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Do you feel like a charlatan and that everyone might find out you have no idea what you are talking about?
Here is the crazy thing: There is a chance it’s true. You may be an impostor. It may also be a lie.
This effect is often described with a story about McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks while his face was covered with lemon juice. He believed the lemon juice would make him invisible to the surveillance cameras. You know, since lemon juice was used for invisible ink.
McArthur Wheeler had just enough knowledge to think he was brilliant.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which people think they know more than they really know. Dunning and Kruger won Nobel Prizes for their discovery of this effect. Many of us see ourselves as having above-average intelligence.
The more you learn, the more you realize you still have to learn. So the more of an expert someone is, the less of an expert they feel they are.
Humility is having an honest assessment of yourself.
Claiming to know:
- more than you really know is a form of pride.
- less than you really know is also a form of pride. This is false humility.
As Christians, it is important for us to be honest with others and with ourselves as to our true abilities.
Lying about yourself in a deprecating way is still lying.
It is exactly the kind of lie the enemy wants you to say in order to mute your influence. Speak the truth–even the truth about yourself.
Don’t Be a Bozo
“Bozo” is the term Steve Jobs used to refer to people who didn’t know they didn’t know what they were talking about. He was famous for publicly firing people he thought were bozos during meetings.
Steve Jobs feared that if he allowed them to stay working at Apple, they would hire other bozos, leading to a bozo explosion and resulting in mediocrity.
Bozo Warning Signs
- Bozos can’t see past their own story. Your powerful story makes you an expert on you. It doesn’t make you an expert on your topic. Everyone is different, and every story is different.
- Bozos rarely question their own competence. They assume they know what they are talking about.
- Bozos think they are called by God to write and, therefore, don’t need to study the craft of writing.
- Bozos think they know enough and don’t need to read.
- Bozos tend to have black-and-white thinking. The one way that worked for them is the only way that will work for others.
Look in the Mirror
No one is born an expert. You may not be an expert yet. That’s okay. You can always learn more. The apostle Paul spent years in obscurity learning about God before he started penning his epistles.
But you may be an expert who is believing (and perhaps even speaking!) lies about your own inadequacy. Stop speaking lies.
So, let’s take a look in the mirror, shall we?
Here are some questions you can use to assess yourself. Even better, ask a trusted compatriot their thoughts as well.
How many books do you read on your topic?
- Keep reading books on your topic until you read one where you know everything presented in a book. Then read books around your topic.
- Read the academic literature on the topic.
- Read the Bible yourself and not only commentaries.
- Read commentaries, so you can learn from those who have gone before. Completely new doctrines are looked upon with distrust by a lot of Christian communities.
Are people helped by your message?
Do you have examples of people who have been helped by your message? Measure the results that people who take your advice see.
Do people tell others about your expertise?
What do people say about your writing behind your back? Social media allows you to eavesdrop.
Accept the facts that you may be an impostor and you can still become an expert in the future.
How to Become an Expert
Once you have read all the books on your topic, you will know more than most. So few people persist in reading these days. They give up after two or three books on a topic. Read a dozen books, then read a dozen more.
Start a Blog
- Blogging gives you a good place to work through your thinking.
- Do people find it helpful?
- Are you able to rank on Google for answers to the questions people are typing in about your topic?
Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to learn from experts who have not yet written books.
Start a Podcast
Hosting a podcast allows you to interview other experts and learn things you can’t find in books.
If you can coach other people into having good results, then you know you are well on your way. If you can’t help someone in person, how will paper from dead trees help?
This is one of the reasons pastors and counselors are so successful in Christian publishing. They counsel people in their congregation and see if and when that counsel works. They get to learn from the stories of others.
Find out who you are an expert for
You don’t know everything and can’t help everyone.
My wife and I talk a lot about best practices when teaching our toddler. This is a holdover from the days when we used to work together. Corporate speak can be hard to kick.
Just a few days ago, our daughter was holding her fork backward. Using this method, she had to put her body into a pretzel position to get the fork to her mouth.
My wife said, “Mercy, that is not the best practice,” and put the fork in her hand the correct way. My daughter then had this amazing smile of “aha!” She went from getting 0% of the food in her mouth to 10% of food in her mouth.
It was a huge improvement!
Knowing how to hold a fork correctly is something you already know to do. But for a toddler, it is a groundbreaking insight. As far as my daughter is concerned, my wife is gifted with divine knowledge and insight.
How to Be Seen As an Expert
Being an expert and being seen by others as an expert are two different things.
“Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.”
Proverbs 13:7 NLT
Admit What You Don’t Know
Be honest with what you do and do not know. Be honest with who you can and cannot help. This is not only important for Christian humility, it is also a best practice in the secular world as well.
You will notice that doctors and lawyers are quick to point out when they are talking about an area outside their specialty.
If you ask a cardiologist about your foot, the first thing she will say is that she is not a podiatrist. This response actually enhances her credibility when she talks about your heart.
Have Other Experts Speak Well of You
Trust is something one trusted person can extend to another unknown person. If my pastor speaks well of you, I am much more likely to think well of you.
So how do you get other trusted people to speak well of you?
Spend time with them, in real life, so they can get to know you. This is one reason why writers conferences are so valuable for writers. Authors write blurbs for authors they already know, like, and trust.
Go on a Podcast Tour
Guesting is a great way to raise your status in the eyes of others. It is also a great way to get the word out and build your platform and connect with other trusted people.
Write a Good Bio
There is an art to writing bios. We have episode 79 on my other podcast, Novel Marketing, which is all about doing this.
Write a Book
You already know this, but writing a book on a topic makes you look like an expert.
This is the final step!
Writing a book is not the beginning of your ministry. It is the culmination of years of faithful service. If God has called you to minister, then minister! Don’t wait for an agent or editor to give you permission. You serve the Almighty God, not the publishing industry.
As God blesses your ministry, the opportunity to write a book will come out of that.
Who You Are
God formed you. He made you in his image. God gave you your passions and desires for a reason. His Holy Spirit is shaping you and making you more like him. The areas where you are weak are the places where he will show himself to be strong.
God is making you into who you need to be, to do what he has called you to do. Don’t throw mud on his masterpiece by pretending to be something other than what you are. If you are an eye, celebrate your sight! If you are a foot, rejoice in your speed!
Who God Is
God will give you everything you need to do everything he calls you to do.
If there are giants in the land, God will give you the courage to defeat them. If you need knowledge, he will give you opportunities to learn. God is a good Father. He knows what he is doing. He knows how to fill our jars of clay with his Spirit.
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