The concept of expertise is something of a moving target in our modern age.
Many people only want to grant the title of “expert” to someone who has earned a doctorate in a certain subject, with everyone else needing to defer.
Others assert that expertise is the opposite of academic knowledge, and instead comes from firsthand experience —so-called street smarts.
Luckily for us, the reality is a mix of both of these.
Expertise can be granted, earned, or bestowed in any number of ways, which is a relief for those of us wanting to cultivate more of it for ourselves.
However we define expertise, it’s clear that we all desire it.
We know it’s something that has the power to command respect and attention.
We think that if we have enough of the right kind of expertise, it can change our lives and make us rich.
This leads us to sometimes think that if we don’t have expertise in something useful, our lives will be meaningless and empty.
And so on.
The way we think about skill, competence and talent can bring us to our highest highs and lowest lows.
Regardless of whether or not this particular vision is true, the importance of having an expertise (or two) can certainly move you forward in life in tangible ways.
Let’s break down what expertise actually is, for the purposes of this book.
Expertise can generally be defined as the mastery over a certain field, skill, or topic.
A bartender is an expert on alcoholic drinks and small talk with customers, while a pianist is an expert on musical rhythm and hand-eye coordination.
A construction worker is an expert in working with power tools and estimating amounts of lumber and cement.
It doesn’t matter if people have acquired their expertise intentionally or as a byproduct; their skills help all the same.
You may not yet be an expert on what you want, but that’s what this book is for.
It’s to take you from Point A to Point B, where Point A is the initial awareness of an intriguing topic, and Point B is a level of mastery that outpaces that of 99.9 percent of the population.
Surprisingly, this process is easier than you might imagine it to be.
As you just read with the bartenders and pianists, gaining expertise doesn’t necessarily have to follow a set path.
Also notably, you don’t need to be an Einstein-level genius to achieve the type of expertise you want, and to start experiencing the benefits in your own life.
Finally, as you read, you will hopefully be convinced that you already possess a good degree of mastery – or at least the seeds of mastery.
In this introductory chapter on accelerating your expertise, we’ll cover one of the most important mindsets for learning, and the biological basis of expertise.