Why I’ll Never Be an Expert

I just liked these shoes.

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition lays out 5 stages:

  1. Novice
  2. Advanced Beginner
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Expert

Here’s the Wikipedia entry, and a summary of what is needed to advance through the levels.

Being a multipotentialite means I learn a lot of things to the stage of being Proficient, but not Expert–true expertise just takes too much time, and I’d rather learn something new.

This is fine with me, because I know that while I’ll never be a Rockstar Designer or a Rockstar Developer, and especially not an actual Rock Star….I know a heck of a lot about a heck of a lot, and that makes me Proficient at Life. Hopefully by the time I die, I’ll have racked up enough hours to qualify as an Expert. 🙂

But it’s more than just “wanting to learn something new” that makes me move on from one thing to the next. It’s this: in any new skill or field that captures my interest, I want to grasp the big picture. I want the conceptual framework. I want to go that far (Proficiency). But that’s all I want. I don’t really want to use that proficiency to spend hours and hours solving problems in one particular skill.

And it’s not because I’m lazy, or because I prefer learning to doing (I really don’t).

The reason I move on is because I want a conceptual framework for life itself. For the big stuff. And I want to use that framework, and those skills, to solve problems that transcend one particular field or skill. I want to solve problems that live at the intersections of design, development, business, human potential/psychology, spirituality, and love. I want to solve the problems of happiness through business, the problems of spirituality through design, the problems of love through…I dunno, I haven’t got there yet. But I will!

This means I’ll never be a designer, or a developer, or therapist, or a coach, or a minister, or anything that is just one thing.

But I have designed a ton of websites, worked closely with developers on major projects–collaborating on architecture and database design–taken many personal growth workshops and several therapist and coaching trainings, and spent a whole lot of time seeking to understand the spiritual nature of the Universe. On a framework level, I get all of these fields on a level deep enough to make connections within and among them. And on a practical level, lets just say I have mad ninja skills for getting shit done.

I’ll never have a neat business card label. Instead, I have missions. Missions that require all of these skills. Missions that are exactly who I am and need all of these things to the fullest. And I’ll keep acquiring whatever skills and conceptual frameworks I need to make them happen. That’s what I’m about.

I have a deep respect and even awe for people who truly have achieved mastery in their fields. And there was a time when I felt a kind of comparison-envy. Or a feeling of illegitimacy if I didn’t pick something to be.

But I don’t anymore, because I love the way I am. I think it takes all kinds, but all things being equal, I’d rather be me. It’s just more interesting.


  1. Zern says:

    Brilliantly put!!!

  2. Chuck says:


    Excellent! Genuine and authentic.

  3. josh says:

    Hey Emma, this is so well put and so true for me!

    What you’re saying about wanting to do many things not in order to master them, but to get a conceptual framework totally rings true for me, and is a lot like my idea of adaptation, where I want to be able to take the framework of one medium / genre and apply it to solve a problem in another area / medium.

    But also that the framework from one skill / proficiency can be applied to bigger things, to life, that is a great thought!

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