Are you an accidental expert?
This morning I re-watched one of my favorite films, Countryman. Although I’ve seen this movie 100 times, a scene from the movie captivated me like never before. The irony and coincidental nature of why I randomly decided to watch this film after yesterday’s events still puzzles me, but I’ll explain that later… In the following scene, a poor island fisherman speaks to an American couple on vacation:
“If I say to you brother, go to the best university in the West and speak to the wisest man there and find out all there is to know about engineering… And I say to you sister, go into the swamp, into the sea, down into the earth and learn all there is to know from the creatures you see there and from the sun and from the stars… Eventually brother, you will say that you can make a rocket that will take you to the moon. And don’t you think sister, that you could call for lightening to blow his rocket out of the sky?” The sister asks, “I can make lightening? How?” He replies, “First, you have to have that intention.”
It couldn’t be that simple, right?
The scene made me wonder… If I spent my time learning, experiencing and applying one subject or concept would I eventually become an expert on it? Do I need degrees, certifications, and awards to make me an expert or is it just based on the knowledge I chose to obtain? This line of thinking lead me to my next question. What am I spending my time becoming an expert in?
Here’s the irony… yesterday a popular website WorldStarHipHop temporarily went down and the Twitter world went nuts. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this site… think of Youtube’s format but all the videos are hip hop, street fights, pure ignorance and/or degradation. Admittedly, I’ve spent a lunch hour or two perusing the site and mindlessly enjoying the mindlessness of others but that furthers my point. If I spend my time on that site or similar ones that do not enhance my life in any way will I become an expert on ignorance? What are the opportunity costs associated with spending my time on mindless pleasures and indulgences?
So… what do I want to be an expert in? With free libraries, online and physical bookstores, documentaries and the vastness of the internet isn’t it quite possible to become an expert in any field imaginable? The question is almost as difficult as answering, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but not quite. We can all easily become an expert on our family and friends. It seems commonplace to know more about a celebrity’s personal life than one’s own family history or the current events of our loved ones. It might be a good place to start.
Are you an accidental expert? What do you spend your free time learning about?