Ideas and stories from my growth journey. Warning: If you are interested in a casual, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.

The Crucial Difference Between Expert and Expert Beginner

We’ve all encountered a hardheaded, stubborn know-it-all. This kind of boss or neighbor is a stereotype, it’s so common. Especially as kids, we all promised each other we would never end up like that cranky adult (insert your childhood example here). But I realized as I became an adult that attitude is actually the default destination.

stubborn man

As a child my natural state was not knowing—needing to learn. Just in case I wasn’t sure, grown ups constantly reminded me. But as I grew and learned, I earned respect. Eventually, people paid me for my knowledge—even gave me awards. And I remember the day, years ago, when I put down a cool looking book on leadership, thinking to myself, I know this stuff already. But a few months later a friend of mine told me what they learned form the book and I realized the price of my arrogance.

In his classic book, The Discoverers, Daniel Boorstin says the primary barrier to progress is the illusion of knowledge and a dedication to expertise (or at least the appearance of it). Tweet This The best discoverers, Boorstin asserts, are not the smartest or most talented, but those who either have the discipline to remain “expert beginners” in their field.

And I’ve found the more I learn, the harder I have to work to keep learning. Tweet This Our tendency is to rest in our knowledge. The posture of a learner must be chosen.

As a parent, you can decided you already know your child. But today, when they tell you stories and show off their scribbling, what if you choose to discover who they are as if they are new to you? How would that change the way you interact?

As a leader, do you already know the best way to solve your team’s problem or your team’s vision? Or will you choose to open yourself up to learning new methods or even choosing a new path? Are you finished learning? Or can you humble yourself and walk today with open eyes and a curious heart? Are you an expert or an expert beginner? What posture do you choose today?

photo credit: Stubborn. via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakThe Crucial Difference Between Expert and Expert Beginner

How to Make Memories of Moments

A good friend of mine, Lori, went back to college and just recently graduated. She planned to skip the graduation. After all, as an adult with a husband and two kids wouldn’t it just be selfish to make them do all that—and it’s just a formality, right? But at the last minute, she realized getting her diploma in the mail dishonored the significance of this accomplishment in her life. She also talked about the chance to reinforce important messages to her kids about never quitting and dreaming big. So they’re traveling a few hours to the university campus, staying in a bed and breakfast, and making a full day of the graduation experience. Lori decided to engage in ceremony to enrich her and her family’s life.


In my last post, I shared how I also learned to appreciate the influence potential of ceremonies. Read that if you’re not convinced. This post is for my friend, and everyone like her, wanting to know how to enhance the ceremonies of our lives.

Create a Special Place: The most typical example is a stage, or even just forming a circle of people. But you could also go to a special location, like engagement proposals on the mountaintops and beaches, or leaders going offsite for the retreat or award ceremony. Where you do an activity can make the difference between mundane and memorable. Tweet This

Idea for Lori: in addition to the graduation ceremony, plan a special meal for the family to have their own ceremony.

Tell The Story: Whatever you are honoring has a story—and humans remember stories. Here are some tips for telling the story. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Share…

  • the previous situation, especially the challenge or problem in it
  • the choice made by those being honored
  • the price paid (effort, struggle, etc)
  • the result now

Idea for Lori: Over dinner, have your husband tell this story to commemorate what you’ve done and reinforce these lessons with your kids

Gift a special object: From biblical times to modern university, people have used special objects to help a ceremony live on in our memories. From stacking twelve stones to diplomas to an employees picture on the wall, something tangible extends the value of a ceremony into the rest of our lives.

Idea for Lori: Lori will get a diploma from the school. But her husband and kids (hint, hint) could get her something special to give to her during the dinner. 

Close with a special statement: Weddings close with, “I now pronounce you…” Presidential Inaugurations close with a formal oath. If you create something special you can say at the end, something that connects with the message of the ceremony, it will take the entire moment to the next level.

Idea for Lori: Close the special meal with the family making a promise to each other or praying a special prayer together.

This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, I’d love to hear more ideas from you on how to make ceremonies more meaningful and memorable. But hopefully this will get you started as you evaluate and enhance the ceremonies in your life.

photo credit: 1H7A3212 via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakHow to Make Memories of Moments

Why Bother With Ceremonies?

My childhood included institutions rich with ceremonies, from high church liturgy to high class educational institutions to high brow theater. And I decided I didn’t like ceremonies. My energy level certainly didn’t help me sit through formal events (ADD would be putting it mildly). So when I was a new leader I tried to engage in as little ceremony as possible, proud of my enlightened, humble posture. And my leadership suffered for it.

As I led and learned in a variety of settings I realized that it wasn’t ceremonies I disliked, it was empty ceremonies. The intensity of the ceremony should match the importance of what is honored. Tweet This When someone drones on and on about a routine event, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. But when something truly significant goes down, a serious ceremony is not just helpful, it’s needed. Weddings and funerals would be cheapened without a full ceremony.

Ceremonies are an attempt to highlight something as worthy of special attention. And strategically planning for these moments can enhance almost every area of our lives. For example, my parents added a ceremony to the birthday parties of my childhood (though we didn’t call it a ceremony). Typically around present opening time (a common ceremonial event at birthday parties) all the guests were asked to share what they liked about the birthday boy or girl. We took turns speaking as the rest of the room listened. They could have just asked everyone to share something in private during the party. But having the entire room sit and listen as others shared, one by one, made it a much more special moment. And then my father always closed that “ceremony” by praying a blessing over the birthday child, laying hands on top of their head. That was anything but an empty ritual for me and my siblings.

It’s common for leaders to reward a team that has hit a big goal with a “share in private” approach. But spending five minutes to gather the rest of the staff and conduct a small ceremony would honor that team and inspire the rest of the organization.

proposal surprise

Romance is in large part built through ceremonies. Getting down on one knee and opening a ring box transforms a simple question into a major moment. If you’re looking to heat up a relationship, consider increasing the intensity and frequency of your ceremonies together—putting on special clothes, going to special places, and saying special things.

What is most important to you? What would you like to draw special attention to? Does the intensity of your ceremonies match the importance of that area in your life? If not, look for ways to create lasting memories and strong values through more and better ceremonies.

This post is an answer to a discussion question in the book, How to Fail as a Leader. For more info about that book, go to

photo credit: Surprise proposal via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakWhy Bother With Ceremonies?