Thursday, November 01, 2012

Expertise Trajectory Matters

In the blog on Creating Passionate Users, I found a great article entitled How to be an expert, that introduced this graphic:
This graphic really says a lot about the nature of expertise and the type of dedication and pushing needed to get through the continual hurdles that come up while trying to improve.
In my personal life, I have a lot of hobbies, and I can understand what it's like to get to the amateur level and then move on.  One of my biggest hobbies is around dancing, particularly related to salsa.  Like in any hobby that people have invested a lot, there's a a desire to discuss it all the time, and an opportunity to really learn about what makes us as human beings tick.
Seeing this image helped me break-through an aspect of dance that has long been confusing to me.  While I'm not an expert at dance myself, I still consider myself on an upward trajectory, always pushing myself to improve and grow in at least some aspect of being a dancer.  And part of it is to always push myself in different ways that I have pushed myself before.  For instance, as I push myself a lot harder to understand the music, I encounter very frustrating gaps in my knowledge, and at this time, I'm training my ear for pitch detection so that I'm better able to understand the harmonies of the music.  It's something that is extremely challenging for me and extremely slow going. But, I digress…
Here's the bit that I've always found confusing in myself:  I often prefer to dance with enthusiastic beginners over plateaued amateurs.    In the graph below the red (1) marks the enthusiastic beginners, and the blue (2) marks the plateaued amateurs.
Even though the beginners are much less experienced and skillful dancers than the plateaued amateurs, meaning that I cannot do as fancy stuff with them, I'm more inspired to dance with them than I am to dance with people above the suck threshold who are not focused on improvement.  Looking at this graph, I think that I simply prefer to dance with people who are trending upwards, no matter what level they're at.  It's the slope of their ability over time that I appreciate more than the current level of their ability.
Here's the things that make a dance fun for me:
  1. FRESHNESS - The dance is new and fresh and exhilarating in some way.
  2. FUN FACTOR - My partner is smiling, playful, and having a good time.
  3. GROWTH - I'm able to grow in an area where I'm currently trying to grow, without me feeling too judged or incompetent.
  4. CONNECTION - My partner and I are able to connect to each other and the music.
I think that the upward trajectory of my partner helps keep the dance fresh, makes them more likely to have fun, helps me grow over time along with the same dancer… or inspires me in new ways that I can grow, and likely to increase the connection over time.  There's a deep truth to humanity that we're more attuned to relative changes than absolute values, and this is another example of that idea.


  1. You're welcome. Thanks for dropping me a line.