“Am I really an expert?” is a question I get frequently from new nonfiction authors, here’s how I answer them.
“An expert is an ordinary fellow from another town.”Mark Twain
FAQ from new nonfiction authors: “Why will anyone trust what I have to say about subject XYZ if I don’t have degrees ABC after my name?”
Here’s the thing about experts – they’re made, not born. And they’re not all made the same way either, through college degrees, official trainings, or certifications. There are many different pathways to expertise. 3 big ones are: Reading/Researching, Learning (through mentors, coaches, etc.), and Living (your life stories).
I believe author & peak performance expert Brendon Burchard started out as an advertising copywriter. But it was surviving a near fatal car accident as a teenager that ultimately motivated him to research (at great lengths) the human condition and what it takes to reach our peak potential.
How many letters and degrees does Brendon have following his name, attesting to his credibility as a peak performance expert? To the best of my knowledge – none. But he does have several New York Times bestselling books and a thriving career as a speaker, coach, and trainer. He is an Expert with a capital E.
Personal experience is a powerful motivator in understanding a subject so deeply and intimately that you become a voice and a resource for others. That’s right, personal experience, as in YOUR personal story!
And it’s true, your personal story about your own medical miracle will not qualify you to teach a course on the subject at Harvard Medical School. But it will give you the motivation to learn more about the science behind your personal miracle.
Your personal story plus what you learn in your research gives you the credibility to write a book to inspire others, especially those walking in your shoes.
Many nonfiction book authors have deep, underlying personal reasons for turning themselves into experts on their subject matter. And sure, many of them take an academic pathway to reach that expert level – but many do not. Reading, learning, living – RLL. It’s a different track than PhD and serves an entirely different purpose.
To the readers whose lives you change by sharing your stories and knowledge, that really doesn’t matter.