What does it mean to be an expert?

MirkwoodSignCertainly one would think that you would call yourself an expert skier if you ski double black diamond runs.

About to start the hike to the top of Mirkwood

About to start the hike to the top of Mirkwood

I do ski double black diamond runs (I took the sign photo above and Mirkwood is one of my favorite spots at Monarch Mountain), and I’ve been skiing for many years.

So am I an expert skier? I guess by trail rating standards (double black diamond trails are rated as ‘Expert Only’ at U.S. ski areas) – yes I am. Am I an expert athlete? I have plenty of friends who would definitely be nodding their heads yes, but certainly I am no pro.

I just love to play outside, and have spent many hours of my adult life skiing, biking, running, hiking and camping. Being outside and the exhilaration of pushing my body physically, although not always easy, lights me up.

When I think of calling myself an expert, though, my little comparison gremlin taps me on the shoulder and says, “but hey – you know tons of skiers that are much better than you, much more daring, and there are plenty of ‘double black diamond’ runs you don’t really want to ski.” I have the same reaction when it comes to the other outdoor sports I love, too.

I feel the word ‘expert’ has some aura about it that connotes ‘only for the best’, so I decided to look it up in the dictionary. On merriam-webster.com expert is defined as: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience – so in (dictionary) fact the definition is quite open.

And using this definition I can call myself an expert…in many things.

There will always be people that are ‘better’ than me, but does that mean I am not an expert? Does that mean my expertise doesn’t count? It certainly does not, or should not.

I don’t believe this gives me license to pretend to know something I don’t, or do something I know I can’t – at least without a bit of training and/or study. But it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t consider myself an expert – even when I know (or feel) that others are better than me.

And this definitely gives me license to work towards becoming my version of expert in something I love; and to try new things and decide if becoming an expert is something I want to work at.

I can be an expert at comparing myself to others in many aspects of my life – besides my active life.  In business, creativity, art & design I often catch myself asking “Who do you think you are….doing X, Y, or Z?

Comparison can be devastating. It can hold you back in so many ways. I know this, because I can be an ‘expert’ in letting it do so.

And it is really not fair when there is no black and white definition of expert, no absolute.

My outdoor/play lifestyle, that I love so much, has taught me how to let go of comparison. I won’t say I’m always good at doing this, and that  I don’t sometimes feel not (expert) enough. But when I catch myself, I remind myself that I’m not trying to win an olympic medal (or do brain surgery) – I am striving to blossom, in all aspects of my life, and make sure to enjoy the journey along the way.

What does being an expert mean to you?
Does it help you excel, or hold you back?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lisa – aka, the mountain mermaid



Filed under Art & Design, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Inspiration, Outdoor Adventure

2 responses to “What does it mean to be an expert?

  1. It’s nice to know the gremlins tap everybody on the shoulder 🙂 I’ve often said, I’m not an expert or guru in what I do. I just keep learning and experiencing and find the answers when I need them.

    Thanks for such an enlightening post, Lisa.


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