Way back in April of 2003, I wrote a column titled “I Want to Become an Expert”. Before social media, I thought it would be cool to become an expert. I had visions of grandeur about all of the praise and accolades that would be heaped upon me. I’d be invited to be on The Today Show where they’d fly me in and wine and dine me. Then, the next morning I’d go on the show and let my expertness flow. The TV hosts would just sit there with their mouths agape, awed and impressed with my expert knowledge and opinions.
Fast forward 19 years, and there is no way I’d even consider that again.
In today’s world, up is down, right is wrong, yes is no, and left is right. And the concept of being an expert only lasts until you put your expert opinion out publicly. Then, the ‘real experts’ will start coming out of the woodwork to let you know just how wrong and confused you are about a topic. And most of them will not be very nice about it!
And trust me, it’s not just limited to online interactions. They do it standing in my store, right to my face. When the internet was first invented, everyone was excited about the world of possibilities that it held. We all thought that people would become much smarter, and much more informed, having all of the world’s information right there at their fingertips. That didn’t age well.
I had a guy come in recently, wanting to have his ring sized. No big deal, we get that request all the time. The big difference with this guy was that he told me exactly how he wanted to have it done. Of course, my first thought was ‘get the hell out of my store’. I’m the expert here. But, I listened to him explain how he was now an expert on ring sizing because of all the research he had done online. He even referenced the video ‘I TURN 2 HEX NUTS into a 1 Ct DIAMOND RING’ as part of his research. That video has 100 million views.
I don’t remember exactly what he said next because I had already tuned him out, knowing full well there was no way I was going to take in that job. I wish I would have saved the video just to go back and listen to him again and shake my head. Since I knew there was no way I was going to work with this guy, I did what I always do in a situation like this; I pulled out a business card from a competitor – that I don’t like – and told him maybe they can help him out. I don’t even remember what it was at this point since I’d stopped listening to him 10 minutes earlier.
Now, mind you, he did mention a few times that he had never actually sized a ring before, but knew more about the process than probably any other person on the planet. I just assumed that statement included me, who’s personally sized thousands, and thousands, and thousands of rings – most of them successfully, but what do I know. There comes a point where I realize I’m just not willing to play with some people. “Here, take this card and go see these people, they can help you.”
But, playing the expert card is not just limited to people that have no idea what they are talking about. There are people from all walks of life that have been working in their field for years that have become self-proclaimed experts and have no idea what they’re talking about either. And they’ll let you know about it the minute you say something that they don’t agree with. Heck, in our industry, if you take the same diamond ring to 10 different appraisers, you may very well end up with 10 different dollar amounts. Post those 10 appraisals online and 100 additional appraisers will give their expert opinion about why all 10 are wrong – and then give you their expert opinion of why. Then, they’ll tell you how to do it correctly. You can’t win.
The only problem with these situations, which play out across all industries and topics, is that for every expert that offers their expert opinion, there are ten other experts that will jump in and offer a differing expert opinion. It’s almost like we need a Ministry of Truth to lead us to the truth. Oh, wait…
No, I don’t think I want to be an expert anymore. I think I’ll just stay a regular Joe and not offer my expert opinion on anything anymore. In all reality, I think we all know there is only one way to size a ring, one way to run a business, and only one way to arrive at a replacement retail value – your way! Just don’t tell anyone how you did it.
Because of all of the new experts out there that have cropped up since 2003, it becomes harder and harder to find accurate information. It’s hard to know who to turn to, and who to avoid. Some of the most knowledgeable people in the world have seen what happens when they try to answer a question online with an accurate answer. Like my customer above, who cares HOW I do it? He should only care that I do it properly, and price it fairly.
I have taken a break from daily Facebook for the last 13 or 14 months, only popping on occasionally to offer my witty and expert views and opinions. Then, two minutes later, after reading the comments, I feel like I need to take a shower. Don’t those commenters know that I’m the expert here?
Stay safe out there and keep your head on a swivel. The next several months are going to be a roller coaster ride. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert to guide you through it? Oh wait, I retired from that.