Decoding Expertise through Inversion [with Five Practical Examples]

Decoding Expertise through Inversion [with Five Practical Examples]
Photo by Zachary Keimig / Unsplash

Comparison is the thief of joy.

We often find ourselves in awe of individuals who seem to excel effortlessly in specific areas. How does she explain that analysis so well? Where did he learn that problem-solving approach?

Subconsciously we are comparing our personal baseline to this display of expertise:

I can’t do what they are doing.

We mistakenly attribute their success to some innate talent or natural ability. Or educational pedigree. Or insane work ethic.

Worse yet, we try to become an expert. Setting the bar that high at the start of any learning journey is a surefire way to fail.

The Solution? Applying Inversion.

Instead of trying to master one specific thing, work on learning many different things.

By inverting your approach to expertise, you will build comfort with trying new things, learn how you learn, be able to test new (for you) strategies, and most importantly, develop new frameworks for applying your existing knowledge and skills.

Embracing the Power of Trying New Things

The key to unlocking our potential lies in our willingness to step outside our comfort zones and try new things. By doing this, we break down the barriers that are holding us back from progressing in the areas that matter most.

Trying new things opens doors to new experiences, knowledge, and skill development. It expands our horizons and exposes us to diverse perspectives. It enables us to become well-rounded leaders capable of navigating various aspects of life and work.

The first step is committing to picking up some new kind of hobby, skill, or interest.

Action Steps:

  • Identify areas where you feel hesitant or resistant to something -- dancing, karaoke, and rollerblading all come to mind for me! -- and make a conscious effort to explore some of these areas.
  • Seek out workshops, new communities, or unfamiliar tasks that will force you to do new things.
  • Practice self-compassion and acknowledge that failures and setbacks are part of the learning process, allowing them to strengthen your resilience and determination.
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." ~ Albert Einstein

The Fixed Abilities Myth-Excuse Phenomenon

The notion that some people are naturally gifted in specific areas perpetuates the belief that success is predetermined and unattainable.

In other words, it’s an excuse not to try.

The Fixed Abilities approach overlooks the fundamental truth that everyone has the capacity to learn and grow.

The issue isn’t that you can’t become an expert at “Skill X” - the real issue is that you don’t know how to go about doing it.

Without a clear path forward, our motivation evaporates.

Hard work is easy when you know what needs to be done. Without direction, hard work seems like a waste of valuable energy.

The solution? Make the hard work of decoding expertise easier by making it fun.

Five Practical Ways You Can Learn How You Learn

Here are five outside-of-work activities where leaders can cultivate a "try new things" approach, fostering personal growth, resilience, and adaptability.

Explore a new hobby: Dive into painting, photography, gardening, or playing a musical instrument to discover uncharted territories of creativity and skill-building. Example: Finding a Hobby

Engage in adventurous sports: Challenge yourself with rock climbing, kayaking, or surfing to push your limits and embrace thrilling experiences outside of your comfort zone. Example: USA Climbing

Learn a foreign language: Immerse yourself in language learning through classes, online resources, or language exchange programs, expanding your cultural horizons and communication abilities. Example: Duolingo

Volunteer for a cause: Make a difference by engaging in community service or volunteer work that aligns with your passions, allowing you to contribute to a meaningful mission and gain new skills. Examples: Volunteer Match or Points of Light

Develop culinary skills: Experiment with new recipes and explore diverse cuisines, unlocking your inner chef and expanding your palate while embracing the joy of cooking.  Example: Blue Apron or Hello Fresh

Continuous Learning as a Catalyst for Growth

When we let go of the notion that expertise is fixed, we create space for continuous learning. Every experience, whether successful or challenging, contributes to our growth as leaders.

We gain valuable insights, develop resilience, and cultivate a growth mindset that propels us forward. By fostering a passion for learning, we continually enhance our skills, gain confidence, and adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of our personal lives and professional careers.

Action Steps:

  • Develop a habit of lifelong learning by setting aside dedicated time for reading, learning new skills, and watching how others “do what they do.”.
  • Seek feedback and constructive criticism to identify areas for improvement and growth.
  • Embrace a growth-oriented mindset by reframing challenges as opportunities for learning and viewing setbacks as stepping stones toward progress.

Expertise is not a fixed destination; it is a continuous journey of learning and growth.

Yes, this is Growth Mindset Magic!

The concept of the growth mindset, popularized by renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, has become a cornerstone for personal and professional development. Dweck's research reveals that individuals with a growth mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence can be cultivated through effort, learning, and perseverance.

This powerful mindset recognizes that success is not based on innate talent or fixed abilities but rather on the willingness to embrace challenges, learn from failures, and continuously improve. In parallel, being "good" at trying new things aligns perfectly with the growth mindset.

Just as Dweck emphasizes the importance of embracing challenges to foster growth, the ability to try new things showcases the openness, adaptability, and courage necessary to expand our skills and unlock our true potential.

Additional Growth Mindset Reading

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
  • The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher's Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown


Learning new things will break your traditional methods of approaching work, freeing you to bring a new perspective to everything you do.

Bonus that having a hobby or alternate “deep work” commitment outside of the office will help you manage your time better and even reduce some stress.

The next time you find someone who is just a total outlier on the expertise scale, don’t stress. Double down on your learning adventure instead. Maybe even ask the expert what their hobbies and interests are; you might be surprised!