Today’s blogpost is driven by a concern that experts are irresponsibly encouraging people “you can do this, too.” And those of us who want to learn a new expertise aren’t asking: what will it take for me to become effective? In the world of Excel and Data Management, there are things I’m asked to teach and in some situations the responsible answer has to be “no.”

I’ve talked with others who train, teach and tutor and their response is sometimes “so what? If they’re paying you, who gives a darn if they actually learn it?” To me, that’s Sleaze 401.

But let’s back up because this discussion applies to all areas of expertise, and this was so clear one morning …

A woman called into The Steve Harvey Morning Show and mentioned that she was 39 years old and thinking about going into comedy. Steve replied, “you ain’t gone start this here at 39.”

Steve Harvey at Hollywood Walk of Fame

Sounds cold. Pouring cold water on someone’s vision? Arrogant? No.

Steve’s response to the caller was a warning that a career in comedy requires far more than being funny, and Steve is good at sharing the battles of his early days.

My favorite Steve Harvey story is about him driving from Ohio to Nebraska to perform stand-up at a club. When he got there, he was the only Black person in a small place where people were dancing. Abruptly, the dance floor was cleared and he was unceremoniously introduced, “Ladies and gentlemen: the comedian!”

Oh Damn!


Think about it. Whatever your expertise is, you’ve had those “Oh Damn!” moments and they shape what kind of expert you’ve become, they’ve defined your best practices, and developed your ability to see trouble ahead.

One of my “Oh Damn!” moments was when I incorrectly processed sales commissions and someone almost got way more than he’d actually earned. That visceral experience cannot be taught. I can teach the Excel formulas, but I remember training someone and it was clear that she was not grasping the seriousness of the matter.

She took her notes and went through the steps but she needed the experience of personally screwing something up and being called on the carpet. That’s part of complete expertise. And I was concerned that she might get the how-to but completely collapse under the constant scrutiny that’s part of the job.


fill with ideas


“If I can do it, anybody can do it” = Irresponsible Bullshit

People are good. We want to help each other. We don’t want to “give up on someone.” We love a good underdog story that defies the odds and raises a middle-finger to the naysayers. But this romanticizes and belittles hard work, and sets people up for miserable failure. Hence: irresponsible bullshit.

Had Steve Harvey encouraged that 39-yr old caller to pursue a career in comedy, that would have glossed over a basic requirement of having a life that’s set up for driving cross-country to perform in unfriendly venues … for no money.

In the world of Data Management, Steve Susina of Crains Communications recently did a presentation on Marketing Automation. One piece of advice he gave was “learn your Venn diagrams.” It was great to hear Steve Susina say that because it cut through to the heart of working with data. Yes! There’s more than spending $200/month on slick apps.

Some people simply do not think in terms of Venn diagrams, subsets and logic. And that’s when I have to decline teaching someone how to scrub datasets. Are they sub-human? Hell no. In one instance, the person is a stellar salesperson. And:

  1. He doesn’t spend his days elbows-deep in data, like I have for 15 years.
  2. He is great a creating relationships and supporting people in ways that I cannot and am not interested in.
  3. Undoubtedly, he’s had many years of “Oh DAMN!” moments that have shaped his sales expertise.

Teaching him data scrubbing would be a complete waste of his money.

One more example of experience-informing-expertise:

I was talking with Irreverent Salesgirl (ISG) about a disastrous situation that I had with a prospective client. ISG immediately identified the encounter as “buy versus build.” Prospects who make a decision from a “buy versus build” mindset are NEVER happy with their decision. It’s best to step away from such prospects rather than engage in a professional agreement until they are ready to make a decision to either build or buy.

Irreverent Salesgirl’s insight came from years of experience in her expertise, not an online workshop for the low low one-time price of $700, $550, $300, $149.


We cheapen what we do when we toss it out for mass consumption. It also engenders contempt when an expert has tried to teach someone who doesn’t put in the work, can’t grasp key concepts or, can’t leave her kids to go build the foundation of a comedy career. But it’s the expert who was being irresponsible by focusing on the how-to and not the context.

We all have expertise in something and have our own hurdles in our respective lanes. Be very careful about switching lanes or inviting others to join your lane and jump your hurdles that may have taken you 10 years to master.


Steve Harvey in Yellow Suit courtesy of Sharon Graphics
Head & Leaves image credit: smuiblue via
Hurdlers photo credit: wwarby via photopin cc