Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Expertly Stubborn

I’ve been having a lot of pivotal moments lately. Go figure, huh? Put on a catcher's mitt and people actually toss you the ball. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I may be slow, but I can be taught. Every now and then, those pivotal moments, those epiphanal blinks, why, they manage to come straight from me. Such was the case this morning after I’d read a wonderful blog post by Ken at Mildly Creative, “Better Than An Expert: 7 Things I’d Rather Be.” I highly recommend that you follow this link and read it.

Ken’s posts have been inspiring me for a few weeks now, and it’s eerie how closely his posts have been following my own mindset. I’ll have a little nugget in my head that I start chewing on, when suddenly… BLAM!… there’s Ken expounding it. We don’t talk to each other, so he’s not gathering my thoughts from conversation. We’re barely even acquainted on Facebook. Our communication is pretty much limited to stuff like, “Great post, Ken,” and “Thanks, Barb.” The point I’m trying to make is that he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him except for his posts. Yet, I feel this odd kinship, a recognition of someone I’ve been waiting to hear from, the backbeat to the riff I‘m layin‘ down (if you‘ll be so indulgent).

But, I’ve digressed - none of that is really my point here. Where were we? Ah. Yes. Pivoting on the pointy tip of a shiny moment. After I’d read and re-read “Better Than An Expert: 7 Things I’d Rather Be,” and cartoonishly shook my head at the number of arrows sticking out of my head right between my eyebrows, I pulled up Ken’s profile on Facebook and made the comment, “If you were an expert I wouldn’t pay attention (I’m stubborn that way).” It flew out of my fingertips without me giving it much thought. It wasn’t until Ken blipped back, thanked me for making him laugh, and said, “I’m stubborn that way, too,” that I realized the import of what I’d said.

It made me realize that I never have paid attention to so-called experts. While The Experts may have the experience to back up their talk, I’d rather listen to someone who’s busy living the experience now, than someone who had the experience once and is making commentary, and likely making money too, by reviving the memory. The Experts are somehow separate from the struggling proletariat souls who are simply trying to further their own enlightenment. Nothing, but nothing, will make my eyes glaze over faster than watching a documentary and hearing someone introduced as The Expert in Insert Field Here. Ugh. Knowledgeable? Yes. Leading Authority? Hmmm, maybe. But, Expert? Nuh uh. Because, who’s really an expert on anything? It just isn’t possible. Knowledge is an endlessly expanding thing, it’s a ripple in a pond, a many fingered web. Nobody can know everything there is to know about a subject and all its off-shoots. I will rue the day that I become an expert and there is nothing new left for me to learn or discover. Besides, to my way of thinking, it would be incompatible to be an expert and be a creative person at the same time. The very act of being creative demands a search for unknown variables. Whenever someone tells me "this is exactly how to do it, don't do it any other way," I automatically find some little way to twist the doing of said thing. I'm stubborn that way.

Often The Experts are so caught up in what they know that they fail to see the variables. They’re so busy using their expertise, blathering on about the nature of the ointment, that they fail to see the fly that’s doing the backstroke in it. I remember when I was still a kid (back in the early 70's, mind you), my older brother Tom used carry a ratty old folded piece of paper around that had a typewritten version (remember typewriters?) of The Hotdog Story on it. I don’t recall it word for word, or have any idea who wrote it, but it went something like this…

There once was a man who owned a hotdog stand. His success was simple - he sold great hotdogs and had a sign that said, “Get great hotdogs here!“ Over time, he sold more and more hotdogs. His hotdogs became famous for miles around, and people came from everywhere to buy them.

Then one day his son came home from college and said, “What are you doing, Dad? Don’t you know there’s a recession going on? Nobody’s going to buy hotdogs!”

The man thought, “Well, my son’s been to college, he must know.“ So the man took down his sign. He stopped going into town with his cart, stopped ordering buns and wieners, mustard, ketchup, and relish.
Hotdog sales fell overnight.
The man said, “Wow, son. You’re right. There certainly is a recession going on.”

It pays not to listen to experts. It does, however, pay to listen to experience. Big difference. Huge, even. Experts once said, “If we throw her in water and she floats, then she’s a witch and we need to kill her.” Experience said, “These women knew a lot about herbology at a time when people were dying of all kinds of simple ailments.” Who would you rather listen to?

Thought so. Pass me the hotdogs, please.


  1. Hello Barb, I've just found you via Ken on FB! I love your post & no, I don't want to be an expert either, nor do I want them to tell me what to do & how to do it. I'm planning a major career change & I hope I never become an expert. :)

  2. Hi Kirsten,

    Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! And, oh my gosh... I just checked your profile and you're a cardmaker?! If you feel comfortable with it, email me your address and I'll send you one of my cards.



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