The term “expert” gets thrown around quite a lot, despite the fact that no one can come to a universal conclusion on what it actually means.
Is it the number of years someone has ensconced themselves in a particular discipline? If so, how many years? Or is it a certain achievement or milestone they need to reach?
It’s entirely subjective. Further, expert in a certain context wouldn’t be considered so in another (e.g. an ‘expert’ witness in a trial). That said, there is some common agreement that an expert has a certain deal of knowledge about a topic or skill. And if knowledge is the main priority, all that really matters is how quickly we can acquire it.
So, where do we go – or who do we look to – to become an expert, quickly?
Having a goal in mind is key. Nevertheless, these are the mediums I would suggest, in this particular order:
Articles (1-2 hours)
While generic in nature, a simple search online can help you find long-form blog posts and guides which can give you a rudimentary understanding for any subject. Authors create these pieces of content as a way to either position themselves as an authority, or perhaps to upsell visitors to a complementary product or service. This may or may not align with your goal to know all there is to know about something, but visiting a few different websites and seeing what they have to say also is important to balance out the information in an objective manner.
Videos (1-2 hours)
If reading articles isn’t your thing, then watching videos can also assist in this effort. YouTube is the most helpful resource at the moment, and many have created educational content on there with or without visual aids to further enhance your learning experience. Again, some channels are merely a lead magnet for a high-ticket product or service, so take the information provided with a grain of salt and compare it with other content creators on the platform.
Books (2-10 hours)
Depending on the popularity of your selected topic, there may be one or several published books which you can pick up for a few dollars. Books are powerful because they are often well-structured, organized and tend to cover an entire subject matter in a relatively condensed format. You can save years of learning with one good book, but be prepared to read through a few to get a fuller understanding.
Courses (10-30 hours)
Books may seem like the best option, but courses can provide even further value due to the business model. Most courses are rather expensive, being sold in the range of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and therefore they must be informative on a level separate to a cheap book or free article. Some can be found for cheaper on platforms like Udemy or Coursera, so it is absolutely worth it to take a course if there is any available.
Forums (2-20 hours)
Books and courses may not cover everything, if there’s any available to you at all. This is where we need to rely on our fellow citizens in certain forums and communities. Reddit is a great resource for this, where there are forums for almost any topic, and questions are more than welcome. Quora may be another option, although it can be a hit and miss (as it can with any forum). Nevertheless, it is definitely worth it considering the low effort you need to put in.
Podcasts (10-40 Hours)
It’s sometimes surprising to see some topics and industries that don’t take to the likes of books or courses, but will be active in the realm of podcasting. For one reason or another, some people will share information that they wouldn’t in any other medium than audio. You can learn a lot from another expert in the field who shares their knowledge freely in an informal setting, whether they are alone or in the company of other like-minded individuals. Considering the fact they are widely accessible and free of charge, it should not be overlooked as a respectable source.
Consultants (1-2 hours)
Finally, if no one can provide any information in the matter of a book, course, or online discussion, we must look to consultants. Consultants are themselves ‘experts’ who are willing to charge for their industry knowledge, and if there is no other viable option, there is not much you can do except to pay the fee and hope it works out. Platforms like Clarity and JustAnswer are great marketplaces, although there are independent consultants who you can find relatively easily, too.
When All Else Fails
If none of the above is able to provide you with the information necessary to become an extremely knowledgeable individual on any one topic, then you must simply become an apprentice or intern for 3-6 months as you gain real industry experience. Either way, there is no need to spend years in any one environment to tout yourself as an expert. If it takes 48 hours to gain 80% industry knowledge, but another 4 years to gain the final 20%, it’s just not worth the extra effort to understand what you probably don’t need or won’t use unless you are in a hyper-specific role or scenario.
Whatever you want to be, know it can be done over a weekend.