The Meta Experts

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13 thoughts
last posted Aug. 27, 2018, 6:06 p.m.
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For a while I've been thinking about people that tout themselves as experts in X but are really (self-professed) experts in being expert at X.

I'll call these types of people the Meta Experts.

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One example are the "professional bloggers" whose own blogs are actually just about how to be a professional blogger.

It's hard to say if their advice is useful for professionally blogging about X because all they themselves professionally blog about is professional blogging.

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A classic one are the people that tell you how to get rich in, say, real-estate who actually make more of their money, not from real-estate, but telling people how to make money in real-estate.

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A lot of "how we do growth hacking" or "most important metrics for your SaaS startup" type posts are from founders of companies that build tools for growth hacking or for doing SaaS metrics.

There's nothing wrong per se with this type of content marketing. But they always run the risk that how you track metrics for your metric tracking tool SaaS company isn't the same as how you track metrics for any other kind of SaaS company.

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Most recently I've noticed how many self-professed multi-passionate / multipotentialites are focused on businesses around career counseling, etc for multi-passionate / multipotentialites.

Deciding that your focus on life is helping multipotentialites is great but it's not really being a multipotentialite yourself.

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Been thinking about this for a while too:

For a while I've been thinking about people that tout themselves as experts in X but are really (self-professed) experts in being expert at X.

I'll call these types of people the Meta Experts.

Meta Experts may be too kind a term. In many instances of this kind of activity, there is more bullshit involved than "Meta Experts" would suggest.

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joeld says:

Meta Experts may be too kind a term. In many instances of this kind of activity, there is more bullshit involved than "Meta Experts" would suggest.

I think sometimes it's legitimate which is why I chose a neutral term :-)

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Specifically, I’ve been thinking about whether a suitable term exists for this kind of activity.

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I think there are two subtly different types of activities to be teased apart here.

In the first: you’re nominally an “expert in X” but most of your time/energy goes, not into X, but into telling other people how they can become good at X.

In the second: you do spend a lot of your time/energy doing X, but your need for X is mainly generated by how you disseminate your expertise about X. In other words, if you were to cease regularly talking about X, your actual need for X would be greatly diminished.

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An example of the second would be a podcast and blog about pen & paper products, in which the writers/hosts actually do make heavy use of pen and paper products—but mainly to keep track of podcast episode ideas.

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Very often (not always) the first type of activity is just your basic grift.

The second type of activity may just be the kind of feedback loop that arises naturally when you enjoy two activities purely for their own sake—and one of them happens to involve some form of disseminating information.

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I think it's important to distinguish the meta expert from someone who is just better at teaching X than doing X.

For example, there are world-class sports coaches who aren't world-class at the sport they coach.

That's not who I have in mind with the term Meta Expert.

Perhaps even my real-estate example isn't a great one. The "problogger" is perhaps the best example because technically they are blogging professionally but they just blog about blogging. Hence the "meta".

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Another possible example of this that I thought of yesterday: church worship teams, which frequently lead songs whose theme or refrain is “Here I am singing this song and worshiping”.