Expertise vs. Humility – A Writer’s Battle Royale?

Expertise or humility?

Expertise or humility?

You’re an expert on something.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons you started writing.

Unfortunately, experts tend to be a bit self-promoting and arrogant, and arrogance is a sure way to lose your readers.

The opposite approach won’t work either. Timid, non-confrontational storytelling doesn’t do justice to the value you can contribute to your readers.

So, what’s a writer to do?

This is precisely the question I asked myself at the outset of my blogging journey.

Starting On The Wrong Foot

Whatever I’ve learned was a result of doing things wrong at first. When I began blogging, I imagined a Battle Royale between writing with humility and demonstrating expertise.

I believed that inserting too much “me” into a post would reveal my lack of age and experience, and that everyone would just get bored.

I veered toward broad generalizations, making concise assertions that I believed were true based on what little experience I had.

The resulting posts were preachy and flimsy. I sounded like an egotistical computer. HAL, maybe.

Finally, I did something smart and started to study the pros, bloggers like Leo Babauta who write with a perfectly unassuming authority.

Eventually, I noticed that humility and expertise are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they make for a powerful combination.

Humility & Expertise Go Hand In Hand

How can we achieve both humility and expertise in the same breath? Here are 7 lessons I’ve learned so far.

1. Remember that humility is endearing and demonstrates strength.

Humility creates a natural connection to your reader. Acknowledging failures makes you seem human to your readers. On top of that, your failure validates how you came into the knowledge that you’re presenting. Failures can even be a great source of humor.

Being authentic and vulnerable also shows confidence. You’re willing to lay it on the line, imperfections and all. This confidence – without arrogance – is exactly what will draw readers to you.

2. Stay present to your own learning journey.

In our excitement to share what we know, it’s easy to forget that whatever knowledge we now possess is the result of a learning process.

Recounting your experience allows your reader to relate to you. By identifying with your story, your readers can make inferences and convince themselves of the relevance of what you have to say.

By staying present to your own journey – where you started, how you transformed, where you are now – you give your knowledge necessary context.

3. Limit generalizations.

Generalizations have their time and place – they’re great for headers, topic sentences and summarizing points. I think of them as structure – the pathway, walls and doors that guide your reader to the place you want them to go.

Once you’ve used generalizations to create structure, you can dive right into the details, which bring your expertise to life.

4. Get your narrative voices straight (“I” vs. “you” vs. “we”).

“I” is the most powerful way to tell a story. Your stories are powerful credentials and hooks. They draw your reader in, letting them know who you are (a human, just like them!). Telling a story in the first person is also a kind of evidence-based approach to making an argument. Just as citing your sources lends you credibility, citing your experience does so as well.

“You” is the voice we use when speaking to a friend. This is the riskiest voice because it can easily become preachy, but it is also essential in order to connect with your reader. Every time you use this voice, try speaking the lines aloud as if to an imagined friend over a drink or dinner. If you don’t feel comfortable saying it to a friend, it won’t sound right to your reader either.

“We” is a great voice for making generalizations. Just because we know something and want to share it with our readers doesn’t mean we’re superior, right? “We” is a great way to humbly make assertions about the way things are because we show ourselves as equals to our readers.

5. Demonstrate humility and expertise in separate parts of the post.

A (brief) personal back-story gives necessary context, makes you seem more human, and validates your expertise. This is a good time to foreshadow your learning but you don’t need to make assertions yet.

Once you’ve established context and humility, you’re ready to share the lessons you’ve learned. Now you can switch to the second person or first person plural.

6. Stand for what you believe, while acknowledging it’s just your belief.

Just because you’re humble doesn’t mean you aren’t going to put a stake in the ground.

Equivocating – reporting information without adding your perspective – will bore your readers to death. After all, it’s your perspective that your readers are after.

We merely need to recognize that what we’re presenting is not a dogma handed down from on high. It is not a universal truth. It is a truth in our lives, at this moment.

Acknowledge the limits of your knowledge and you can largely preempt the challengers and naysayers.

7. Re-read and re-write your post aloud a few days later (or more).

Even using every trick in the book, we can’t always strike the proper tone. Putting our writing aside and revising it later may still be the best tool of all.

Hear yourself reacting to the tone and word choice, and re-write the post while you can still feel that reaction. Your instinct will easily recognize places where you’ve been too abstract or impersonal, too assertive or preachy, or just too verbose.

No need to be down on yourself for missing the mark on the first try – that’s what you and countless other great writers throughout history have had to do to get to the right end result.

Please share your own experience in the comments: How do you strike a balance between humility and expertise?

 

About The Author:

Taylor Jacobson is an adventurer, entrepreneur and blogger at 21 Switchbacks, a community of thoughtful people committed to creating remarkable lives. Join him and get instant access to 10 Resources To Change Your Mind & Life.

