The Problem with Listening to "Experts"

Back in October of 2015, I wrote a post called "Time to Stop Listening to Experts".  I shared the story of a dear friend who read everything she could by a particular saint only to find that the saint's advice wasn't helpful for her.  I made the case for mentors instead of "experts".

Here I am again, this time writing in the wake of Pope Francis' recent letter on love and marriage.  The Pope has (not surprisingly) raised the ire of critics.  In an ideological firestorm, those who dislike the Pope have dug in, claiming that Francis is "at it again".

A friend of mine on Facebook railed against the Pope, claiming that his sources "know better" and that Francis is up to no good.  

Oh my goodness!

At the heart of at least some of this is the danger of ideology.  An ideologue is loyal to a teaching or person (read "expert") to the point that they can no longer see the opposing point of view.  A practical application can be drawn from those who follow a politician.  Take Donald Trump.  Those who love him find it easy to ignore the countless disparaging remarks he's made about countless numbers of people.  I'm not immune to this.  As a New England Patriots fan, I'm the first to admit that I give my team the benefit of the doubt while I criticize similar behavior on other teams.

When we become ideologues, we cling to "experts" (or causes or organizations) and this can be dangerous.  

Why?  Simply put, many of those that we consider to be experts either

a) aren't or

b) are but have absolutely no relevance to our lives.

A classic example is Tim Ferris of The Four Hour Workweek.  Nice guy.  Famous.  Wealthy.  But if you actually read much of his book, it's completely impractical for 90% of people.  

I'm eating my own dogfood on this as even some of the "experts" that I've learned from are now those that I ignore.  Mike Hyatt, whom I admire, has to be ignored from time to time as his business can often drown out his message.  It's become predictable that when a "new video series" comes out, it's ultimately just upselling you towards a product at the end of the sales funnel.

There's nothing wrong with this, per se, but I'd rather buy on my own terms.

So what should we do?  In addition to emphasizing mentors, let's find experts who are meaningful to us, at our level.  If you like Ferris, Hyatt, Brogan and Godin, go for it.  For me, I'm drawn more often to imperfect heroes.  These are people who do not have all of the answers.  Their followers are less ideological and more likely to have an open conversation with you. 

For me, this can point to Joshua Becker on some days and Laura Vandercam on others.  Neither try to sell you what you don't want to buy.  Neither claim to be experts.  Todd Henry, who basically is an expert, doesn't feel the need to pound it over your head.  He's on my cool list too.

You've got to find your cool list, those that are imperfect, wise and humble.  

The rest?  Leave them for someone else.  I think you'll be happier as a result.