Are You an Expert?

I once asked this question during one of my training seminars: “Who wants to have the mind of an expert?”

Everyone in the hall raised their hands.

Do you wonder why I was asking an irrelevant question?

Do you think of course everyone should want to think like an expert, so why should I even ask?

Most people assume that success is synonymous with being an expert. If this would be the case, then anyone who is an expert should automatically be successful?

We all know that this is not the case, in fact most experts find themselves analysing to the point of paralysis. It stops them from moving forward, from taking risk, or from being open to new ideas like those coming from a beginner’s mind. The expert tends to reject ideas easily if they do not conform or agree with their ‘expert’ mindset. This is one of the major reasons many experts of the past failed to recognise the great minds and great innovations of today.

Let me give you one example:

“Smith the founder of FEDEX attended high school at Memphis University School. In 1962, Smith entered Yale University. While attending Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. Folklore his professor suggests he received a “C” grade for his paper.

The paper became the idea for FedEx (for years, the sample package displayed in the company’s print advertisements featured a return address at Yale).”

Source: Wikipedia

I went on to ask my second question: “Who wants to have a beginner’s mind?”

No one raised their hands.

I realised, at that moment, what a hindrance this could possibly be and how it could prevent people from further learning.

The major reason people are afraid of taking risk is because of the fear of making mistakes. This is not what is expected of an expert.

Smith had a beginner’s mind when he wrote that paper for his economic class, while his professor in his ‘expert opinion’ thought that such a proposition would not work. The beginner’s mind is the root of all great innovations. It is empty, open to learning, and open to taking on impossibilities and making them reality. The beginner’s mind has a humble approach to life and work. It will not hurt to think like a beginner or have a beginner’s mind. It is always better to be reminded of things even if you happen to know about them already… Why say “I know”, when you can say “I do not know” for a change? You will see how fast you can learn things that you thought you already knew!

Besides, the experts are always in a state of anxiety… because they cannot make mistakes… they are the experts after all… they will be hanged if they make mistakes… but who would hang a beginner if they made mistakes?… he is just a beginner, so excuse him…

So my advice is to always be a humble beginner and have that peace of mind and openness to everything in life. Please take a moment to ponder this…


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd