The Surprising Key to Becoming an Authority

Police Badge - Authority Blog
Photo credit: Scott Davidson (Creative Commons)

When I started this blog, I was nervous.

I had never written a book. I had never made it as a full-time freelance writer. I didn't have any experience in publishing.

Why was I qualified to write a blog on writing? (I wasn't.)

I questioned doing it at all, wondering if I should do something less risky or wait until I knew more before speaking as an authority.

But then I read about Darren Rowse and how he started one of the largest authority blogs on the Internet: Problogger.

Portrait of an authority blogger

When Darren began, he had no idea what he was doing. All he had was a question and some natural curiosity. Then, he started exploring the answers, sharing what he learned while he was learning it.

Darren started to see a community grow until he became one of the world's leading authorities in the subject.

Reading about this, I realized it was possible to set out to do something, not knowing exactly how to do it — and actually succeed.

As I've learned how others have become authorities in their respective disciplines, I've been surprised at the less-than-mystical process. I hope it encourages you to start something that you've been procrastinating. Here goes…

The key to becoming an authority is this:

Fake it till you make it

Some of the leading authorities on the web had no idea how to do what they were doing when they set out to teach people.

Somehow, though, this method of faking it works. Here are a few reasons why the Internet helps you become an authority:

  • Because it's instant, the Internet allows you to start now while others wait.
  • Because sharing online is free, it provides an affordable space for you to experiment — to try out different ideas, to test out new ways of solving problems, and to find ways to succeed without breaking the bank.
  • Because the web is interactive, it allows you to learn and apply concepts in real-time. If you are transparent about your process, you can attract a lot of people, becoming a curator of the lessons you learn.

How to become an authority

So, how do you do this? Here are five ways to begin:

  1. Pick a unique, interesting topic. Make it something you care about and that not a lot of other people are talking about. Don't try to be the next Chris Brogan or Brian Clark or Sonia Simone. We already have them. We need you.
  2. Become an avid student. Commit to learning as much as possible. Nobody wants to learn from a teacher who doesn't do the homework. You have access to amazing resources: open-source encyclopedias and libraries full of information, all available for free. But you have to use them.
  3. Be generous. Don't hoard new ideas. Cultivate content, make it easy to understand, and share it. This is why people will follow you. Because you give away your best stuff for free. Wait. You've worked so hard to learn all this stuff and now you're just supposed to give it away? Yep. Your audience will thank you.
  4. Speak with authority. Cut weak words and phrases like “I think” or “it seems” or “I believe” out of your vocabulary. They make you sound unsure of yourself. Even if you are, don't let your audience know. Speak with confidence. Talk like the expert now. Pretty soon, you'll become one.
  5. Be honest. Don't pretend you know something you don't. Don't be a wannabe. In other words, don't fake it. Be humble. Let your audience know you're learning with them. If you don't know the answer, say so. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Your audience will follow you if you're occasionally wrong, precisely because you're willing to admit it.

You have an opportunity

If you're passionate about a particular topic, you have the chance to become the authority on it. With free online resources, a blog, and a humble but willing spirit, you have everything you need to get started.

But the trick is to start now, to begin before you think you're ready and invite others along for the ride.

Don't wait to feel like an expert. Start faking it today so that one day you won't have to.

What do you think? Can you become an authority on a subject by simply faking it? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Scott Davidson (Creative Commons)