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When Do You Become an Expert?

Back in December I published my thousandth blog post. Each post takes about an hour and a half to compose on average, so I’ve dedicated about 1,500 hours to blogging. According to Malcom Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule” in his book OUTLIERS I’m 15% of the way there to being an Expert blogger.

I spent twenty-three plus years working full time retail at the management level. Assuming 2500 hours/year (50/week), I have 58,750 hours of experience working retail. Believe it or not, but that still doesn’t necessarily make me an Expert on retail.

One of the reasons is that the 10,000-Hour Rule requires you to “practice the right way” for those 10,000 hours. Just having years of experience in retail doesn’t mean you’re any good at it or getting better at it—especially if you aren’t practicing it the right way.

It is the continual practice that Gladwell believes is the key. Continual practice, however, is severely lacking for most retail employees.

Just because you trained them back when you hired them does not turn your staff into rock stars.

Experience is only valuable if you are also Learning and Evaluating while Experiencing. 

Famed scientist Niels Bohr had his own take on how to become an Expert … “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

That is awfully hard to do, so as John Luther said … “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

According to Bohr and Luther, you have to fail and learn from your failures (or at least learn from everyone else’s). 

Here is my own recipe for becoming an Expert:

  1. Learn
  2. Do
  3. Evaluate
  4. Repeat

Follow those steps over and over. Learn, Do, and Evaluate. The third step is the trickiest because it requires brutal honesty to really be able to Learn more. Yet it is also the most vital because because your future Learning requires proper Evaluation.

Sometimes that Evaluation leads you to the conclusion, “I need to Learn from someone else.”

That’s what happened to me in 1996 when I took over the hiring and training for our staff. I started reading all the books I could find on hiring. When those didn’t match my own evaluations, I wrote my own book.

It happened to me again in 2005 and led me to take classes on Advertising and Branding from Wizard Academy where I learned whole new tools for measuring my business, many of which I share in this blog.

It happened to me once more in 2012 when the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association asked me to write a book about the Financials of a typical toy store. I spoke with several accountants until I felt comfortable enough to translate accountant-speak into retail-speak.

It happened to me in 2013 after having already written three hundred blog posts and knowing I still needed to learn more, so I hired a writing coach to help me understand and write more clearly for my audience.

When do you become an Expert? I think the real answer is … When you’re smarter than most of the other people in your field.

How do you get smarter than most of the other people in your field? When you Learn, Do, Evaluate, and Repeat.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The idea for today’s post came late last night. I was thinking how much I would rather write about “winners” this year than write about the mistakes others have made. Those posts are more fun. Those quotes, however, reminded me that learning from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others is our best path to becoming better ourselves. Hopefully I’ll still have plenty of winners to highlight this year. Please send me stories of the retailers and small businesses doing it right in your area. We can learn from them, too. Please forgive me if there are a lot of posts about businesses doing it wrong. My hope is to save you from being one of them.

PPS If you feel stuck in your Marketing & Advertising, Hiring & Training, Customer Service, or Inventory Management, let me know. If I can’t be the resource you need to get to the next level of Learning, I often know the right direction to point you to find that resource.

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