Monday, February 10, 2014

Beware of "Experts"

I'm a knowledge junkie.  

I'm aware of it, and although I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, it can be difficult when every article, book and seminar that you come across looks like it might have something to offer.  I like to be "in the know" of the developments in my industry, even if it doesn't mean that I'm becoming an "expert".  No, to become an expert you need not only knowledge but experience and application as well - all of which take time which is, sadly, a rare commodity.

Now, to be clear, I won't implement anything into client programs without taking the time to become, if not an expert, then at least adept at the tool/system/principle that I'm working with.  To that end, late last year I decided I would take the NCCP Level One Olympic Weightlifting Course.  Frankly, I never had any intention to implement this system into my own methodologies, because it is a sport in and of itself requiring diligent practice and movement acquisition - there are other ways to generate similar (if not identical) physical adaptations with movements that are simpler to learn.  But if I'm going to say "No, I don't use Olympic weightlifting in my programs" I wanted to have the knowledge and experience to explain why.

So I signed up.  And I was awful at it.

Actually, I take that back.  I wasn't awful, but it wasn't pretty.  The limited experience I had with it had been based on the books I'd read, the DVDs I'd watched, transfer of knowledge from other systems, and so on.  But nothing - NOTHING - replaces being coached by an expert.  And in a true lesson of humility, I found myself completely out of my element, struggling to complete some of the most basic components of Olympic lifting.

I was terrible.  And I loved it.

Being that bad at something got me to focus in.  I wanted to leave the weekend competent, able to continue practicing on my own and better understand what I was reading and watching, and that meant laser focus and taking advantage of every coaching instruction I was given - because I only had two days to draw on.

It was brilliant.  I loved it, I gained a much greater understanding of it, and I'm much better at the skills/techniques involved.  But I am far, far (FAR) from being an "expert".  

You see, there are far too many "experts" out there who have done no more than complete a weekend workshop who suddenly feel that they are capable of utilizing this knowledge at the highest level possible.  Quite frankly, some of the worst of these are university graduates, who come away from their four year degree with a lot - A LOT - of knowledge but little to no practice and even less experience.  And yet the piece of paper in their hand makes them feel that they are an "expert".

This is not a slag on university grads, university programs, the certification courses or anyone else who is reading this and getting ready to send me an angry email.  It's simply an observation that there are a lot of people that, through the benefit of social media, hype and marketing, have become designated as "experts".

So be cautious as you seek advice, guidance or coaching - and check to make sure that the individual you are working with is all they think they are.  Seems to me that the louder someone is in proclaiming themselves an "expert" - the further they are from being one.

~ Guy

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