Image: Conflicted? courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

Use Facebook and Twitter to Drive Crowds to Your Blog

A guest post by Donny Gamble

You have a nicely crafted blog or webpage, in which you put a lot of effort adding that nicely written content, but now you need people to read those posts. Traffic is of major importance, because depending on the number of visitors:

  • You’ll get a better general ranking
  • Your profits will increase – more visitors -> more potential customers
  • You will have higher revenue from the ads

There are several online web marketing tools, but not all of them are ideal for advertising and attracting traffic like a magnet. Facebbok and Twitter are the trendiest and most effective tools, which will definitely help you increase the traffic to your page.

Facebook Marketing – let the whole world learn about you

There are actually 3 ways you can increase your website traffic using Facebook:

Social Ads.

This is an amazing application Facebook has come up with; you can actually connect with the audience that you want (by sending the ads to targeted regions or groups of people). In no time, you will be able to attract the people that you want to your blog/website.

Profile + links

– build yourself a nice profile, and keep in mind to add both pictures and a shot and relevant bio (because people like to see the man behind the ads!), and add some links. One or two should be enough, do not drown your profile page with tens of links.

Continuous updates

- If you simply build a profile and add a link, and then you think crowds will pour into your portal, you are mistaken. You need to add fresh content at least three times a week – updates, company news, links to crispy fresh content.

Tease people with one or two highlights from your article, and call to action: if they want to read more, they will go to your webpage. Be a versatile Facebook user, and once you have a well established presence there, do not let people get bored: be innovative.

Twitter Marketing – short messages, long queues to your webpage

Just keep in mind the 2 top Twitter strategies, and people will visit your page:

Direct (Aggressive) Advertising – a big No- No! - you can send short, timely messages to an entire world using Twitter, but these little messages should not sound like “Buy now..” or “Huge discounts…”. The truth is people get annoyed by this type of blunt advertising, which may have worked back in the 60’s when the “mad men” were fashionable.

Today, elegant advertising is when you post on twitter a link back to a piece of nicely written and highly informative article. Once people are there, reading your content, let them decide if they want to buy or not.

Post helpful tips each day. This way you can have people getting used to your little tips & tricks, and they will wait for them. For instance, if you are selling cosmetics, make sure you add one helpful tip each day about skin care.

Women love that, and you will attract more traffic to your webpage.

In Closing

If you have not realized it yet, social media is here to stay. Everyone is on Twitter and Facebook, why aren’t you?  Become apart of this prestigious community, so that you can start sharing your story and interest to the world.

Donny Gamble is a blogger, marketer, and entrepreneur who shares his blogging tips on his personal blog.  He has just released his new eBook “The Bloggers Roadmap”, which you can get here.

The Adventures of a Naked Blogger

A guest post by Katie Tallo of Momentum Gathering.

There I was, completely naked! Exposed in front of my peers. I was being analyzed and made over, scrutinized and questioned.

And … I was loving it!

That’s right, this was no high school auditorium public-speaking nightmare – this was a dream come true. Let me explain by taking you back to the beginning.

My adventure started a little over a month ago – my blogging adventure that is. Up until then, I’d never blogged, never tweeted, never created a widget or activated a plug-in. In fact, I was missing the tech gene, so I shied away from the idea of blogging altogether. But, as those things calling us often do, blogging kept popping back into my mind!

I was a writer, I was learning about life, gathering information, ideas and inspiration. I had momentum. In fact, the word “momentum” was resonating very deeply in me. I was reading all sorts of blogs, following links wherever they took me, and subscribing to the one’s I loved. The problem was, I wasn’t really a part of the dialogue. My teenage daughter told me I was just a stalker.

Then, a fateful day arrived. I followed a link from one of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits, to another blog called Write to Done (yes, this very one!) and stumbled upon yet another link to A-List Blogging Bootcamps. I didn’t know it at the time, but this moment and this link were about to change my life, almost overnight. I was about to go from stalking to streaking.

But I’ll get to the streaking part in a minute.

First, I took a leap. I joined the A-List Blogger Club and dove into Bootcamp 1 “How to Create A Blog that Rocks”, and then dug into Bootcamp 2 “How to Skyrocket Your Subscriber Count”. Since that time, I’ve set up my own blog, met some amazing people in the A-List Blogger Club, been mentored and guided by A-List Blogging stars Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch, and I’ve been writing, writing, writing. MomentumGathering.com was born! Then, my big break came, or so I thought!

Okay, this is the “getting naked” part of my adventure!

Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen asked me to write a guest post for her wonderfully inspiring blog. I was thrilled. This would be my debut, my first guest post! I accepted gleefully! That’s when she revealed the catch. I was to pitch my idea and I was to submit my post, not just to her, but to the entire forum of bloggers in the A-List Blogger Club. She called it the “Anatomy of a Guest Post” and saw it as a great training exercise for everyone. Great? I was going to run around naked in front of my peers. I was going to expose my weaknesses, my inexperience, my ignorance, my writing!

Great?

Yes, it was great! My forum friends were supportive and enthusiastic. They cheered me on and when the post, Ready, Zen, Go! was accepted and published on Mary’s site, I knew that I had just streaked my way into my calling. I felt passionate about what I was writing and, more importantly, why I was writing. None of the nudity required to get there mattered. A tribe had my back.

