We have to stop devaluing experience, expertise and success

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 23, 2020, 10:33 PM | comments: 0

If there's a broader theme to Trumpism, I mean, beyond the general tenets of fascism, it's the extraordinary push to discredit and distrust experience and expertise. Historians and anthropologists are already writing about this, and we've seen it continuously throughout the pandemic. The left is not without sin either, as it has been on a campaign to scapegoat the successful and rich people. Collectively, we've broken our value system and replaced it with narcissism and arrogance that suggests we all have all the answers.

We should stop doing this.

Two things today really triggered me over this. The first was that a 16-year-old girl has 100 million followers on TikTok, apparently for... dancing. (Seriously, I could point you to a dozen Broadway dancers who dance for 90 minutes, 8 times a week, and that seems like a serious achievement.) She's made $4 million in one year from endorsements for doing something that doesn't appear to stand out in any meaningful way. I'm not hating the player, because good on her for figuring out how to profit from this strange world, I'm hating the game. This is what the world rewards now: a person who posts 10-second videos dancing to random music.

Then I made a joke about how, now that Covid is getting pretty bad again, we would likely see hydroxychloroquine in the news again. Sadly, a friend pointed out that it already happened last week. It was an actual Senate hearing called by a politician that doesn't care if drug trials, the medical community at large, the FDA, the top doctors and scientists in government, all determined months ago that this is not a thing. We're talking about a senator who graduated from college in 1977 with a BS in business and accounting, who ran a plastics company, questioning the an entire community of professionals who all spent twice as much time in school and actively pursue science every single day.

These are two angles on the same problem: Our society has devalued experience, expertise and success, believing that anyone can be an expert in anything, and we keep the bar so low that you don't need to do anything truly remarkable to be celebrated. The latter part shouldn't be that surprising, since we did in fact elect a reality TV host to be president.

Experience is something that comes from doing things, even if it's doing them wrong. My experience is valuable not just for the wins, but the losses from which I learned how not to lose. Not all experience is created equal, certainly. I've worked with people a year out of school who very naturally absorb and use experience to build impressive skills, as well as PhD's who've worked for 20 years and are less effective (certainly the opposite is also true). Regardless, experience matters when it comes to trust and evaluating what a person is capable of doing.

Expertise is the acquisition of deep knowledge of a particular field. This isn't just doctors, who we trust to cut us open and fix our innards, or engineers who will build bridges that don't fail. We trust carpenters, electricians and other tradespeople to do work that requires deeper knowledge than what we have. Whether the expertise comes from years of school or mentoring from others, expertise matters since we can't have deep knowledge of everything.

Success is having a track record of positive outcomes. I don't care if it's winning a Lego building competition or retiring from Microsoft as the world's richest person, we shouldn't be suspect of people who achieve success. Sure, sometimes success is achieved by immoral means, but why do we now treat every successful person, especially those who are financially successful, like they're right out of The Wolf of Wall Street? I know a lot of people who have worked very hard, some of them making millions, and they're the kindest, most generous people I know. They earned their success, and will leave the world better than they found it. They're not the villains in your story. (There's another don't-hate-the-player thing here, but that's a pretty big aside for another post.)

We all have our share of problems, some of them serious, some of them not so much. The world has infinitely more problems, and we hope that some combination of people can help solve them. It has been my experience that surrounding myself with people who have greater expertise than myself for the problems I need to help solve result in greater success every time. Honestly, that's the entire theme around my leadership philosophy. If someone is going to trust me to be in charge of something, that's the way I roll. Don't take my word for it... I gleaned this from watching successful people.

We have to stop this nonsense where we arrogantly second guess people with experience, expertise and success, for no other reason that we have a feeling or opinion about something. Stop it. Your feelings and opinions do not have the same weight as others. And by the way, this isn't just true when it comes to doctors, scientists and engineers. There are even politicians who have experience, expertise and success in governing that is valuable and worth our respect (though definitely not the guy who thinks he knows better than doctors). We trust a wide range of people with our safety and prosperity every day, whether it's the butcher to handle meat safely, or the paramedic to help us when our life is at risk, or the mechanic inspecting a roller coaster. It doesn't make sense to elect people to office who lack experience, expertise and success, and especially those that don't respect any of those attributes.

You aren't weak for what you don't know or understand, you're self-aware. Anything else is not a good look on you.


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