I truly believe that we live in a world where ANYONE can become an expert — and build a business around their unique talents & expertise.
The traditional concept is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve Mastery of any craft — be it digital marketing, basket weaving or wine appreciation. I’d like to suggest that that isn’t necessarily a requirement for you to get started building a business around your passions.
And here’s a simple, yet powerful principle that you can use to turn something you’re interested in into an expert business — where you get paid for what you know.
Nope, not food related. EAT (or E.A.T) is an acronym for a simple 3 step process:
The process begins with education — whether in a formal setting like university, or self-education like online courses, books, audio programs etc. You need to have at least a foundational understanding (and the deeper the better) of the topic you want to build your business on.
Being educated means you have learnt the basic skills, ideas, concepts, principles etc required to DO the skill, or activities.
A conceptual knowledge is ok at this stage — as long as you can stand up to reasonable questioning about the topic and have a thorough comprehension of (and can explain in your own language) not only the general idea, but the nuts and bolts tactics, tools, resources etc involved in producing a result within the area of interest.
For example, for “digital marketing” you’ll want to understand the landscape of the digital economy (the current state of play, social media, ad platforms, online tools) as well as have some practical understanding of how to execute within that landscape (eg: marketing campaigns — such as Facebook Ads, Google AdWords or video marketing.)
Having a purely conceptual, cerebral comprehension of a skill-set doesn’t give you enough clout to be considered an expert. That’s why this next step is critical to becoming a believable authority on your topic. You must also have an applied knowledge of the subject.
Reading a recipe is one thing — actually baking the cake is another.
Who are you more likely to respect the opinion of, someone who has read 1,000 recipes, or the person who has cooked 100?
Application of knowledge is integral to fully understanding anything, and it’s a must-do if you’re planning to get paid for your perspective on the subject. Your unique perspective will grow out of physical application, implementation and execution of the ideas you learned in step 1.
Understanding the ideas is not enough, you need that execution to build an experiential relationship with, and understanding of your subject.
Understanding the movements involved in climbing a rock wall can only act as preparation for the actual climb itself. Once you put the knowledge to the test of execution, new variables that are unteachable (and often unique to you) arise — consequences of action occur that no university course or “book smarts” can prepare you for. You need to go through the action.
You need to sense the height of the wall when you’re 10m off the ground, with your legs shaking, fingers burning and you’re battling to reach the next hand hold. Once you’ve experienced that you now have an opinion that holds validity. You can now say “This is how it felt”. You have experiential knowledge.
To bring it back to our marketing example. You need to actually run advertising campaigns, test different images, spend your own money, build a customer list, talk to your customers — before you can say that you truly understand marketing.
Plenty of pundits can sit on the sidelines and give their opinions, but what will set you apart is your practical understanding, and ability to relate your own version of events, your unique perspective on things that only comes through experience.
There is no better way to test your knowledge on a subject than to try and teach it to someone else. Especially your Grandma!
Teaching requires deep learning and a combination of both conceptual knowledge (step 1) and practical application (step 2). In order to teach a subject you need to have a broad base of knowledge to draw from. You need to be able to thoroughly explain the context of the thing (think digital economy), for example: What it is, Why it exists, How it’s happened in the past, Where it’s heading, Who’s involved, Why it matters etc etc. AND you need to be able to demonstrate the practical skills involved in executing the thing — Put this here, that goes there, when X happens you have Y options, when doing X look out for Y and so on.
Have you ever tried explaining your business or your job to a grandparent? How well did you do? Generally we’re pretty bad at this 🙂
Teaching is not easy. It requires the ability to take high-level ideas, concepts and thoughts and distill them into easily understood, transferrable, actionable lessons. Teaching is ineffective if the student is unable to resolve the concept for themselves and understand the steps required to execute.
Teaching can be as structured as in-person classes or workshops, and can be as informal as a blog post, training video or website. As long as you’re able to communicate your understanding to someone who knows less than you, you’re a teacher. And an expert!
Now this is a very contentious suggestion — many would suggest that it takes much more than the above to become an authority figure worthy of being referred to as an expert. That 10,000 hours of applied execution is the minimum requirement for that “expert” status.
But my definition is much simpler — an expert is simply someone who is further along the journey than somebody else.
That’s it. I honestly believe it is that simple. And this is why I’m so excited by the progression of technology — because it gives EVERYONE a chance to create change in the world. The internet creates a situation where anyone who has studied a topic and applied their knowledge enough that they are capable of teaching it to others has a realistic opportunity to turn that knowledge into a business — and get paid for their unique perspective.
And I think that’s an important factor to point out — Perspective. 200 people could have the same knowledge and practical experience, but it’s the person who spins that knowledge and applies their own perspective to it that gets paid. And that is a bold decision.
It takes courage to be willing to share your expertise with the world — in fact it takes courage to even believe you are worthy of sharing it — and that’s why there is opportunity for you to be the voice of your passion. Not everyone who knows what you know wants to, or even realises they have the opportunity to, use it to educate others who aspire to the path you’re on.
Stop Focussing On The 1%
Another important thing to remember is to not get discouraged by looking ahead at the 1% who are further along than you are (your mentors, gurus, thought leaders & industry experts). Guess what? They don’t want to buy your knowledge — they already have it!
But, if you look back, you’ll see that 99% of the population don’t know what you know — andthey’re the ones who will follow (and pay) you to find out.
You can be an expert and you can build a highly profitable business that connects you to your passions and sets you up to live a life on purpose.
All it takes is some hard work, dedication, education and the balls to step up to the plate.
Believe me, the world needs you!