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Experienced or Expert?

Experienced or Expert?

Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between people, even friends, with opinions based on their personal experience and people who have actually studied an area in detail.

To have experience, one just needs to have been doing something for a period of time, enough to be proficient. An expert, on the other hand, is assumed to have a depth of knowledge in a particular subject so that information from them can be relied on to be accurate and helpful.

My friend, a school teacher in a mixed-grades setting, was convincing me to try African dance—something she’s done for years. She just happened to be very good friends with the instructor, a master dancer from northern Africa. In other words, an expert. While we three chatted, she described herself as “not an expert, merely experienced.”

We compared notes for a few minutes regarding teaching certain activities—understanding learning styles, and creating lessons that allow those with less knowledge to get the help and instruction they need while creating an opportunity for more advanced students to grow and deepen their knowledge.

This got me thinking about her statement that she was not an expert, merely experienced. I’ve certainly had students who have ridden for years, and are quite capable, some even very high-quality riders. But when it comes to knowing how to fit their saddle, what to feed their horse, or how to get his feet done, they haven’t a clue. They rely on experts for that—the knowledge of their saddle fitter, an equine nutritionist, or a farrier to help guide them.

An expert does not necessarily have to have a college degree; there are areas where a combination of learning from experts, practice, and time in the job, plus staying current with new research—if applicable—is more than enough to make one an expert in something. I know expert cooks who didn't study at the CIA or Cordon Bleu. I am an experienced cook.

I guess there is a caveat here: Advice is very often only as good as your ability to use it and to judge if it is accurate for your situation. Advice taken from those with experience may or may not apply to you, or be helpful, or trustworthy. But would you know?



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