Are you an expert? Of what? At what? On whom? How did you become an expert?
Merriam-Webster defines an expert as “a person who has special skill or knowledge relating to a particular subject.”
When you google, “How do you become an expert?” the search results are mostly sites about entrepreneurship, recruiting, business and psychology. All have great ways to become an expert. Most are about studying a person or subject or practicing a subject. That’s how they say you become an expert.
In those regards, I’d like to think I’m an expert on dancing. And writing. And cats. Definitely cats. (probably not cats, I’m no veterinarian.)
But I’ve recently discovered there’s one more way to become an expert—live through it. It’s like a story of survival. If you survive an avalanche, you, in my book anyway, are an expert on how to survive an avalanche. It might not be the expertise you want, but it’s an expertise you now have.
So now that you’re an expert, what do you do with your expertise? You can do nothing. Tell no one. Be a guy who survived an avalanche and go on with your life. Let go of your avalanche story and not let your avalanche story define you. You can keep it close, tell people you know who might encounter an avalanche someday how they could survive said avalanche.
Or maybe you don’t think you’re an avalanche-surviving-expert. You’ve only survived it once. And barely. And you don’t know if you could do it again. Or what caused the avalanche. Or how you really survived. You just know you did.
Or you can take your avalanche experience and share what you do know. What it taught you about avalanches and mountains and snow and breathing and surviving and living and what comes next. You can embrace your expertise.
This year I’ve gained some expertise that I expected. I’ve also gained some that I never dreamt of. Never hoped for. Never wished for. Would never want for anyone. But things happen. And I’m learning that it’s harder to not tell anyone about any of it than it is to start from the beginning.
What I’m learning is that when you experience something, no matter how good or bad or fulfilling or dreadful, the greatest gift you can give is to share your newfound expertise with others. All you can do is hope that, if it is something that’s frightening or dreadful, those you share this expert advice with never, ever have to experience any of it. Because, as humans, how can we hope for anything but the best for other humans?
While I hope no one reading this becomes an expert on the things I have learned this year, I do want share what I know and what I wished I had known.