Leo and Mary have created this tribe out of who they are. And it truly reflects how they choose to live and blog. They are our teachers, leading this tribe, naked into the woods, so we’ll all come out with the necessary survival skills to make a success of our lives and our blogs.

So, I say, when you have a dream, find a tribe, get naked and expose your heart and soul. Take it from this naked blogger. You’ve got nothing to lose or fear, when someone’s got your back.

Katie Tallo is a writer, director, motivator, runner, vegetarian and mother who writes a blog that encourages steady, positive actions for sustaining joyful and vibrant life change, Momentum Gathering.

Are You a Spiritual Pioneer?

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We all have the opportunity to be spiritual pioneers in some way. When you put relationships before results, live with integrity, and care about how your actions affect the greater community, you too add spiritual value to the world. ~ Cheryl Richardson

Whether you blog to express yourself, to share information, make money or entertain, it makes sense to do it with honour and integrity. How can you check in with your integrity-ometer to see if that’s what you’re doing? Read more »

Five Tips (and a Bonus!) on How to Write a Fantastic About Page

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By James Chartrand of Men with Pens

If you’re going to put your words on public display, it’s your job to make that content compelling, intriguing, entertaining or informative. If it’s boring… well. Suffice it to say that very few readers are going to be interested.

That’s why your About page has to be just as good as every other piece of content on your site. A well written About page is an extra more tool in your arsenal. It can help you engage readers, encourage sales, enhance trust and increase respect.

Here are some tips on how to write a great About page that pleases everyone:

Know What You Want

Your About page needs to help you accomplish a goal. It’s not there to look pretty; it’s there to work for you. What you need your About page to do depends entirely on what you want to achieve with your site. Do you want more sales? More readers? More clients? Gear your content towards your goal and make your About page work hard for you.

For example, if you want more readers, then write in a way that engages people and develops a bond. Get personal. Tell a story. If you want more sales, then your About page becomes an extra place to pitch the benefits of buying or how your product helps customers get what they want. If you want more clients, then use your About page to convey what you’re like to work with and why you’re different from the competition.

Consistently Stylish

There are some rocking blogs out there, and there are great sites full of entertaining info. But sometimes, you click the About page of one of these sites, and you’re jarred from that greatness thanks to content as dry as breadcrumbs. Be consistent with the voice and style you use throughout your site, and reflect the same personality on your About page.

Don’t switch from sassy blog posts to overly stiff professional credentials. Don’t go from casual class to raving wild child. Don’t switch from swearing like a sailor to top manners and queenly etiquette. And if your crumbly-dry About page is consistent with the rest of your site’s style? Then you need a major content style overhaul, my friend.

Put Yourself Out There

Welcome to Generation X and Y, where millions of people crave personality, transparency and honesty. Gone are the days of About pages listing the year of company founding and boring credentials. Now people want to see who you are, how you came to be here and what your favorite color might be.

That doesn’t mean you should use your About page to tell your life story, reveal your deepest, darkest secrets or go on about unrelated traumatic events. Keep the content relevant and concise. Just add a personal touch and give people a taste of who you are. List a bit of ‘you’ trivia. Talk about how you got started. Show a little of the face behind the online mask.

Don’t Forget the Credentials

While About pages should tell an honest, interesting story, they should also still have those credentials in there. Mention your experience, your education or your skills – just do it with style. Note how long you’ve been in business (if it’s been a while), and indicate any accomplishments that make you stand out. You can also list associations you’re involved in, distinguishing factors, or organizations you support. Do you do volunteer work or donate funds? List that too, because it helps show people what you stand for.

Don’t have any credentials? Just getting started? That’s okay; we all start somewhere. In this case, mention how you learned your craft and why you became involved in this line of work. You don’t have to say when that was, but you do have some backup that makes you a credible provider, authority or business.

Tell a Good Story

Everyone likes to hear a story, and every single person in this world has a story to tell. A bland description isn’t going to interest people, but a story hooks them in every single time. That doesn’t mean listing your bio from birth to now. A long About page that isn’t relevant or that gives too much information isn’t a good read. Stay sharp and concise, with a hook intro, a nice build up, a climax and a wrap.

People like to know the story of what brought you here and how you became interested in what you do. One of the most frequently asked questions I hear is, “How’d you get started in writing?” You could start with something like, “Looking up at the sun one day, it struck me that there was something better than the damp dirt of the cow field I sat in.” That’s a story right there, and it gets people interested in knowing more.

So What Is Your Story?

By now, you’re thinking, “Well, then, what do I write? I don’t have a great story and I can’t write my full history… what’s left?” You. That’s what’s left. What kind of person are you? What makes you the star you are? Why do you do what you do? What makes you special? What makes you interesting? What makes you a good person to work with, or to buy from, or to listen to?

Your turn: What do you like to see on an About page? More importantly, what’s on yours?

About the author: James Chartrand’s mission is to help writers and freelancers get out of the cow fields and get into earning a decent living online. Get more great freelance writer tips at his site, Men with Pens

Photo by Daniel H. Agostini aka dhammza