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13.7.17

Are you the expert you think you are?

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Have you noticed how confronting it is to put your ideas down on paper? We believe we are an expert until we start writing.My clients often tell me they experience a sinking feeling as they write: a feeling of unworthiness. A question arises in their mind along these lines: Who am I to write this blog or book?

Although I’ve written on this topic before, I’ve come to believe that this is one of the single biggest barriers that stop authors from writing their books. I hear it expressed in many different ways. It can be debilitating, even depressing. Some authors slump into such feelings of self-recrimination that they feel overwhelmed.

In my experience, this self-doubt is precious. It is a sign of your respect for your reader that you do not assume you have the right to impose your ideas on them without first examining your ideas from every angle. Do they stand up?

While these moments of doubt feel like they are personal — about you and your expertise — I need to share a secret with you: they are not. Self-doubt tells you something so simple that you won’t believe me when I share it with you. What is it?

Do more research.

Research creates conviction in your ideas. Research is what turns a rough diamond into a diamond that is cut with exquisite facets, and shines from every angle. Once you have explored every facet of your ideas, cut them, polished them, smash them with a hammer to see if they shatter. Then you can send your ideas out into the world with complete confidence, ready to answer or dismiss your critics and embrace your followers.

How experts research their ideas 

I’ve written about subjects in which I am not an expert for 20 years as a journalist. When I edited and wrote the Accounting section of the (now-sadly-defunct) business magazine, Business Review Weekly, many readers asked me if I trained as an accountant or an economist. (Actually, I have a diploma of fine arts, printmaking!)

How did I convey such expertise? Asking intelligent questions of my audience, the accounting firms, who are the true experts in accounting.

Interviews are a diamond-mine for experts

I cannot overstate the value of interviewing as a research technique. I interview every client before we start working together to see if my programs can truly help them. In the process, my understanding of the problems faced by authors has deepened so much. I understand the barriers they face, what they hope to achieve by writing a book. I am so grateful to those would-be authors. Without disclosing personal information from any one client, their honesty helps me build my authority in my field. And in the interview process, they gain great insights into how to get started on their books.

Google makes it unbelievably easy to check out your expertise

There is really no excuse not to research your ideas using Google. Honestly. Source books and blogs on your topic and read them carefully. The big risk is using untrustworthy sources. So here is a quick guide to establishing the veracity of a source.

Bloggers: Are they qualified? Do they practice what they preach? Do they work for ‘blue chip’ clients? Do they back up their views with research from reputable sources?

Authors: Is there book widely read? Do they proudly stand by it? Do they speak on their topic or train or coach on it? Reputable clients? If you google their name with the word critics — do you find reputable people — academics for example — critiquing them.

Government: Most government sources can be relied upon, although governments have their agendas. I wouldn’t trust Russia as long as Putin is in charge, and the US government is not too reliable as long as Trump is in office. Use your intelligence.

Universities: Hothouses of experts, who unfortunately are not very good at publishing their ideas in a form that anyone else can understand. They make great interview subjects, and can usually point you to all the data you need. I wish they would learn to write in plain English.

Clients: How much they teach you, don’t they? Learn from them and share the learning without sharing their personal information, unless you have permission. They also make great interview subjects.

There are so many more sources of reputable information. You need to apply your intelligence to them. And use the oldest trick in the book from journalism — check your sources. Cross reference with another source. Does the information stand up?

But what if you find you are not the expert you thought you were?

That is the beauty of research. If you find you are wrong, it will probably be before you publish your book or blog. Thorough research is the best way to prevent making mistakes. But if you publish and find that your expertise is challenged, your data and research questioned, then I suggest you follow up this information. After all, your critics might not be right. If they are, they have just done some of your research for you. It is not being wrong that is a problem for authors (unless you defame someone — then it is a problem), it is not admitting it. Just publish another blog or update your book and share the journey of your learning with your audience.

This blog in a paragraph

If you are not sure that what you are writing is true, check it out. Thorough research will make your ideas shine like a diamond. You’ll know you have the ‘story’ once you have done your research. Contribute to the wisdom of the world by refining your ideas as much as possible before you unleash them on the world. There is no short-cut to expertise. But if you have done the work, believe in yourself, and get your wisdom into the world.

 

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