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I’m Not an Expert, but I Play One in Real Life December 17, 2010

A very important part of accomplishing our goals and achieving our dreams is realizing that our way may work for us, but might not work for everyone else. This realization will stop us from believing that our way is the only way that will work. And this realization will keep us humble and open to new ways of doing the things we think we know how to do.

Think about this for a moment. Absorb it. Then walk into a bookstore or go online and you’ll see a lot of people have made money selling their way of doing things as “the way.” Sure, it worked for them. And maybe it will work for you. But don’t believe that every “expert opinion” is the answer and final solution to how you need to accomplish your goals.

In my writing life I have been to many conferences, workshops and chapter meetings that cover the craft of writing. I’ve also read a lot of books about how to approach my writing and how to craft “the book.” As a new writer, I eagerly followed the first bits of advice to the letter. I figured if I could master the other person’s way of writing a book then I could be successful, too. But the truth is, I had to develop my own approach. And I’ve learned that every book and every idea requires a different approach.

That’s my way. I have to dig into the writing in my own way while utilizing the bits and pieces of information that I’ve gathered throughout the years as tools to building my stories.

The same is true for any person pursuing any goal. It’s true for parents, too. Oh, as a parent I could go on and on about the expert advice I have received from other parents who had it all figured out for themselves. Oh, they were all too eager to make sure I understood their methods were “the methods” for raising my darling daughter.

I’m sure their judgement… oops, did I mean to say that? To some extent, I did. Because there is a fine line between giving information if asked versus someone coming in and saying “you should do it this way because I know it works the best.” There is a veiled judgment implied in that the person is actually looking at what you’re doing and they disagree with your methods so they feel compelled to tell you how to do it “right.”

There is no one “right way” to raise a child, process a move, clean a house, workout, diet, or write a book. Trust me. If there was just one “right way” to do anything, life would be pretty boring. We’d all be the same. And I don’t think we want to be cookie cutter people. I know I don’t want to be a cookie cutter person. Do you?

So the next time someone offers you unsolicited advice, even me, ask yourself what you can realistically use and toss the rest. And the next time you get ready to tell someone how well you know how to do something, ask yourself if you are actually judging that person’s methods.

Question your motives. This will take you a long way. And remember to be compassionate in your views of how others approach life. This will take you even further than you can possibly imagine. Be receptive, be understanding, and act like an apprentice instead of an expert. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn as a result.