How to 'Start' When You're Not An Expert

1 Jul 2022

We all have dreams and aspirations. Perhaps we've been meaning to start a new project but we cannot bring ourselves to do so out of fear that we do not have the expertise to bring our intentions into fruition. Maybe we want to change careers in a field that we have no prior experience in but we feel that we will never be employable in that new field because we aren't 'experts'. Regardless of the practical reality of our expertise, our beliefs of not being 'expert' enough to do something new can paralyse us from taking the necessary steps to start something new. This is often a dream-killer. 

Fortunately, however, there are many examples of non-experts who have worked hard in the prospective fields they had an interest in and have subsequently gained footholds in those areas. One example is the prominent American author Susan Cain where she was a corporate attorney prior to becoming the best-selling author of 'Quiet'. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is also another example and started off as a computer scientist before entering the exciting world of e-commerce. 

Clearly, 'starting' on a new pathway in a new career or learning new skillsets is possible. People have done it. So, how exactly do you 'start' something new as a non-expert? Let's go through some tips one-by-one. 

Recognise that your personal doubts are nothing more than limiting beliefs.

Realise deeply that everything you thought about not being able to 'gain a foothold' because of your lack of expertise is nothing more than a limiting belief that is stopping you from actualising your dreams. As the examples of Susan Cain and Jeff Bezos illustrate, starting something 'new' can be done even if there is a perceived 'disadvantage' of not having started earlier or of other people being 'ahead' of you. People learn differently; others learn quickly while some do not. It is possible to learn something new. Of course you are not going to be an expert straight away!! 

Now, this is not to say that you should completely disregard what you already know. Take your previous learnings with you to where you want to go. 

Find mentors.

Mentors can help supercharge your learning. Perhaps one of the biggest fears is not knowing 'where' to start, leading to people feeling very overwhelmed and exasperated at the amount of work that confronts them. Mentors are pivotal in clearing the waters and sending you off on the right direction. This way, you save time, stress and also have a source of support for what you are doing.

So where do you find mentors? Of course stumbling into a flesh-and-blood human being is best because you have someone with whom to build a personal connection with and who knows your interests well. Nonetheless, the internet is also another great source of content through which you can seek additional mentors. Yes, one might cynically remark that there are a number of 'fake gurus' purporting to be experts in what they do. But this doesn't mean that platforms such as YouTube are devoid of good advice. Seek out the best 'mentors' by word of mouth. Find at least one person who is where you want to be.

For example, if you want to get your finances in order and start learning how to generate passive income, of course I'd start with the fabulous Robert Kiyosaki. Then I'd consider exploring people he has interviewed and start looking for additional voices. 

I'd just add one caveat to this: Don't overwhelm yourself by seeking hundreds of mentors online at once. This is likely to leave you feeling confused about where to start because different people often point in different directions! Pick a few mentors, action what they say, reflect, and then find others to listen to.

Be prepared to work a lot, mostly for free.

There's no hiding it: To gain a foothold in something you will need to work hard often without any monetary reward (if that's what you're looking for). Be patient with yourself during this process. You will not learn things immediately You may also feel like you're failing for a few months after starting or that you're getting 'nowhere'. What's important is that you persist with what you are doing and realise that the gains come much later. This might be a bitter pill to swallow in a world of instant gratification. However, it is a necessary pill to swallow and is important if you are to start (and sustain) anything new. 

The idea of working 'a lot' might seem a little overwhelming at first glance. Here, I'd suggest two things to make 'work' less overwhelming. Firstly, you're not working to be 'perfect'; you're working to make 'progress' on what you're doing. Perfection is an unreasonable standard when you're starting out. "Good enough" is good enough!! And secondly, start small even if it's just for 5 minutes a day. What you often need is momentum. 5 minutes a day can be enough to get the ball rolling!! 

Reflect, reflect and reflect.

Reflect on what you are doing. Think about what you are doing well and where you need to improve, then proceed to action your tasks for improvement. This is a pivotal part of learning well. To do something without reflecting on its success is very counterproductive because you are not improving; you are stagnating. 

A key part of self-reflection is to document everything you are doing. By 'document', I mean write reflective pieces on what you have done, whether it worked, and how you can go about improving it. Documenting your progress does several things. Firstly, it helps clarify your thinking on a topic. After all, writing is thinking!! Secondly, it gives you a record of your progress to revisit overtime when you need to. And thirdly, it gives you something to share with other people and potentially monetise (if you're thinking that far ahead). 

And lastly... just start!

There is no substitute for action. If you've been meaning to start something, shut your computer or turn off your phone after finishing this post and just start! Spend 5 minutes on doing what you want to do; it's that simple! 

In sum

To recap, my tips for starting something new as a non-expert are as follows:

  • Recognise that your personal doubts are nothing more than limiting beliefs.
  • Find mentors.
  • Be prepared to work a lot, mostly for free.
  • Reflect, reflect and reflect.
  • And lastly... just start!

What are you waiting for!! 

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I can’t agree more with the need for mentors and overcome any personal doubts. Great insights into making that first step.