What is an Expert?

“An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” – Wikipedia

This past month I flew to Atlanta to present a few classes in Kinesiology Taping at the American Massage Conference. However, this year I was delighted to also be selected to speak on a few different ‘expert’ panel discussions.

Me? An expert? When did that happen? When did I achieve such revered status and why wasn’t there a party to celebrate this achievement?

The truth is, I don’t consider myself an expert. I never will. I’m a beginner with 24 years experience.

By the definition above, I suppose I am an authority within my profession, but public perception of the term “expert” has grown to be comprehended more as “infallible”, which I am most certainly not. Why is this our perception on experts? I think the answer is twofold.

  1. In todays reality of wanting/needing answers quickly, we rush to agree with the first logical answer we hear.
  2. Because so many self proclaimed “experts” state opinions as facts when they are merely a well conceived recipe to support their claims that is a spattering of facts mixed in with a dash of experience and a heavy dose of opinion.

So what constitutes an expert?

Here is a true story for you. A fascinating event referred to as the “Judgment of Paris” took place a number of years ago. An English-owned wine shop in Paris organized a blind tasting in which nine French wine “experts” rated French and California wines—ten whites and ten reds. The results shocked the wine world: California wines received the highest scores from the panel. Even more surprising, during the tasting the experts often mistook the American wines for French wines and vice versa.

Two assumptions were challenged that day. The first was the previously unquestioned superiority of French wines over American ones. But it was the challenge to the second—the assumption that the judges genuinely possessed elite knowledge of wine—that was more interesting and revolutionary. The tasting suggested that the alleged wine experts were no more accurate in distinguishing wines under blind test conditions than regular wine drinkers—a fact later confirmed by laboratory tests.

The point I think this study makes clear is that so much of what we experience to be good, bad, right, wrong, too smoky or too oaky is fed to us by experts that we submissively accept as fact simply because they said so.

Standing before the audience in my expert panel sessions about building a “wealthy” clinical practice, I understood that I had been given an opportunity to impart some wisdom that may be considered gospel by some, or at the least, by some one. I offered these three simple, but often neglected tidbits. I have seen young massage therapists fail to recognize early on, which inevitably (in my humble expert opinion) leads to the high “burn out” rate our profession has encountered.

  1. Know the laws that govern your profession. Ignorance of the law is never an acceptable defense.
  2. The clients you have are more important than the clients you don’t have. Providing them with your best efforts will create loyalty and raving fans.
  3. Beyond being physically present in your practice every day, you must also be present mentally and emotionally to truly realize the needs of your clients.

Now I could have told them that they should consider hiring a lawyer to review any lease they sign or to consider the value of paying someone to help with bookkeeping, but all they would be thinking is; “I can’t afford to do that”.

Seeing that the vast majority of the room was comprised of sole proprietors, I felt it was important to keep my advice centered squarely upon what they could start implementing immediately.

In my “expert” opinion, good judgment comes from experience and often experience comes from bad judgment. This I have in spades. When you identify what you have learned, apply that to what still needs to be understood, and compound that with your own experiences, you are on the right path. To do this, you must be open new ideas, thoughts and solutions as well as be willing to constructively share your opinions with those who have a different approach or methodology.

So the next time you sit down to listen to some “experts” offer their ideas on why it’s better to eat Vegan vs. Paleo or why you should or should not receive a flu shot, my expert advice would be to grab a large glass of California Red wine (which is the best) and enjoy the debate.

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