When you are an expert, there is a tendency to think everyone knows what you know, although they most likely don’t. Most people outside of your field of expertise probably don’t think about the concepts you do or consider the various perspectives that you do. They probably don’t get the ideas you get or get influenced as you do by the world around you. But I’ve noticed that many experts have trouble creating content because they sometimes don’t see how what they have to say is valuable. Unless they develop a cutting-edge revelation, some experts fear that what they are presenting is too basic or too ordinary. I talk to clients and colleagues about this a lot. More than you’d expect.
So why do some experts have this perception of themselves? One reason is because it comes with being an expert. Experts usually have the opposite of the Dunning-Krueger effect, which is imposter syndrome. The Dunning-Krueger effect according to a definition found in Psychology Today, is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. Imposter syndrome on the other hand is defined in Time Magazine as “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications”. Here’s an excerpt about imposter syndrome from that Time Magazine article:
Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?
If so, you’re in good company. These feelings are known as impostor syndrome, or what psychologists often call impostor phenomenon. An estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives, according to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.
Impostor syndrome—the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, they theorized that women were uniquely affected by impostor syndrome.
Since then, research has shown that both men and women experience impostor feelings, and Clance published a later paper acknowledging that impostor syndrome is not limited to women. (She also created an impostor syndrome test.) Today, impostor syndrome can apply to anyone “who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes,” says psychologist Audrey Ervin.
Another reason experts may be challenged to internalize their success could be because of the competition in their areas, which ironically fuels their drive to constantly be discovering something new and cutting edge. Every day, they are talking with colleagues who have equivalent or greater knowledge, so it is hard for them to see how much they contribute to their field every day. The definition of imposter syndrome implies that people who are successful and experts are aware of their weaknesses, so they have insights into what they don’t know and see gaps in their own knowledge. This is why they are experts—they can discern what’s cutting edge versus what is old news, what is fact, fiction, or unknown, they know the areas they only have general knowledge about and need to explore further to get the details they need so they can be the expert they are.
But some still carry this false assumption that the average person knows not just what is cutting edge, but the old news that has been displaced. Somehow the average person with different interests is keeping current in a field not their own. Strange, right? In reality, the average person doesn’t know a bunch about an expert’s field—what’s cutting edge or old knowledge. And this leads to talented experts often falsely believing that they have no unique value to offer because they are around other experts just like them every day so to them, they believe their knowledge is common knowledge.
Most days, I am in the camp where I assume everyone knows what I know. I believe that they have had similar experiences as I have and see the world in the same way as I do. There are many days when I think what I know is general knowledge and at times, I believe that I have no value to offer. So, I’ll refrain from creating content or contributing to conversations because I wonder who wants to hear what I already know and tell myself so many times. It’s the same with projects - I wonder what value I could possibly offer. Sounds crazy right? But there is a way for someone to work around this.
There is a message that many coaches are using today - you are unique and have something unique to offer by just being yourself. So, although the message coming from you may have been shared by dozens of others before, there is still room for you in your field because no one is presenting this same information in the way you are presenting it. Isn’t that freeing to hear? And for some, the way you present your message may be revolutionary. This perspective could come from your approach to the problem, your word choice, your choice of metaphors, even the medium you choose to present the message. In the end, it’s you being you that is the offering. This is true for companies as well.
What you say is going to be unique to your audience as long as you are authentic as an individual or company.
The next point to be made…when you are creating a content library, you need some basic, introductory, 101 type of content there. There is value in basic content. Imagine if you went to Deepak Chopra’s site and you saw no basic content about chakras or meditation or self-awareness? Or you went to HubSpot’s site and there was nothing there about what makes a good email or landing page? Or you went to a makeup site and you didn’t see some basic application technique videos? Yes, those examples all contain basic explainer content, but you need that to help build trust and credibility with your audience. If you only talk about slick, trendy topics, well—you’re a slick, trendy snake oil salesman. And who needs that. Trends are always built on the basics. It’s why white t-shirts and jeans sell all year round—people always want the basics. I built and am building a basics library through courses that complement my book. Why? Because if I don’t have that, then you may wonder where did this lady come from? What does she know? Every content creator needs to prove to their audience they know the basics to build trust with them. That’s how you judge a quack from a leader. If I went to HubSpot and saw faulty info about the basics I’d question their credibility. Same with Deepak Chopra. If the information he had about chakras was bunky based on the limited knowledge of them that I have, I’d walk away and think he’s not the real deal. Content about the basics validates your credibility, which builds trust, and later supports your authenticity.
So, some tips from this quick video…if you are looking for ideas of what to talk to your audience about - listen to the conversations you have with customers. Notice what they are asking. Those answers contain great content to share! Most people aren’t alone in their questions. Other people often have the same questions about a topic. So, share the answers!
Then ask yourself which topics in your field do you take for granted that people know about. The answer to this question also contains great ideas to share too. Consider how you present this content. Maybe do something creative like hosting a panel discussion. I saw someone recently present a complex idea to children. Either way, find a way to present such ideas to build that basics library.
Being an expert in an area is tough because you are already tough on yourself. Yes, continue working on being on the cutting edge as an expert, but remember - you have value in what you bring to the table being yourself, being authentic. So, bring it on! We all want to hear what you have to say, even if it is something from a 101 course in your area of expertise. Always remember, to someone else, your expertise is not basic information—it’s a revelation.
Thanks so much! I hope this was helpful. Have a great day!