Why You Shouldn’t Want To Be An Expert

by · June 25, 201219 comments

I don’t call myself an expert. I don’t want to be an expert. I don’t want people to call me an expert.

Maybe you do. And that’s fine. I’m not one to judge. There’s lots of benefit to being an expert. And being called one.

Many of my friends fret about being called an expert. I once told Doug Karr, much to his chagrin, that I think calling yourself an expert means you’re a douchebag. The label is something that is best left for others to judge. Calling yourself one is akin to calling yourself great in bed. You don’t know unless you sleep with yourself. Which kinda makes you a douchebag, no?

But if others call you that, then, in their mind, you are. Good for you. (No sarcasm intended.)

But I don’t call myself an expert, nor do I wish others to. I’ve never aspired to be an expert at anything. And for one primary reason:

An expert means you know more than most people at something that is already known. It means other people can also achieve the same status.

I’d much rather be knowledgeable about something no one else can even fathom how to do.

How about you?

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • jezhughes

    Good point Jason. There’s some depth to the claim though. If you’re an expert in Astronomy, do you know a lot about something that’s possible for other people to know? Or do you know more about the ways to discover a further unknown? Would Mark Z have created Facebook if he wasn’t an expert in programming and having a vision of the web? Bit deep for a social media blog though ;) 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Expert programmer is like saying expert accountant. They’re a dime a dozen. Zuckerberg wasn’t an expert anything. He was an innovator who created something new.

  • Patty

    Agree that it’s weird to call oneself an expert. Love having other people call me an expert. I can’t stop them, anyway.  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/MackCollier Mack Collier

    This is a topic that I *really* wish would die.  Who cares if someone is qualified to call themselves a social media/business/marketing expert?  I don’t think someone is necessarily a ‘douchebag’ for calling themselves an expert.  It could be they really are (an expert), or maybe they really believe they are.  Or maybe they are trying to put food on the table for their family so they can make this month’s mortgage?  

    I have no idea, but I do know that this space as a whole cares WAY too much about what everyone else is doing.  I know people right NOW in this space that I am pretty sure are keynoting on subjects they really aren’t qualified to be speaking on.  And no, they aren’t calling themselves ‘experts’, but if they are keynoting, most people assume they are.

    And Jason not trying to call you out, I’ve seen a million versions of this post, hell I’ve probably even written one like it.  At the end of the day, every minute I choose to worry about how someone else is building their business, is a minute I can’t spend on building my own.  We need to choose wisely.  

  • http://paradisesocial.wordpress.com/ Mike Poynton

    Mention of the word ‘expert’ in the realm of social marketing makes me immediately suspicious and skeptical of the person to which it is being applied and the person who is doing the applying. However I’m less skeptical of linguistics, handwriting, forensics, animal behavior or solid rocket fuel experts. And I’m wondering to myself right now, “Why?”

  • http://twitter.com/jwongjk Jan Wong

    How can you be an expert of something that is constantly changing, with tons of other possibilities out there? Even lawyers (supposedly experts of the law) cannot win every case there is out there. Specialist, maybe. Expert? Unlikely. Guru? Puh-lease! ;)

  • http://www.anandmpatel.com/ Anand Patel

    I agree that tooting your own horn in the professional world is somewhat douchey and you should probably let your work do the talking for you, but I mainly wanted to leave a comment because I thought your sleeping with yourself comment was hilarious! 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Heh. Thanks!

  • http://www.genquestinc.com/ work.Happy

    Dear Jason,

    I love reading your blog! I am a student at the University of New Mexico and I am interning at a company named GenQuest and we are trying to promote our new book that will hit the shelves in the fall. Could you please look at our website and let us know you expert advice.


    • work.Happy

      Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Melanie Giron.

  • http://seowebtrick.com/ SEO Services Kanpur

    It is my fist visit here.There is apparently much to know about it. I think above we can find good points.

  • James

    Pretty sure an expert accountant isn’t a dime-a-dozen. That’s disrespectful to their work. I’d take an expert accountant over a non-expert accountant any day. I’d even pay them more.
    I know you’re trying to make a point … but I think this could be worded a lot more respectfully to those who work hard to become an expert. Like expert doctors who treat cancer – other people can achieve that status (i.e. other expert doctors treating cancer patients) and that is a GOOD thing – we need all the expert doctors treating cancer that we can get. Why might those people want to be expert doctors? To save lives. Think about it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Allow me to clarify a bit – when I say an expert accountant is a dime a dozen, it because they all are. You have to be certified, etc., which is far different from being able to call yourself a marketer. So in that sense, I certainly meant no disrespect. Doctors are the same … There’s a level of expertise that comes just with being a doctor. Certainly specialists stand out.

      But I think our back and forth here misses the entire point of the post. I’d rather innovate and create than just know everything there is to know about something already known. It was more of a philosophical idea.

  • http://twitter.com/HighTalk George F. Snell III

    Is describing yourself as “a leading thinker, educator, speaker and strategist in the world of social media marketing, public relations, digital marketing and communications” being a douchebag? ;-)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      No. All those qualifiers are applied by others in reference to me. Only reporting.

  • http://taylormarek.com/ Taylor Marek

    “I’d much rather be knowledgeable about something no one else can even fathom how to do.”

    Good post Jason. In reference to the above sentence, what term should we use to describe it? Genius,  “The Next Steve Jobs”, etc.? Curious. :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I think under that definition, you’re an innovator, visionary, creator?

      • http://taylormarek.com/ Taylor Marek

         I’d say so. Always liked the “visionary” term anyways. ;)

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