The Direct Path to Becoming an Expert

Updated: April 18, 2012

Dolly Garland

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This is a guest post by Dolly Garland of Kaizen Journaling.

A while ago, Expert Enough did a post titled Do Shortcuts Exist to Becoming an Expert?. There were a lot of insightful answers from super successful people, but it was one comment that influenced this post today.

Seth Godin said,

There aren't shortcuts. Merely direct paths.
It resonated with me because for the last twleve years, I have been experimenting with my direct path to expertise. The journey has been filled with detours, but by keeping a consistent method, the path is slowly getting straighter.

This method is journaling.

What is a Journal?

According to,
a journal is a daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations.
But to use it as your personalised guide to finding your direct path, you need to do the above and take it further.

How to Turn Your Journal into a Direct Path to Expertise

Start with what you love.

Answer the below questions at regular intervals to make sure what you love is in alignment with the person you are.

  • If money was no object, time was no object, and there was nothing and no one holding you back, what would you do with your life?
  • What makes you feel alive and enthusiastic and fired up?
  • Can you imagine doing something every day of your life?
  • What do you love to talk about?
Answer in various ways. Make a list. Draw a mindmap. Doodle. Create a flow chart. If you are more artistically inclined, draw images. Create wordles. Let your creativity flow and instinct take over.

How do you spend your life?

For an entire week, record your average day in minute detail. (Don't do this when you are on vacation. To be effective, it must capture what the majority of your days are like). It doesn't matter if it sounds boring. Force yourself to do it for just one week. This is about being mindful of your every waking moment. Record everything, including:
  • What time did you wake up?
  • What did you have for breakfast?
  • When did you go to work?
  • What did you accomplish throughout the day?
  • How did you interact with your colleagues?
  • Did someone make you smile?
  • Did you help someone?
  • Places you went to
  • People you spoke to
  • How do you feel about those people?
  • Frustrations
  • Strangers you met
To make the efficient use of time during your week:
  • Always keep your journal with you (or smartphone if you are using an electronic app)
  • Write in fragments or lists
  • Don't worry about spelling and grammar
  • Make use of lull time such as commute to work, waiting in lines, lunch break
  • Do it throughout the day, as and when events happen, so it will only take a couple of minutes and you won't have a daunting feeling of having to write an essay at the end of the day

List your goals

You can do it in as much detail as you like. Are you in a habit of making long list of goals? Then, do that. You can do:
  • Daily goals
  • Weekly goals
  • Monthly goals
  • Yearly goals
  • Life goals - this is the most important step. Don't skip your life  goals. If you don't want to get into detail level, that's okay. Just make a list of your life goals. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to be remembered by? Don't censor yourself. Be honest.

Make sure your goals are aligned

  • Analyze the week you recorded. The way you are spending your days is the way you are spending your life. Is that in alignment with what you love, or what you want long term? Those seven days represent your current life. Unless you change something, they also represent your future life. Are you happy with that?
  • Are your goals, as you wrote them above, in alignment with what you love?
  • Do any of your goals overlap with things that you are enthusiastic about? Things that get you fired up?
If they are, congratulations. If they aren't, you might be focusing on the wrong things. Take a look at your goals, take a look at things you love, and spend some quality you-time to get your priorities straight. Once you have goals that are in alignment with what you love...

Start With Why

Why do you want this? Just loving, wanting, or being attracted to it is not enough. It is your why that will sustain you on the road to expertise. It is your why that will keep you true to the core of your personality. It is your why that will energize you when the going gets tough.

Once you have your why, and the goals that are in alignment with your why and what you love, then you will be on your direct path.


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