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What Makes You The Expert?

Me jumping off a bridge in Ecuador #nobigdeal

This past June, my wife and I spent 15 days exploring Ecuador.

Unlike the other countries we visited this past year, our Ecuador adventure involved a lot of bus travel.

On the plus side, Ecuadorian bus travel is cheap.

We traveled by bus from the Pacific Ocean to the Amazon jungle, with a couple stops in between for good measure, all for less than $100 USD.

On the not-quite-plus-side, the bus system is entirely unpredictable and you never know how many buses you’ll need to change to get to a particular destination.

On one such night, after about 6 hours of travel (with a few more hours to go), we found ourselves stopped at a standard Ecuadorian bus stop:

  • Old ladies working in kiosks selling laffy-taffy
  • Bathrooms you have to pay to enter
  • And a bus terminal “exit” tax they levy against you when you leave (which I guess means if you don’t pay, you can’t leave the bus station…)

As we waited for our next bus, we came in contact with two other gringos; a couple taking a 2 week vacation in Ecuador. They had spent the past few days in the Galapagos and were now headed to the Amazon jungle.

“Perfect,” I thought, as we were also on our way to the Amazon (and if there’s one thing my Human Geography studies have taught, it’s that foreign travel is safer in packs).

So we got to talking the usual traveler’s talk:

  1. Where have you been?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What place have you liked the best?
  4. What’s after this town / country / continent?

And of course, once these questions come to an end:

  • What do you do?

Our new acquaintances were grade school teachers. They spent the past year saving up for this trip and in about a week they were headed back to the States to teach and start saving again for another trip.

When it was my turn to answer, I told them I do a little teaching myself – on topics like pricing, lean startup, and business growth hacking – and that I basically collaborate on various projects and publish books for a living (my own and others).

“What school do you teach at?” she asked.

I don’t – I teach from a platform I created. It’s entirely online.

“So who do you work for?”

No one. I created the platform myself. I’m my own boss.

“Well, what books have you written?”

I mentioned one of my books, The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing, and told her it’s all about an unconventional pricing technique that helps people increase their reach, impact, and sales.

“What makes you the expert?”

* * *

It’s been months since this interaction, but the question still comes back to me from time to time:

What makes you the expert?

There are dozens of socially acceptable answers to this:

  • I have multiple degrees in the subject matter…
  • I have over 30 years work experience in the field…
  • I won an award from a foreign or east coast institution for my work in this area…

But here’s the thing:

It doesn’t matter.

And I’m not just saying that because I have none of the above…

I’m saying it because it really doesn’t matter – not to you. Not to your work. Not to your life.

“What makes him or her the expert?”

This question is irrelevant.

But there is a question that does matter. It’s the same question I asked our Ecuadorian acquaintance after she asked me what made me an expert:

“Why aren’t you?”

As in:

  • Why aren’t you the expert?
  • What’s stopping you from being considered the go-to, subject matter expert in your field?
  • Why haven’t you shipped anything (book, blog, business, whatever)?

Because I promise you this: it has nothing to do with degrees, or awards, or “dues paid”….

But it does have to do with your actions…

Today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.

And while you don’t have to justify or validate your actions (you shouldn’t), you do have to start.

So maybe the better question is:

“When?”

I hope the answer is today.

Started, finished, and shipped in Denver, Colorado.

Total writing time: [3:41] hours

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