Drop Out? No - I Dropped In
Expanding Your Expertise
By Lois McElravy
This past year I attended the University of Montana. One afternoon I popped into the Mansfield Library. Based on my middle-aged appearance, the student who was working at the information desk asked me if I was a graduate student. I giggled, "No. I don't have a college degree, and I am not here to get one. I am just dropping in to take a few specific courses."
I strolled out the door, and then it hit me, "Wait a minute! I am a graduate student." I spun around and bounced back into the library. I approached the student who had checked my books out to me, "Hey, if you don't mind, would you ask me if I am a graduate student again?"
This time I responded, "Yes. I have a B.T.D.T. (Been-There-Done-That) Life Experience Degree from the School of Hard Knocks."
Everyone has one. Each of us has earned a B.T.D.T. Everything we have been exposed to or experienced in our lifetime has taught and trained us for a specific purpose. Life lessons provide an understanding and valuable insights that can't be learned through "book smarts" alone. Our personal experiences qualify us as experts.
We are more receptive and apt to listen to someone who has experienced what we are going through. As a person living with a brain injury, I am inclined to listen to the advice of someone who has experienced brain injury, personally or through another. I will consider their suggestions over someone who is a professional with the knowledge of brain injury, but not necessarily the understanding. One thing that instantly shuts me down is when a well-meaning friend or family member, who doesn't have a clue about brain injury, tries to tell me how to overcome the challenges associated with brain injury.
I notice how quickly other brain injury survivors and family members connect to the insights and suggestions that I can provide to them from my sixteen years of experience living with a brain injury. My expertise qualifies me to speak on topics that also relate to people who do not have a brain injury. Businesses and organizations benefit from messages on adapting to change, overcoming adversity, and using humor as a coping strategy.
On the flip side, personal experience without knowledge is lacking. We are quick to acknowledge that no amount of college provides the level of understanding, and insights that we learn from the School of Hard Knocks. Yet, we tend to associate expertise first with knowledge or a degree. True expertise is established through the combination of both.
I didn't enroll in college to earn a degree. And I'm not a college drop-out, either. What I am is a college drop-in. Expertise doesn't require that we know everything nor demand that we have all the answers. Being an expert means that we are able to share valuable insights we have gained through our experiences and provide information from our education. Equally important is our ability to recognize when the situation necessitates our referral to a more qualified expert.
What's your area of expertise? Are you quick to dismiss the B.T.D.T. you have earned through your personal experiences, because you don't have an educational degree to back it up? Perhaps you have the educational degree in a particular field, but lack the B.T.D.T. understanding that could enable you to become more effective?
If you aspire to raise your level of expertise, find out where you can drop in to attain the understanding or the knowledge that you are missing.
Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to effectively use humor, so they can handle the demands and pressures of work and home, maintain a flexible perspective, produce positive outcomes, and have more fun.
Learning to laugh and "hangin' on with humor" rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Her universal message offers hope, motivates participants to be faithful to do the small things, and conquer their challenges one day at a time.
©2006 Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois - Permission to reprint or repost this article is granted by notifying Lois McElravy, and including her name and contact information in the article. Contact Lois to speak at your next event: firstname.lastname@example.org (406)251.2887 http://www.lessonsfromlois.com
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