I’m an “Expert” in My Field and I Still Know Nothing

Expert

I’ve been in the web publishing business for over 12 years, which to many in the industry is a few lifetimes.  I’d like to think I know more than a fair amount of people in digital publishing otherwise I probably wouldn’t have lasted this long.  But at the same time if there’s one thing that I’m certain of:  there’s an absolute ton I don’t know.  No matter how much I read, how many people I talk to, or courses that I take it’ll never catch up with the pace of innovation on the internet.  Frankly it’s one of the things I like most about this job.  You’re always on your toes and there’s always something new to learn.  But if there’s one thing I want to talk about today it’s this: be humble and don’t ever think you know everything about…..anything.   Personally I think the one place in our lives where we should be most humble is in our careers.  So let’s dig in to this a little bit further.

What kind of boss would you want to have or be?

Every single person who’s ever had a boss or a teacher remembers two kinds of bosses and teachers.  There are the bosses you absolutely hated and dreaded to go work for and there are the bosses you enjoyed seeing every single day, the kind you actually cared about putting effort into for.  Teachers are the same thing.  We all remember the teachers who were the meanest just as we remember the ones who had profound effects on our lives. That’s right Mrs. Ilberg (my 1st grader teacher), I’m talking to you.  P.S. we also all had that one teacher with horrible breath.  My third grade teacher’s breath literally smelled like poo poo.  Yes, the kind that’s in your kid’s potty toilet.  Anyway, so how do you want to be remembered?  As the prick boss or the one who someone will never forget for instilling in them some of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn?  How do you become one of the “good guys?”

Always ask questions and listen.  That’s it

I’m pretty sure I didn’t know Utah was a state all through my senior year in high school.  One day I raised my hand in social studies and asked a question about something related to that.  I remember the class laughing because well, yeah that was kind of dumb.  But I’ll also never forget my teacher saying “there are no dumb questions, never be afraid to ask questions.”  I’m pretty sure that from that point on I never gave a shit about raising my hand if I didn’t know something.  It’s the people who constantly ask questions who are the smartest.  And here’s another great secret.  It’s those who ask questions that wind up being the greatest teachers, mentors, CEOs, leaders, etc etc.  Asking questions shows that you are constantly interested in learning more.  At the same time if you are in a position of power and you constantly ask questions of your employees, it shows you are generally interested in what they have to say and you value their input.  In the same token, if you are an intent listener the same principles apply.  Look someone in the eye, put your phone down, focus all attention on whoever you’re talking to and see what kind of a response you’ll get.  In relation to careers and as importantly life, the more questions we ask, the more knowledge we accumulate and the more of an “expert” we’ll always appear to be.  If you flip the switch, employees who constantly ask questions also impresses their bosses (the good bosses anyway) because in turn it shows that they have genuine interest in being better at their jobs.

Sure…be nice and appropriate too

Part of being well known, liked, and respected also has to do with a bit of how you present yourself and treat others.  You can be an awesome boss, mentor, teacher, anything if you simply listen a ton and ask questions. But if you want to be the most revered in your field, being a nice person will be the clincher that gets you there.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of famous, successful people who have been marked “a son of a bitch” in their careers but I personally think that kind of sucks.    Being nice gives you access.  Being nice gets other people’s guards down.  Being nice is a foot in the door to get information you wouldn’t have normally gotten if you were mean.

How about being humble in life?

Do you want to be known as the cocky person who gives no credit where credit is due?  Do you want to be known as ruthless piece of crap?  Or do you want to have respect and admiration?  Do you want to have the undying devotion of your peers?  In order to do this you need to be humble.  You need to always remember you didn’t do it on your own.  You need to remember those who helped you along the way, and you need to thank these people.

Conclusion

If you want to be an expert in anything it all starts from seeking knowledge by asking questions, reading, and having access to multiple knowledge bases.  To gain access to those bases, be nice, be courteous, be appropriate, but also be relentless in pursuit of said information.

Man I don’t know what the hell I’m writing today but I kind of like it.

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