means for him on the private side: not just working, but time for family, more rest, hobbies, travel. He can even care for himself when he is sick instead of working. And he doesn’t have to work as an employee for someone else when he finally sells the company.

Conclusion: Identifying and Sharing Your Brilliance 

In conclusion, I ask you, what is your brilliance? What have you learned from this talk? It could be beneficial to someone else, too, someone on your team, partners, family, community, …

I invite you to take a piece of paper and write down some thoughts. Then do the second part, take the initiative. 

You can talk to me about it, watch yourself, or record yourself when you train someone. Always record yourself when you train. You will be amazed at what brilliance comes out of your mouth. Capture it. 

And then the last part. Leverage it.

Perhaps you are not sure whether you want to leave a legacy. But whatever you could be doing to create a legacy down the line, helps you grow now, and helps you have freedom today. 

It also helps free up time to get back to innovating, which probably was something that you felt passionate about in the first place that created all that brilliance that you have today. Instead of managing all that brilliance, you will have more room to create new brilliance again. 

What’s your brilliance? Take action, please.

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

I Love Your Comments

Please use the form below for private comments and the social links for public comments