Everybody is an expert in something … at least that’s what they say.
Now, full disclosure: I don’t actually know if they say that. I only know that, when I don’t know something, adding “that’s what they say” can be shorthand for “experts think this, so I’m right.”
But is that true? In this Information Age, when everybody can find expertise and contribute their own in an instant, are “they” actually equipped to give us the right answer?
Because of this never-ending onslaught of experts and their answers, developing our own self-awareness has never been more important. It’s a crucial practice to, uh … to practice. (Hey, THEY said I could write funny asides, so…)
“They” has long been an amorphous, unknowable group of experts who decide the answers we’re supposed to follow. Social media made them more accessible and knowable. But the problem with “they” persists today as it did yesterday: They simply don’t know a thing about YOU.
Sure, they’ve tried a whole lotta stuff, and they’ve shared the successful stuff with you. But they can’t possibly anticipate how you — the key variable in your own situation — would change the equation. So why would we turn to “they” as the source of the right answer?
It’s like if you’re trying to fulfill your hunger at lunchtime. Some expert somewhere has tried more options than you and claims to have found more success than you. They tried tuna. They tried a salad. And they decided that the best bet to fulfill your hunger is a peanut butter sandwich. So they say, “Hey, you: The next time you’re hungry, have a peanut butter sandwich.”
Now here’s the problem: YOU … are not THEM. Maybe THEY aren’t watching their weight. Maybe THEY have more budget to buy that organic, gluten-free, non-GMO peanut butter (because maybe THEY are annoying). Or, worse, maybe THEY aren’t allergic to peanuts! Whatever the case, they’re ignoring your situation — a situation that is fundamentally different from the expert’s situation because, in yours, YOU exist.
The danger is in failing to ask yourself the right questions. When they say, “Just do what I did because it works!”, the danger is in never asking, Why am I hungry in the first place? What did I eat already? What if I added some jelly? What do I know? What can I do?
“They” keep sharing their answers like it’s gospel, but they’re forgetting the Golden Rule to doing anything exceptional: Think for yourself.
In the end, experts aren’t sharing answers at all. They’re sharing possibilities. And YOU must vet those possibilities, not merely accept them. Ask the right questions, instead of obsessing over someone else’s answers. Think critically, and you will forge ahead in a way that makes sense for you, not they—err, them.
They say you should do something because they said so, while in reality, their best advice is merely a useful part to the whole car. And make no mistake: YOU are in the driver’s seat. So the next time THEY hand you directions, answer me this: Where will YOU go?