You see it everywhere: become an authority, share your expertise, dominate your niche and so on. The problem that I have – and many others I talk to – is acknowledging the fact that I do actually know enough about something to be considered an expert.
It’s an old problem. The more you know, the more you see how much you don’t know.
If you study anything, you will probably read books and articles written by super smart people whom you admire. You will listen to speakers, sit in on teleseminars and webinars, have email exchanges and do research. It is natural to think of those people who write, present and speak as experts and of yourself as someone who is learning from them.
But at some point, you know far more than the average person knows. You gain the ability to teach others what you have learned and to share your knowledge. If you are thinking about how much more you’d like to know about x, though, you may not realize that you know more than most people. You might be too worried about how much there still is for you to learn.
Chris Brogan addressed this tangentially in his post titled “You Always Have Something To Give“, and of course, Brian Clark addresses the question in his famous report Authority Rules. No matter how many really smart people tell you that you need to market yourself as an authority, or even that you need to be sharing your knowledge so that people can decide you’re an authority for themselves, it’s hard to do.
The reason it’s hard to do is feels risky. You know how much you don’t know. You know the questions people could ask that would reveal your ignorance for the whole world to see. It’s uncomfortable.
Here are a few ways you can begin to recognize your own authority and gain confidence:
Make a list of what you know. When I taught Spanish, I relentlessly studied the everything I could find about the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. In fact, I learned all I could about the Aztec civilization so that I could tell my students stories. One week, I moved a book shelf and noticed just how many books about the Aztecs I owned. That got me to thinking about how little I knew about the topic when I started teaching, and it dawned on me: I was something of an expert. It was a stunning revelation.
Take a look at a few blogs in your niche. Not the recognized, top-shelf blogs, but the ones with smaller readerships. When I visit blogs of other writers, I am sometimes left gaping at the elementary nature of the information presented. The reality is not that those folks are unqualified to write about writing, but that I know much more than I give myself credit for.
Visit forums and read some of the questions people are asking. How many of them could you answer off the top of your head? How many of the answers others have posted do you know are flat out wrong? Expertise is relative, but if you know more than most of the other people posting in a reputable forum, you have at least some measure of authority.
Start sharing. Sometimes I will recommend to my Facebook friends that they change their passwords. The suggestion is always met with a flurry of questions. The people I “hang out” with online know that it is a good idea to change your passwords frequently, and they know the dangers of getting hacked. It’s easy to think that everybody knows that stuff. But they don’t. So, while I would never consider myself an authority regarding personal security on the Internet, I do have knowledge that would be beneficial to lots of other people.
Have you ever realized that you have unwittingly gained expertise in a particular area? Or, have you ever hesitated to claim authority about a topic when you had every right to do so? Is there some way you “test” to decide if you should share your knowledge or not?