Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leveraging Experts

One thing that has worked very well for me in life is seeking out and taking the advice of experts in various fields. I would not be where I am in numerous areas without these folks. I have been able to get new ideas, bounce my plans and ideas off of them and generally leverage their experience in a certain field to my benefit.  There are folks I talk to about money, folks I talk to about tools or home repair or computer stuff or taxes. Some are friends, family or neighbors and others are in a more professional capacity.

It goes without saying that these folks excel, at least relatively, in the area in which I seek their guidance. The person I consult on financial stuff is loaded (despite never having a massive salary), and the guy I listen to on strength stuff is really strong, the guys I listen to on defensive stuff are folks I really would not want to fight. Get the idea?

It never ceases to amaze me when people look to someone else who is not good (or great) at something for advice. How some somebody going to help you get good at something when they are not excelling in that area? Maybe more significantly why in heavens name would you listen to them? A friend of mine used to always try and give me financial advice. His history read much more like a cautionary tale than a financial success, I wasn’t rude but I certainly didn’t follow it! When fat people try to give me diet advice I have to bite my tongue or leave to avoid openly mocking them.

In recent years the internet was really democratized information. Instead of just being able to talk to people you personally know or buying a book you can (via blogs and websites and forums) hear the opinions of all sorts of people. Want to hear a 40 year old mom from Peduke, Iowa’s opinions on finances or a 23 year old guy from California’s thoughts on weight training? You can do that.

The big issue with this wealth of information is that there are a bunch of totally unqualified people giving advice which is often wrong or misleading or even dangerous. (Yeah it is ironic that I write this on my blog) Total beginners giving other beginners advice is a huge problem, particularly in forums. All sorts of massive problems stem from this.

So how do we sift the wheat from the chaff? The first thing I can say is to really listen to people, especially when they talk about themselves. I have found that most people are generally honest online (at least on forums and blogs that are based around specific things like fitness, self defense, guns, finances, etc) and the ones who aren’t are so stupid it is easy to tell. It isn’t beginners portraying their selves as something else and other beginners following their lead; it is self described beginners giving their opinion and other beginners taking it. It is worth noting that I do frequent numerous blogs and am on a couple forums now and then. I find them useful. I tend to lean toward paying more attention to concrete individual reviews, reports or experiences than people’s broad ideas. How easy is it to make this modification or does this product suck sort of things. A guy who has put this pouch onto that chest rig and had issues is talking about something he personally experienced. I don’t care what he thinks is a perfect load out rig or zombie killing gun.  Often I will find someone else has already asked a question and gotten it answered or I can find something similar. The best is when I find something a few months old where one person gave another advice and they had time to try it and come back and say how it worked.

Also educating yourself on a topic through a variety of resources which you know are legitimate. I have found that with some basic knowledge in an area I can smell bad ideas and BS in a given area easily. Certainly long before I fully understand the topic or have mastered it. Do however beware of confirmation bias which is where we seek out experts whose ideas totally mesh with the ones we have which makes them validate our original beliefs, sort of “yes experts” if you will.

Do you leverage experts in your life? If not I would consider it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem is; who are the experts? The answer for most of us is easy; the experts are those who make senese and espouse beliefs similar to our own. But the simple fact is almost everything we know and believe today was once believed to be wrong (by the experts) and almost everything we know today with our greater wisdom was wrong was once widely believed by everyone. What do we know today, that is what do we believe and have confidence in that is totally wrong. Well of course we don't know! So ask an expert. But in general the experts are always wrong. They have a vested interest in promoting the status quo and it becomes more and more difficult to reverse oneself publicly as they become "the experts". We need to trust our common sense, be widely read so we learn what we don't know and keep an open mind as evidence begins to show our beliefs might be wrong.

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