The word "Expert" gets thrown around a lot today. Who wouldn't want to be considered the expert in whatever field is being discussed. That makes you the authority, the go-to person, the information celebrity, right? Maybe. I've had my connections with this word over the past 45+ years. Sometimes it has been good, and sometimes it has been not so good.
My contracting company is a highly sought after company. I turn down an average of 30 good commercial projects every month, and I have done so for over three years. For many, I am an expert in that field. I've wired everything from factories, houses, apartment buildings, mall stores, convenience stores, restaurants, and just about everything in between. I used to say, "If it has wires and electricity, I can do it." That was kind of true, but it wasn't completely true.
When I left vocational training, my instructor had so inflated the heads of the students in my class that we felt invincible. We were the best. We were the smartest, best trained and licensed electricians available. So we thought.
When I went to college, I took on a part-time electrician job to subsidize living expenses while I focused on my studies. In the first week on the job, I ran into a project I was so unfamiliar with, I froze. All those years of rah-rah-rah from my instructor had built a false imagine in my head and when I was confronted with the simplest of tasks, I didn't know what to do. My employer was an awesome guy who came along and helped me learn, and he turned me into a pretty good electrician - with experience.
Forward fast a dozen years, and now, I not only had the knowledge and experience, but the big head to go with it. Again, I accepted the premise that if something had wires and electricity, I could fix it, wire it and maintain it. When a friend asked me to hook up a piece of equipment for him, no problem. The equipment didn't have a schematic to follow, but hey, it had wires and electricity, and I burned it up. That was the one and only insurance claim I have ever filed, and I was deflated, but I learned there is more to learn.
Now, 45+ years since the first electrical projects I did, I am a bit of a local expert. I don't like to use that language, but others do. I have a few home inspectors who call me every time they have a question about something they are inspecting. I appreciate that, because they don't want to get it wrong. Rather than just putting something on paper, they call the local expert for advice. They send photos, or we do a FaceTime look at what they are looking at and I guide them in their reporting to the client.
I also have a dozen or more local Realtors who do the electrical dings on the report. There are few things that terrorize a home buyer more than the thought that a house is electrically unstable. Recently, an agent sent a report that was about to be the death of a deal and it was all about the electrical pages in the report.
I pulled in a young agent I'm training and went to the house with the report in hand. I showed her every individual thing the inspector said was wrong and I explained to her why the issue was wrong or was not wrong. When it was all said and done, the inspector was wrong 74% of the time. Think about that for a minute. The home inspector who was trusted with the buyer's biggest concerns and decision impacting guidance was wrong in one area 74% of the time. The failure in that area made the entire report suspect. He was not an expert. Actually, in this case he was more of a menace. That one trip saved the deal. Personally, I hope the agent never uses that inspector again. He really didn't know what he was doing.
Being an expert at anything isn't something you're going to accomplish after a few classes. It won't be achieved after gaining a license. It probably won't even be within grasp without a few years of daily exposure to whatever it is that you're trying to be an expert at. Am I an expert when it comes to electrical things? Not really, but I'm very good. It takes a lot to stump me, but after 45+ years I should be at that point, or I've wasted a lot of time.
In real estate, too many agents never become experts because they can't handle the stress of those first five years and they quit. But, for those who tough it out, take classes, sell houses, advise buyers and sellers, do market reports and know every inch of the market, humble themselves and seek advice from smarter more experienced pros, read books, attend training seminars, succeed, fail, get up again and keep pushing forward - this is the best industry to work in. Are you an expert? Maybe. Maybe not, but even an expert knows that the world is constantly changing and there are new things to learn. Be the evolving expert who never fully feels like he/she has arrived because there is more to learn, more to share and more to experience. And then, you might truly be an expert.