I Am an Expert—I Bet You Are, Too

I came across an article promising to make me an expert. According to a Tedx Talk expert on expertise, David Mitroff, I only have to do three things to be considered an expert:

Spend three years learning about my area of expertise.

Build my confidence.

Take action. (This can be as simple as nominating yourself for awards.)

That got me thinking. At my age, there are lots of things that I have spent way more than three years learning. Heck, I should make a list of the topics that I have spent more than three years on.

For instance…

I am an expert at telling my husband what he is doing wrong. This topic includes a host of subtopics: beekeeping, house maintenance, small machine repair, gardening, finance, fashion. He could add to this list, I am sure. I have spent decades on this topic and I have full confidence in my ability to tell him where he is wrong. And I do not hestitate to tell him so. That’s taking action, right?

I am an expert at demonstrating what not to do in airports. I have demonstrated to my student travelers how one must sort one’s souvenirs before the flight home because the Florentine letter opener that ressembles a wicked dagger in the x-ray machine will most certainly be tossed in the trash. Same thing with a kilo of nougat that scans like a block of plastic explosives. And one should really use caution when borrowing a backpack from an ex-military dad—in case he forgot to remove all the bullets from hidden pockets. Object lessons like this are what make me such an effective teacher. An expert, really.

I am an expert at determining exactly how late the rush hour traffic will make me. When I call in with an accident report, I know exactly how many extra minutes to add to my travel so that when I walk in earlier than expected, I am told, “Wow, you made great time!”

I am an expert at reading handwriting. This skill increasingly amazes my students, who cannot read any handwriting at all. Once in awhile, textbook materials will include readings “written” in italicized script or some other cursive-like font. I have to read those selections out loud. Piece of cake. The true challenge for me is the dysgraphic, dyslexic student. The letters are not just poorly formed, they are in random order. In a second language. I am that good.

A corollary to reading handwriting is deciphering spelling. This is where a colleague keeps me sharp. She sends me puzzles from actual student work and challenges me to figure it out. Sometimes I can guess it outright. Other times, I need context clues. My all-time favorite was from the student who wrote about things “on a day-lily basis.”

I am an expert at doing all the laundry in one day—except for that last load that I forget about in the washer until I try to reach for an item in the closet and find it not there. And then I have to re-wash the load. Sometimes more than once. Because here’s the thing, my expertise is limited to Saturdays. If a load goes in on Sunday, it is doomed to dark dampness until next Saturday.

Speaking of dark and damp, I am also an expert on the rates of mold production inside refrigerators. Most of the time, I can even identify the original host of the mold. Decades of experience. What can I say? Plus, usually I am the one who put the host container in the fridge in the first place. But I am the undisputed expert. That’s why my husband comes to me to ask, “Dear, what was this?”

Wow, this small sampling of my areas of expertise has already built my confidence. I deserve some awards! The Science Award for refrigerator experiments. The Almost Finished Award for weekly laundry loads. The Cipher Award for spelling and handwriting decoding. The Airport Security Award for modeling dumb things not to do. And last but not least, The Lifetime Achievement Award for instructing my husband in so many different specialty areas.

If I read the expertise article correctly, being an expert does not necessarily mean you have to be successful at the topic. You just have to know a lot about it. Hmm, that may explain why there are so many so-called experts everywhere. But, that boosts my confidence even more. By that definition, my husband and I are expert beekeepers. More years than not, our bees fail to survive the winter. Some years, they haven’t even survived the summer. We have done countless dumb things as beekeepers. But we have a wealth of knowledge.

I am going to keep working on my list. And then, when I am sufficiently impressed with myself, I will share more of my expertise with you all. Feel free to award me for my expertise.

What are you an expert at? Take some action and share in the comment section below.

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