Rock the Boat to Get Results

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: March 21, 2013

Have you noticed that everyone seems to be an expert these days? Some are self-proclaimed, with their own oversized picture on the wall, and others have a trail of abbreviations after their name. Either way, these people have figured out one thing: Experts are in demand. In almost any profession, being seen as an expert can open doors, increase influence and close deals. This is why I think you should be an expert, too.

The challenge is more people than ever are proclaiming they’re experts. Just read most people’s LinkedIn profiles. So how do you make a name for yourself in a way people trust and respect, and inspire them to seek you out for advice?

In a previous column I shared a few secrets to becoming a sought-after expert. My unorthodox approach must have struck a chord because it was the most read column that month on With that kind of response, I want to go deeper to share with you more ways you can grow and solidify that you’re the real deal. This column is the kickoff to two more in which we look at different ways to become the expert you were meant to be.

Real experts earn respect.

Nothing proves expertise like results. However, there are ways to prove you’re the real deal when generating direct results may not be possible. The best way I’ve found is to rock the boat and then get on board. This means:

1. Rock the boat. Take a position on a problem, challenge or topic that separates you from other experts or generally accepted thinking. For me, becoming The Gen Y Guy was personal. I felt other “experts” were not accurately portraying or explaining my generation as employees, customers and human beings. (Not all of us live with our moms! Mine lives one block away.) By taking a different position on Gen Y and millennials—my own generation—I got the attention of national media, major book publishers and Fortune 100 companies. Even if they don’t agree with me, they want to hear what I have to say because I bring an emotional firsthand connection and frontline data.

2. Get on board. The more visibility you get for your expert position, the more relationships you’ll create. These relationships will result in offers for you to serve on an advisory board of some kind. And if that doesn’t happen, ask for the opportunity. Serving on advisory boards allows you to share ideas, influence conversations and meet key players. All of these reinforce and increase your perceived expertise. The best part is you don’t have to serve on a board specific to your profession; any board that overlaps can be a great start, such as your chamber of commerce.

I saw the power of serving on boards last year. A good friend is a real estate broker in a hyper-competitive market. He’s much younger than his competitors and doesn’t have a huge advertising budget. But he is passionate about a specific part of his city’s downtown area. Rather than say he is an expert—something all his competitors do—he got involved in the heavy-hitter organizations that influence major decisions about the downtown area. Last year he served on the boards of directors of all three major organizations, the first person ever to do so. His business has grown dramatically as a result, because now people in the community know he’s the expert. He doesn’t just report on where the community is heading; he influences it.

That can be you. Rock the boat. Get on board. Be the expert. Then let them buy you lunch.