How to Reinvent Your Area of Expertise

So you want to market and monetize your know-how but there’s a problem: you hate your area of expertise. You feel that spending the next few years of your life in a subject you have no enthusiasm for is not an option. But what choice do you have? Actually, more than you think.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.
~ George Eliot

One of the great gifts of the Internet is that it has given us all the tools to be who we want to be. If you have an idea, if you want to try something new, you don’t have to wait for permission. You put up a website; demonstrate your expertise; take payment; and no one asks you what university you went to or to show your college grades. Before the Internet, this wasn’t an option: you were pretty much stuck in the pigeon hole society or your own choices put you in. Reinvention is possible. So, where do you start?

  1. If you can, build a bridge. Say you’re a financial expert but what you really want to do is make documentaries. Build a bridge by making a documentary about the financial world; your knowledge and expertise will add insight to the end result. Once you have your first documentary under your belt, you’re free to make non-financial documentaries. Look for a bridge to help you cross from your current to your new expertise.
  2. Identify the skills and know-how that still serve you. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You may be giving up an area of expertise that no longer interests you but chances are there are transferable skills and know-how. Make a list of what can still serve you – you may find a fresh start is not as destructive as you first thought.
  3. Don’t underestimate your ability to learn new things. The much touted idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill is often misinterpreted. Yes, it takes 10,000 hours to be a master, to be amongst the best in the world. But to just be “good” at almost anything takes a mere 20 hours of intentional learning. We don’t buy into the idea that a person is only meant to do one thing their entire career. The fact is, you are surrounded by the resources and the opportunities to succeed at many things during your lifetime.
  4. You don’t have to be the world leading expert. A worry you might have about switching expertise is that you lack authority in your new subject. Guess what? You don’t have to be the leader in your field (whether it was your old expertise or the new expertise you want to transition to). You just have to know more than the people you’re teaching. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And the more you read, and learn, and practice your new talent, the better you’ll become. Don’t build up unrealistic expectations that you have to be the world’s best. Sure, have that as goal if you want but it’s not necessary.
  5. The time will pass anyway. Whether you decide to change your expertise or worry about having made a “wrong” choice in the past, time is marching on. How will you use it?

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
~ Carl Bard

How to reinvent yourself

It’s likely that you will have to reinvent your expertise at some point in your life – whether you decide or the choice is taken out of your hands, e.g. the market for a previous expertise no longer exists. Author James Altucher has created The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reinventing Yourself. From his article:

Here are the rules: I’ve been at zero a few times, come back a few times, and done it over and over. I’ve started entire new careers. People who knew me then, don’t me now. And so on.

I’ve had to change careers several times. Sometimes because my interests changed. Sometimes because all bridges have been burned beyond recognition, sometimes because I desperately needed money. And sometimes just because I hated everyone in my old career or they hated me:

  1. How do I know what I should do? Whatever area you feel like reading 100 books about, is the area you should focus on. Start reading. If you get bored three months later, repeat the exercise. It’s okay to get disillusioned. That’s what failure is about. Success is better than failure but the biggest lessons are found in failure. Very important: there’s no rush. You will reinvent yourself many times in an interesting life. You will fail to reinvent many times. That’s fun also.
  2. Books are mentors. You can outsource 90 percent of mentorship to books and other materials. 200-500 books equals one good mentor. What is a good book to read? No idea. There are countless good books out there, like songs. Start exploring. Learn something useful every day through reading.
  3. Don’t worry if you don’t have passion for anything. You have passion for your health. Start there. Take baby steps. You don’t need a passion to succeed. Do what you do with love and success is a natural symptom.

Read the full post here:

Takeaway points

  1. People frequently reinvent their expertise, some through choice, others through necessity. Reinvention does not have to be traumatic and can, in fact, be the beginning of a new level of success.
  2. You do not have to be the industry leader in your new chosen expertise. You just have to know more than the people you’re helping.
  3. Your past experience is not wasted. Use it to build a bridge to your new expertise.

Action steps

  1. Decide what you want your new area of expertise to be.
  2. Who is your target audience? (If there is overlap between your previous audience and this new one, can you convert them to be your new customers?)
  3. What problem(s) will you solve for your prospects?
  4. Build social proof for your new skill. Start creating a portfolio of your work.
  5. Become involved in your new industry and begin building your new audience. A great way to do this is through event speaking.

Photo credit: Julie Jablonski via / CC BY-NC 2.0

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