“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” –The Wizard of Oz
It turns out that The All Powerful Oz, revealed to be a mere mortal, was actually a whiz at understanding human nature.
Recognizing that the deficits we perceive in ourselves are often fictions we hold as Truths (not smart, loving or brave), and the imperfections we hide are sources of strength, the Wiz’s gift to Dorothy and the gang was first, his unmasking, and second, the wisdom he had gained but hadn’t trusted to be “enough.”
Contrary to our cultural conditioning, there is power in showing and acknowledging imperfections. That power is authenticity.
It’s the Wabi-Sabi approach to life.
If you haven’t run across the term before, Wabi -Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic that deems only those artworks that are imperfect and incomplete as truly beautiful.
Wabi-Sabi embraces visible mistakes as part of craft and essential for expression.
If I had access to Google Images, there’d be a picture of a gorgeous Raku vase (mit cracks) right here.
I’ll leave it to you to make the connection between the art of being human and Wabi-Sabi in art.
Which brings me to expertise.
It’s really easy to get hung up on the word “expert,” especially when we apply it to ourselves. This was true for my client Liza.
She asked the question, “How can I think about innovating in my department, if I’m not really an expert?”
As is almost always true, there’s the question that Liza is asking and then there’s the question that is in the question. In this case, since I’ve been working with Liza awhile, I sense Liza is asking more than two questions, but for the sake of concision let’s start with, “How do I know I’m an expert?”
How many of us know this doubt? I do – all too well. It can stop us in our tracks, making the ground beneath us feel shaky- our voices weak, and timid.
Turns out Liza’s definition of expert is pretty narrow. For her, an expert is someone whose job is directly related to the exact training or schooling (certification/degree) this person received. And for her, years of practice don’t really count unless it is also in the area for which one was originally trained.
So, with this line of thinking, a 22 year-old who just graduated from college with a degree in marketing would be more of an expert than someone who got a degree in writing but worked her way up in marketing firms through jobs that eventually led to an Account Executive position.
Liza tells herself that because she didn’t get her degree in the field in which she has been working for years, she can’t possibly be an expert. She had never thought to look at her experience as having actually learned. Like many of us, she was conditioned to look only for external indicators of achievement and knowledge.
Liza had never thought to question her definition of “expert,” nor to think about how much she had learned on the job (we made a pages long list of all the useful things she knows related to her current job) that contribute to her…well, expertise.
She fell for the expert-tease.
Understandable. I recognize in Liza my own tendency to listen to the inner “critter’ who tells me that experts know it all already. People who are experts don’t feel unsure because they don’t have anything to be unsure about – ever. Right?
And, I recognize in Liza my own tendency to believe the critter that tells me not having learned something yet, not knowing something, and my mistakes, are absolute proof that I’m not an expert. Ouch.
Using Focusing and Critter-sizing (a fun way to talk to the animals, I mean, inner critters), Liza re-defined expertise to be this
* Expertise means being able to call upon my accumulated knowledge (no matter where or how I got it) and understanding with increasing ease and agility; applying that knowledge with precision and flexibility, recognizing what’s missing or needed faster, and recovering from mistakes more quickly
* It’s an ongoing process of learning at higher and higher levels of mastery in a field where I choose to practice.