An Expert State of Mind

By Ron Pereira Published on March 10th, 2009

A person going by the name of “ford” left a very interesting comment to my post about it taking 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  Here was the comment:

“The moment one gets into the `expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible” – Henry Ford
Pretty good manufacturing guy…be careful becoming an expert…

I absolutely love comments like this.  They challenge me.  They make me re-think things.  They help me re-focus on what’s truly important.

And for the record, I completely agree with what Henry Ford said (I’m assuming he said it at least?).  You see, if someone thinks they are an expert they may stop trying to learn new things which, in the end, is a deadly mistake if you ask me.

Confident, Never Satisfied

Perhaps the better approach is to feel confident in your skills… but never satisfied.  Do you agree?  Is being a so called expert actually a curse?

  1. ScoutOwl

    March 11, 2009 - 6:35 am

    Someone once defined “expert” for me in a way that sticks:
    – In mathematics, “x” is the unknown quantity.
    – And in fluid dynamics, a “spurt” is a drip under pressure.
    As for 10,000 hours of practice, I tend to agree that’s this is probably long enough to learn what you have yet to know.
    Also, this brings to mind the Trade Guild structure, with an apprentice taken on by a master for several years of training, then an elevation to journeyman status. Only one who has practiced their craft as a journeyman long enought to gather a strong reputation and skills of leadership and management beyond the trade are called a master.
    Myself, I prefer to consider myself a journeyman, “confident but never satisfied.”

  2. harish

    March 11, 2009 - 9:56 am

    The “An Expert State of Mind” comment……..is awesome………..very introspective……….on second thought…. what ford may be saying is………don’t ever get to the point of believing “Only I can do it” rather than ” I can do it”

  3. Quinn

    March 11, 2009 - 1:30 pm

    It is kind of like humility the second you say, “I am humble” and believe that you have arrived at the perfect state of humility you’ve lost it.

    Could it be said that expert status like perfection is a constant pursuit that we never truly achieve in this life?

    Expert is a relative state not a static position and it is either growing or diminishing. If being an expert means we have learned and assimilated the best knowledge about our particular niche(s) then it becomes necessary to seek out that knowledge about our niche(s). But knowledge and understanding is continually expanding and so if we believe ourselves to have reached the pinnacle of expertness, we will reach it and will then proceed to descend down the other side even if we lose no knowledge.

    This is because our knowledge diminishes relative to the total ever growing knowledge base thereby diminishing our expert status relative to the total.

    So 10,000 hours might be needed to attain a relative expert status but more hours will be needed to maintain it. There will always be someone who is more of an expert and we should seek them out.

  4. Penny Riordan

    March 12, 2009 - 6:34 am

    One only has to look at Tiger Woods to grasp this concept. Many would argue that he is the greatest golfer ever. Ane he continues to practice, practice, practice. He is always trying to further perfect his game – if that’s possible.

  5. Adam Zak

    March 12, 2009 - 9:37 am

    I will never be an expert at Lean, at Executive Recruiting or at Green. Instead, I am and will always be a student, an observer and practitioner of these. That’s what the principle of continuous improvement has taught this student. How Zen, eh? http://twitter.com/LeanThinker Adam Zak

  6. ford

    March 12, 2009 - 4:26 pm

    This statement, read in the context of the entire page/chapter, makes much more sense. Ford was a genius but never considered himself an expert and didn’t care much for experts.

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