We’ve all heard that line by now: if you want to be an expert at something, you need to dedicate 10,000 hours of your personal time to deliberate practice. This means that to be the best baseball player, you need to play 10,000 worth of baseball games – and not just play catch with someone or spend time at the batting cages. To be an expert SEO professional, you need to devote 10,000 hours of your time to test different SEO strategies. Over the course of those 10,000 hours, you’ll understand how to be effective at what you do. And once that happens, you’ll have something useful to share with the world.
Of course, that’s only half the battle. There are many people out there who are exceptionally good at what they do. They are veritable experts in their fields. But – and this is important – not all of them are considered authorities. It’s possible for you to be the best video game player EVER, but that doesn’t mean that people are going to listen to your video gaming tips. You need a little extra.
You need to have the following in your communications arsenal.
Of course, you already have a whole lot of knowledge on account of being an expert. But if you push it a little further, you get to have “insane knowledge”, knowledge that will take your expertise to the next level. One great example is RingCentral founder Vlad Shmunis, who was an expert in telecommunications and systems architecture before figuring out how to make business telephony affordable and convenient. Knowledge is knowing how to do things right; insane knowledge is figuring out how to do things better.
Guts of Steel
They say that fortune favors the brave, and that is most definitely the case among the most recognizable authorities. These people are not only good at what they do; they also aren’t afraid to show off their knowledge and call out the deficiencies in their respective fields. The reason why Seth Godin has so many followers is not just because he has some amazing ideas and approaches to the subject of modern marketing; it’s also because he’s absolutely fearless with his statements. Having guts of steel means that you will not hesitate to share your thoughts, no matter how unpopular they may be.
Incidentally, you also need to have a bit of humility if you want to be considered an authority in anything. It’s one thing to have guts. It’s another thing to arrogantly declare yourself as the only voice worth listening to. One of the reasons why fantasy author Neil Gaiman influences so many people is that he is perfectly willing to acknowledge the influence other people have on him and the world in which he’s built his career. Humility lends you the kind of humanity that people find easy to identify with, and it’s essential to making a solid connection with a willing audience.
Being an authority takes a lot of work, a lot of bravery, and a lot of self-awareness. If you really want to become an authority, you have to be prepared for the position’s demands.