Why You Should Own Your (Relative) Expertise

I have a confession to make.

For three years now I’ve been helping to market one of the world’s largest Bitcoin companies. And I still don’t think I’m an expert on Bitcoin.

As much as I’ve learned about this technology, I still feel like I know nothing. The more I learn, the more humbled I am by the intricacy of the technology’s design. I learn how little I know about cryptography, computer science, mathematics, and communication protocols.

That means I feel pretty inadequate to the task of being a “Bitcoin expert,” yet that is how most people who know me think of me. I’m their go-to guy for questions about changes to the Bitcoin protocol, questions about Bitcoin investing, and questions about Bitcoin’s applications and political implications.

I’ve not always been sure about how to handle it.

I don’t want to fool my audience into thinking I know more than I do. I definitely don’t want to be one of the sleazy “Bitcoin experts” who are a dime a dozen these days.

Do I fake it till I make it and just answer their question the best way I can? Should I point them toward someone who definitely knows more about the particular question? Do I refuse to answer at all (FYI, I don’t give investment advice, period)?

I’ve tried all three. But when I stop to think about it, I realize that my “imposter syndrome” about owning my experience and knowledge of the Bitcoin world stems from a wrong assumption.

There is no final stage of understanding in any topic. I will never arrive at expertise. I become more of a beginner as I go, and knowledge only grows more complicated as I acquire it.

In other words: *relative* expertise is the only kind that exists. 

I do have that. And if that’s the best I can offer and the best I can gain, it would be wasteful of me not to own it.

Owning my relative expertise means using it – answering my friends’ Facebook messages, giving that Bitcoin 101 session, etc. It also means using my relative expertise humbly. I need to openly acknowledge the shortcomings of my knowledge and the vastness of my topic (ironically, this just builds more credibility). I need to point people toward better resources and experts. I need to provide value and not take any more value than I believe my insight is worth.

Whatever I do, I shouldn’t just refuse to answer the question out of fear that my knowledge isn’t enough. For better or for worse, I have this one area where I do know more than 99.99999% of the population. If there is a 0.00001% out there who will know more, I should still use my talents to create value for the people around me. And I can do it without fooling myself or people around me about how much I still have to learn.

So yes, I am a Bitcoin expert – but only relatively speaking. Let me know how I can help.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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