Be an expert in your field

Drew Polanycia
Published in
4 min readJul 6, 2017


Recently I was visiting my dad for his 65th birthday. I wanted to do something special for him for this big event so the idea was take him fishing on a charter. My thought was we would catch a ton of fish, have some memories and talks that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to have, and reunite him with a hobby he had done in his younger days. That at least was the plan.

When we got to the place we would launch, our “captain” told us his motor was broken to which it would delay our trip by over an hour and a half. In my mind I was already doubting the validity of our “captain’s” ability to catch my imagined grip of fish, but nonetheless we ventured on further. After our hour and a half delayed departure we launched out to start catching all of the Gulf of Mexico. Care to guess what happen? After four hours of work in the humid Florida July heat, we had a mere three spotted trout that barely met the legal limit for us to take home.

I was livid.

Not only had we not caught much of anything, we got a late start, and the entire time we were out our “captain” kept talking about how he had to get back because he made prior commitments that afternoon.

A couple of presupposition I want to clear up in your head. First, I am hardly ever critical of anybody in the service industry because I’ve worked in it before and know how hard it is. Secondly, for the most part I am a very even keeled person, But when it comes to me paying my hard earned money for a service you provide, I expect nothing less than you to step up to the plate and knock it out the park; that’s the agreement I entered into you with when I pay you money. Third, I know things happen unexpectedly (like a motor breaking down) I get it but have a plan B for crying out loud. Now that those are out of the way, let’s continue and nail down a few points.

Be an expert in your field

My father-in-law has this phrase we use a lot about being “an expert in your field.” This doesn’t imply a level of arrogance or superiority. It simply means this: whatever your field is where you are doing your life’s work, go deep into it, go super deep even and leave no corner undiscovered or area left unturned. There is never an excuse for willing ignorance.

I don’t know, let’s find out

The company I work for has a phrase we commonly use when a customer comes in and asks a question that legitimately we don’t know the answer to. It’s “I don’t know, let’s find out.” Some people and cultures resigned themselves to end with the “I don’t know.” The key here is that you don’t accept not knowing. Eventually it should bother you if you are serving in your respected industry whether it’s fast food, finance, or fitness if people continue to ask you questions that you don’t know the answer to. Bite the bullet and apply yourself to learning, even mastering your field.

You don’t know what you don’t know

There are times when you are in a place wanting to more with your field but you’re not sure exactly sure what you need to know. In other words you know you have a gap to fill, you just don’t know what to fill it with. It is as this point I would advise using a tool like a feedback survey or a 360 tool. This gives people you trust the opportunity to speak into your life and help you with blind spots.

There will always be somebody better than you

So let’s say you read this article, five years from now after achieving expert status in your field (Gladwell 10,000 hours averages out to five years working an average full-time job considering you get two weeks off a year for vacation every year and two days off a week for labor laws). You come back to me and say, “Drew I’ve achieved expert status, and I can’t possibly learn anything else. What do I do now?” You do what you have been doing all along and fastforwarding your growth by learning from people who are better, more knowledgeable, more highly equipped than you. Ask them how they achieved what they did. It takes great humility to recognize when somebody is simply better than you.

Extend grace along the way

Should you encounter somebody tomorrow who is not an “expert in their field,” don’t do what I wanted to do but didn’t with our fisherman “captain” and throw him overboard and take the boat out myself. Extend grace even when it’s not deserved, and people will respect you at the end of the day for it. Despite my frustration at our captain I didn’t go off on him or start calling him names. Imstill paid him what I owed him and I still used his service. Another’s lack of expertise does not merit rudeness on my part.

That’s it. If you agree with any of these thoughts or have additional comments, please feel free to reach out to me on social media or via the comments section. Thanks for reading.