GMC News


Definition of the word of the week (EXPERTISE): Skillfulness by virtue of possessing special knowledge

Long ago, the words expertise and experience were synonymous. The ancients recognized that one needed experience in order to gain expertise or to become an expert in a certain field. Those with expertise tend to be highly motivated learners and fully apply themselves to learning the field that most interests them, whether it is computer programming, studying the humanities, or whatever.

Back in the day, the area in which I felt I had truly achieved a certain level of expertise was war planning. Referring to professional wrestling, we jokingly referred to war planning as a “country takedown.” It reminded me of the old spy-versus-spy cartoons in Mad Magazine. Each spy tried to outwit the other only to find that the opposing spy was thinking ahead as well. But, we had studied our opponents so thoroughly that we could anticipate their decisions and, by doing so, we were able to keep the initiative and have them react to us instead of us reacting to them.

As we all start out in life, we each have two bags at our disposal—one empty and one full. The experience bag is empty but the luck bag helps get us through. Whenever we survive an experience, we put an imaginary token in the experience bag. For example, if you go camping without a flashlight and end up stumbling in the dark, you will probably remember to pack it next time. Some may say that I was just lucky, but I recognize that it is only by the grace of God that I have survived some experiences that hindsight showed were not well thought out.

There is an old saying that it is better to be lucky than good but the problem with that thought is that, sooner or later, luck will run out. However, your experiences will stay with you for a lifetime. So, one question that we should all ask ourselves is, “How does one obtain expertise as a human being?” Despite the accolades, fame, fortune, or status that one may achieve, if we are deficient as a human being, then we have missed the mark.

So, contemplate your life and think about how it is going. What quality holds you back from being a better person? Once you identify it, practice it until it is a habit and you become an expert in that virtue. As you develop expertise in your chosen virtue, do your best to fill your “experience bag” before your “luck bag” runs dry.

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. Denis Waitley, Peak performance expert

You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert. Denis Waitley, Peak performance expert

There is no true expertise in the humanities without knowing all of the humanities. Art is a vast, ancient interconnected web-work, a fabricated tradition. Over-concentration on any one point is a distortion. Camille Paglia, Educator

…how he got his expertise. By studying the masters and not their pupils. Niels Abel, Mathematician

COL Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone at 478-445-2710 or by email at