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Process of Becoming a Guru

A recent article posted on the website Open Forum, an American Express site focused on small business issues ( ), there was an article addressing tips and techniques to becoming a known expert or industry authority.  The article was written by James Clear, the Founder of Passive Panda, a consulting firm addressing business strategy and entrepreneurial issues (  

The article lays out three key aspects of achieving prominence in an industry as a thought leader in an effort to transition from being a non-entity in the eyes and minds of prospects and customers to a pre-eminent source of insight and leadership:

  1. Content expertise
  2. Process of Promotion vs. Results 
  3. Consistency

Being a guru is more than just pontificating.


Experts are people who are conversant in the current practices, problems, hindrances, obstacles, and most importantly; opportunities within the industry, function, or topic area.  That expertise usually goes beyond surface knowledge and may be built upon academic preparation, business experience, or the ability to see common issues with a different perspective. 

It is the rare exception for an expert to not also have exposure and experience that can only be developed over numerous exposures and opportunities to study or attempt to address the issues in corporate/business environments.  In short, an expert can’t “bluff” for too long.  There has to be a clear determination that the expert really does know what s/he is talking about and has either “done it” or has collected insights from having observed or spoken with many others have done it (and learned from their failures and successes).

2. The Process of Promotion vs. Results

The author claims that experts or those that wish to be seen as experts should be focused on the process of promotion, networking, and PR.  So much so, that the pursuit of results is secondary to the effort put into the process.  I have an issue with this perspective.  While I understand that not every opportunity leads to immediate results, and not every effort has a direct link to performance; to chase “fame” (having one’s name “out there”) rather than targeted familiarity with the right audience (clients, prospects, or the people the person is trying to attract) seems like a wasteful pursuit.

Where the author prefers to have “wanna’ be experts” doing the following:

“…out on the streets, pounding the pavement, and networking like crazy”

I am more inclined to choose the opportunities to speak, write, network, and interact with those that can really impact the future of my business opportunities.  To be focused on taking every opportunity to spread the word is off-strategy, expensive, and not likely to have the same results as a more planned and well-thought out approach.

I do, however, agree with Mr. Clear when he reminds the reader:

“It’s important to distinguish this as a process because it is on-going. Marketing and promoting your business is something that always needs to be done, not something that gets done.”

When you focus on the process of promotion, the result of becoming an authority is simply a natural extension.

3. Authorities are consistent

We have all been exposed to musical one hit wonders who have a single song that becomes very popular, but are unable to follow up that song with others that ever are heard.  Similarly, experts can also have their “moment in the sun” – but are soon forgotten if they do not also have additional hints, techniques, insights, etc.  A true expert is able to continue to add value over time, as needs change, and situations require different responses. 

 They also become identified with a process, line of thinking, or approach.  They rarely “flip-flop” and change their thinking to suit fad or fashion.  Rather than curry favor with what is popular, the expert relies on experience, insights, and data and not just contemporary thinking.  Their enthusiasm and energy for their approach is unwavering, but it is not sufficient by itself to warrant their being viewed as experts.  It requires the hard work of preparation, knowledge, and experience of having wrestled with the issue over time.

They may evolve and migrate their thinking over time; but it is through hard work and dedication to improvement and not simply to “play to the crowd.”  Not every thought of theirs will resonate.  Some may not gain traction at all.  However, they will continue to work hard to perfect their expertise to ensure that they do not become irrelevant or little else besides “yesterday’s news.”

The ability to be a “star” or an expert in an industry clearly means you have to have something to say, but it also means you have to say it to the right audience, and continue to tweak it over time to meet new opportunities or needs.

David Zahn