LeBron James is one of the best basketball players of all time; some make the credible case that he is the very best. The GOAT; the Greatest Of All Time.
Rand Paul is a US Senator and physician. As an ophthalmologist, Dr. Paul established his own clinic in 2007. Now in his second term as a Senator, many look to him as a leader in Libertarian and general political thought.
Both are beyond expert in their fields. When I want expert advice, I go to an expert.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
I enjoy having talks about this and that with friends and acquaintances. When I am in conversation with my friend who is an expert about all things Porsche, I listen very carefully, ready to implement any of his advice and thoughts that apply to my current driving needs. And I will file everything else away for future use. He has made a successful career knowing about Porsches, being an instructor at their main driving school, and learning the ins and outs, including the tech specs and the useful upgrades on all years and models. When I listen to the same friend hold forth on politics, I am happy to hear his thoughts, but now I am listening more for entertainment than to learn from an expert.
Pause for a key truth. Subjects like politics and finance are complex, demanding in-depth study and application over the years in order for anyone to be considered knowledgeable. To go further and be seen as an expert, one would need to have demonstrated knowledge and success over time, separating oneself from the crowd with superior logic and demonstrable successes. I have experienced this throughout my decades in business. The very same people who would not jump into the nitty gritty of technical or financial issues, loved to pounce on sales and marketing issues as if they actually knew what they were talking about. They did not recognize that sales and marketing successes were just as grounded in specialized education, training and experience as were technical and financial successes.
Okay, Will, aren’t you about to say that we should not listen to LeBron James when he talks about politics? It is fine to listen to Mr. James when he talks about political issues, and we need to remember that we are listening to his feelings and personal opinions. Both are real and valid, and should be respected. Just as we might want listen to Mr. Paul if he decided to hold forth on the future of man-to-man defenses in the NBA. It might be fun, but we would be well advised to remember that we are not listening to an expert; we are listening to a non-expert’s feelings and personal opinions.
Let’s try another example. If your doctor tells you that you need to add supplemental vitamin D to your diet, you know that you are getting good advice from an expert who has the correct facts in hand, and the knowledge required to apply those facts in your life to your advantage. If the same doctor was holding forth on, say, cars or politics, without establishing solid credentials in either field, you might enjoy the conversation, but not take the advice to heart in the same way as her thoughts on your health.
Today’s Key Point. If we are following the advice of experts in one field when they hold forth on other subjects, we make four key mistakes:
- We are incorrectly imputing their known expertise in their profession to other areas where they are making their feelings and personal opinions known.
- We make the silly assumption that because they are famous due to their success in one field, they know what they are talking about in areas that did not have anything to do with making them well known.
- We dismiss the outside-of-their-expertise subject as not needing in-depth study and experience for the speaker to be taken seriously.
- We confuse feelings and personal opinions with in-depth expertise and successes in the field in question.
Both James and Paul appear to be good guys, and solid citizens. LeBron, 35, married his school sweetheart, Savannah Brinson. Rand, 57, married Kelley Ashby in 1990. Both have three children. I’d be happy to call either man my friend. Both men are making solid contributions to their families, communities and the nation.
Mr. James is well known for being vocal on political issues, especially black-related social justice issues. I believe that he is convinced that his activism is well-founded and necessary. But he has not done his homework. For example, he continues to sell the “Hands up, don’t shoot.” lie that came out of the Michael Brown killing. The myth is that Mr. Brown, who was black, was killed by a white cop while his hands were in the air saying “Don’t shoot.” The truth is that Brown, after physically confronting the officer and trying to take his weapon away from him by force, was advancing toward the cop, hands at the ready. The officer was cleared of all charges, including by Eric Holder’s DOJ.
Mr. Paul is also active with social justice issues, but since he is a Republican, that is not always appreciated. The Senator and his wife were leaving the recent Republican Convention when they were accosted by an angry, physical mini-mob. The mob was demanding that the Pauls recognize and, well, pay for the Breonna Taylor no-knock warrant killing. Let’s hear Kelley Paul’s description. “Thursday night felt like being in a terrifying dystopian novel. The mob swarmed me and my husband, Sen. Rand Paul, in a tight circle, screaming expletives, threats, and shouting, ‘Say her (Breonna Taylor) name.’ We rushed up to two police officers, and I believe that is the only thing that kept us from being knocked to the ground. Even pressed against the officers, we were greatly outnumbered. As the mob grew and became more threatening, we literally could not move, and neither could the two officers for several minutes. The rioters were inches from us, screaming in our faces.”
The mob had no clue that Senator Paul had authored the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, an Act that would prohibit no-knock warrants. And if they had a clue, they would not have cared. They want to scream, curse and intimidate, facts be damned. Let’s hear from Kelley Paul again. “That was the worst part. At first I attempted to meet the eyes of one of the protesters and tried to explain that Rand authored the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, but it seemed to just infuriate them more, as they called me a ‘bitch’ and ‘racist wh—’ alongside an endless torrent of ‘f— yous.’”
Let’s recognize and honor experts by listening and learning when they are commenting about subjects where they have proven their expertise and excellence. We don’t have to think and do everything they tell us to think and do, anymore than we have to do everything our doctors tell us to do. But we should at least recognize that we are listening to professionals. And when we are listening to amateurs, we can honor their feelings and personal opinions, but we need to remind ourselves that we are listening to amateurs, with opinions no more valid than that of the mailman, or our favorite bartender.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.