The Mark Of True Expertise – Knowing What to Edit Out (Insight From Architect Frank Gehry)

When do you know that you have attained a level of skill that would qualify you as an “expert?’  When is expertise genuine expertise?

I think about this a lot partly because I feel so inadequate in so much of what I tackle.  I teach, I speak, I write – and yet, I feel that I miss the mark as often as I come close to hitting it.

A while back, I heard a radio report on the new studio producing movies – with wrestlers from the WWE.  One comment was really revealing – the wrestlers show up on time, and do what they are told to do.  Directors can count on them – they “hit their marks.”  They learned that from the rigid discipline of putting on a show night after night.  Expertise –the best at what they do.  (Note: this is not a comment on the legitimacy or sophistication level of professional wrestling.  It is a comment about work!).

(image by CLAUDIA URIBE)

Here’s something else that helps me think about expertise.  It comes from a terrific set of short profiles from The Atlantic.  It is prompted by these remarks by Frank Gehry, renowned architect.  “A winner of the Pritzker Prize, Gehry has staked a claim as perhaps the most acclaimed architect of his day.

So quite often, the first sketches are incredibly, uncannily close to the final building—I don’t understand that, really. Compared with when I was just starting out, I’m faster now. I’m better. I know where the bullshit is. I’m pretty good at editing it out before I let it go too far.

So, what is expertise.  It is “knowing where the bullshit is – and editing it out” pretty quickly.

Maybe, until you can spot and reject the “bullshit,” you have no genuine claim to expertise.

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