Not an Expert

As a web developer and indie hacker, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a true expert. There are so many concepts and technologies to understand. Instead of striving to be an expert, I find it more helpful to think of myself as a quick learner. When I think of an expert, I imagine a doctor who can perform surgery after a 24-hour shift and chat about golf while doing it. I’m not at that level in any aspect of web development.

Embracing the mindset of "Not an Expert" has helped me learn faster in both indie hacking and my day job.

I’ve been frustrated with myself for not sharing my work more. My perfectionism often stops me. I’ve recorded videos and spent hours editing them, only to not post them. I even draft tweets I never send. Even this essay took a lot of effort to post without extensive edits.

Recently, I considered why I struggle to share my work. Maybe it’s perfectionism, fear of damaging my reputation, or lack of confidence. Ultimately, it’s the high bar of expertise I set for myself. I wanted to "be the expert." But this has kept me from gaining expertise because I don’t share as often. "Better done than perfect," as they say.

Sharing your work publicly is a great way to learn quickly. People on the internet will quickly point out if you’re wrong, creating a quick feedback loop. They’re even more likely to help if you claim you’re not an expert. If you claim to be an expert, people may want to dunk on you, which can make you miss genuinely helpful feedback.

At work, this mindset also helps me learn faster. I’m naturally cautious about revealing my ignorance, so I have a tendency not to ask questions. But hiding my ignorance only increases it. It’s better to be like the student who sits in the front row and is constantly raising their hand. They might ask beginner-level questions, but they’re also the ones acing the tests. Colleagues don’t care if you don’t understand something. Often it’s the opposite—they are excited to share their knowledge.

The best part of not claiming expertise is that you’re more likely to find real experts. People will recommend those with deep knowledge. They’ll tag authors and veterans in specific fields. Connecting with those people is the fastest way to level up your skills and knowledge. A thirty-minute chat with an actual expert can be more valuable than reading a book on the subject. Even their passing comments can contain heaps of wisdom.

In the end, my goal is to ship products quickly and competently. The best way to do that is by being a quick learner and claiming expertise can hinder quick learning. Maybe I won’t ship a life-or-death product after a 24-hour shift, but that would mean I’ve built the same product thousands of times, which is not the type of career that I want to have or the pressure I want to put on myself!

So, while I may never be a "true expert," embracing the mindset of a quick learner has allowed me to grow and improve more than striving for perfection ever could.