In a previous post, I discussed the problems of learning skills and attitudes from role models who aren’t competent. In this post I’ll discuss how to find real experts to learn from.
What makes an expert?
To find good exemplars (examples of a skill or ability) to learn from, evaluate their results. Ask:
- How good are the person’s actual results? It doesn’t matter if Rowena thinks she is the world expert in good relationships; it matters whether she has good relationships. Judge only by results, not by what you, she, or other people think will work, does work, or should work.
- Does this exemplar get consistently great results? Someone who has excellent relationship skills will tend to have lots of good relationships: with their spouse, parents, children, friends, neighbors, etc. They’ll also have minimal problems with bad relationships, quarrels, firings, and people doing nasty things to them.
- Do the good results last? Millions of people with excellent strategies for shedding excess weight lack strategies to stay slender. Some people’s relationship skills work well for short-term acquaintances, but prevent deeper long-term relationships.
- Does this exemplar deal skillfully with problems? Some people can accomplish anything in favorable circumstances, but fall apart when things get rough. Pick an exemplar who can deal with problems, but doesn’t generate them.
- Does this exemplar skillfully avoid, defuse, or prevent problems? People who are great at fixing problems often have excellent strategies for generating problems to fix! People whose strategies work best may seem like they do almost nothing, because most issues get handled before they turn into problems.
- How well does this exemplar match you? Find someone whose skill matches your learning and thinking styles, your meta-programs — and if applicable, your values. If you have to turn into someone else to learn a skill, or adopt a learning method that works poorly for you, find another exemplar.
- Who else could I learn this skill from? NLP modelers consistently find that even excellent exemplars usually use half or less of the possible skills for getting a great result. By modeling 2 or 3 people, you will gain a much broader range of strategies that work. Once you have finished, repay each exemplar by teaching them the additional skills they don’t have.