The more important an outcome is to us, and the bigger the stakes, the more likely we are to seek out a mentor who we can model, or an expert who can guide us through the process.
Presumably, the expert has developed strategies and pathways that will help us minimize our investment of focus, assets, time, and energy, and maximize our result. Maybe the mentor has a system or “recipe” we can follow.
The Value of Expert Guidance
We want to know that if we put time and energy into something it will work, that we will get the result we desire, that our efforts won’t be wasted. Working with or modeling someone who has achieved the result before can help us shorten our learning curve.
This makes sense. It feels productive.
And, often, it is.
I have invested heavily in coaching and courses to learn from the best. I’ve found it very helpful to work with experts and mentors who can help me achieve my results more effectively.
There’s no need to clear a path if someone else has already paved a road.
And … (you knew this was coming)
This comes with a caveat: expertise has its limitations.
The Limits of Expert Guidance
(1) Expertise is Often About the Past
All expertise is based on what worked in the past. As conditions change, expertise becomes outdated.
The more rapidly circumstances and rules change in a given area, the more vulnerable the expert is to losing his expertise. The more quickly our environment changes, the more quickly we need to adapt our strategies.
At one extreme is an expert in history. History is in the past; absent some new information that changes how we view an event, the history expert is fairly safe in his expertise.
At the other extreme is an area like digital marketing strategy. The environment, rules, and algorithms change often. Each time Facebook or Google announces changes to their algorithms or the type of content they will be promoting, the Facebook and Google “experts” lose their expertise. They retrench to figure out what will work tomorrow.
This doesn’t discount that the expert might have expertise in certain fundamentals, but when it comes to directing a strategy, what will work tomorrow is rarely “proven.”
(2) Nobody is a Better Expert in You Than You
I often take a pilates class with Bob DeNatale at the Body Evolutions studio in the East Village. At the beginning of every class Bob reminds us that if the springs for any exercise are too heavy or too light, we can change them. Then he adds:
No setting is right for everyone.
This is a truism that applies everywhere.
Just because an expert achieved a result with a certain strategy doesn’t mean that strategy will work for you. The proven strategy is proven with regard to the expert’s strengths and the resources available to him. Unless you have the same strengths and resources, you will likely need a different strategy. At the very least, you may need to adjust that blueprint to make it work for you.
I’ve invested a lot of my FATE over the years to learn systems and blueprints that were “proven.” Some worked well for me and others did not.
Those that didn’t work may have been the wrong strategy for where I was at the time. Or, they may not have been designed to amplify my strengths or account for my weaknesses.
What I learned from these experiences is that anything that is “proven” is proven only for people whose skills and strengths are aligned with what that strategy requires.
The Best Experts Are Flexible and Adaptable
Of course, nobody is more of an expert in you than you are in yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t use help from an expert or mentor. We all need help in finding the path that is best aligned with, and accounts for, our personal strengths, weaknesses, and resources.
When I invest in a coach or mentor I seek someone who can draw from broad set of tools and resources; ideally someone who has experience with multiple systems and methods.
The experts who add the most value are those who don’t mandate one specific way, but rather cultivate the skills to adapt a system or strategy to fit the strengths of the client.
This is what I seek in a coach or mentor, and it’s the way I approach my work with my clients.
As in pilates, it requires an understanding of what settings work generally, while also bearing in mind that no setting is right for everyone.