Why being an expert feels rubbish and you shouldn’t do it.
I'm sick of the box and so should you be.
Firstly I am well aware that writing this blog post may “jeopardise” my career, as one of my friends put it. I am also aware that what I say in here goes against the grain, you may not like it and choose to never listen to me again and you know what, I’m cool with that. And I’m cool with it because I have decided that I’m just going to show up as Sarah, warts and all, laid bare, love it or loathe it. I can’t pretend anymore. I surely can’t be the only one sick of society trying to put me an easy-to-understand box, I can’t be the only one who groans at the business ads on Facebook telling me what I should and should not be doing, and I can’t be the only one who is just too exhausted not to care anymore.
I don't care what you think.
The other day I got a comment on my blog, ranting at me mainly about the fact that I wasn’t a psychologist (I never said I was) but also about my ramblings and telling me I should be clear and concise and have a script.. The younger Sarah would have worried for days about this but the Sarah now sighed, mentally told him where to go and yet again saw it as another way society tries to keep us all mediocre.
I started this work 20 years ago, have worked with youth for 30, I have done too may courses to mention, read countless books and been told by countless experts how I should capitalize on my expertise. And in the beginning I listened, called myself a variety of things from Teen Tamer to Youth expert and now Teenologist and it served me well getting my TV deals, book deals countless speaking gigs.
I mean I’m living the dream right?
20 years later and I’ve never felt more unhappy and disillusioned with what I do. I adore the clients I work with, love doing the speaking gigs I get paid for but this expert status and expertise is wearing thin. I hate being in a box , I hate being an expert and yes while it might be easier to build a business, get the press on your side and make a living with an expert status, for some like me it is soul destroying. Here is the thing; I’m not expert material, never have been and I know that. I get far too easily distracted, can only research up to a certain point, will never be into academia, have so many interests, go down unrelated rabbit holes and don’t really care so much about the depth of a subject... I’m just not an expert.
I'm just not an expert.
I’m a complicated, multifaceted human, very generalist in my nature. I adore the pursuit of possibilities, creativity and innovation, I am constantly thinking about the impact that current, outdated thinking will have on our future and I adore social media and technology and see it as an opening to new worlds. I am by nature an investigator, always researching, not for research sake but enough to bust long-held myths that we hold and I see as untrue. And above all I am obsessed with how we change identity so that we can increase capacity and possibilities (I have my wonderful mentor to thanks for that one).
I just get obsessed
My obsessions are varied and while I fundamentally bring them back to youth because I just dig the youth vibe, I care less about how long your child spends on social media and if they have done their homework. I care about who they think they are and how that will shape what they feel they are capable of and the possibilities available to them.
Oh, and I’m obsessed with books, story and film and I have started a business with my daughter taking pictures of books. Yes, we get paid to take pictures of books for publishers. How cool is that? But not very youth expert friendly.
I am not a youth expert, I am:
An investigator (truth seeker) A disrupter (dragon slayer) A quester (mission driven) A philosopher (rambles about things of interest) A imaginer (lover of possibilities) A photographer (adorer of all things beautiful)
How do you roll that into one expertise – you can’t. How do you make that have a media friendly vibe – you can’t and how do you make that pay the bills – my latest mission. So I’ve decided expert no more, the full Sarah is going to be showing up. I’m going to view my audience as intelligence beings whom when faced with philosophical ideas and alternative truths can make up their own decisions, rather than people who need the 5 steps to get your teen off social media.
It’s killing me slowly
My soul hurts, I can no longer turn up as I have before, it’s killing me slowly, it’s draining my enthusiasm, it’s making me sad and also making me feel a tiny bit sick every time I am asked to put people in boxes and judge them.
Some people are suited to expertise; some people love it and are clearly born to share that deep and vast knowledge with others. I love expertise so please keep it up, it is the experts that give me the fuel that fires my passion, the experts who present information for me to debunk and the experts who I love watching on Ted X. But as for me, I’ll not join your gang thank you very much! I’ll be playing over here in my lab, experimenting with different thoughts, ideas and approaches. Oh, and if you really want a name for me I’m Sarah, pleased to meet you, and if you want to know what I do for a living, I think I’m at the wrong party.