proximity, distance, and expertise

The challenge of being an expert is that it is hard to be one in your own home town.

Expertise is valued when it comes from far away. The traveling scholar is special for their pure understanding of a difficult field, and they don’t incur the baggage of being a neighbor or even a friend. The distinguished visitor can be an exemplar of their craft, not distracted by any complicated local entanglements.

If you want to be recognized as an expert you need to be prepared to travel beyond where you are well understood out to the parts of the world where you are known solely for your expertise. Go beyond your narrow orbit and strike out to a place where your reputation is solid and where you are an example of the thing you call your own. Leave your own neighborhood behind, even if only to be seen elsewhere as an expert on neighborhoods.

Expertise is a funny thing. You don’t always get a chance to pick what you are good at, because that can come from the views of others. The further away those others are, the more likely they have some essential insight into your character that your close neighbors will never have. Look at yourself through the eyes of someone far away and see what special characteristics appear.

(Written mostly on a mobile phone while in a familiar cafe.)

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