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, product launches, and marketing / 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?”

I paused.

What makes you the expert?

I thought about the answer she probably expected to hear:

  • a specific degree from a presigious institution…
  • 20 years of work experience in the field…
  • a foreign award recipient...

As I thought about these socially acceptable answers, I realized something: none applied to me.

I teach what I know, and I share what I learn. Some people find that valuable. Because of that, I have the opportunity to make a good living with the flexibility to travel around the world.

So I answered here:

"The better question is: why aren’t you?"

I went on to explain what I meant.

Fundamentally, it comes down to:

What is stopping you from being the expert?

What's keeping you from being the go-to, subject matter expert in your field?

What's holding you back from shipping that book or blog or business?

Because the answer certainly isn't "I don't have a degree" or "I haven't won an award" or "I am still paying my dues..."

More than likely, it has to do with your actions;  the action you take when you start, even if you're not ready, or feel under-qualified, or would rather concoct some other excuse instead of doing the work...

Once you decide to take action, the only question after that 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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5 comments on “What Makes You The Expert?”

  1. Great one, Tom.

    As I like to say, in the digital world a person just needs to be an amateur long enough (years!) to be considered an expert.

    What an eye-opener for that woman your meeting was 🙂


  2. Thanks Tom! Having just been made redundant after 20 years with a major corporation I am about to set off on a new adventure: and being ‘the expert’ is, I think, one of the things I want to follow up on. Starting right after a short R&R break...

  3. I think the word expert is over-rated. Each person has the capability, knowledge, and expertise to teach someone something they don't yet know. Or, provide the idea in a different format that suddenly makes it clear to the listener or reader. You don't need a degree, years of experience, or a title of any sort to do what you do - share valuable information. When you get paid for - a bigger win! Thanks for the reminder Tom that we are valuable and worthy resources just as we are now. Helping others enables you to act on your own behalf as well. We need to push past the ego and excuses and proclaim that we are a person to be admired and respected.