Becoming a minor expert

Maybe you’ve memorized all of the U.S. presidents since George Washington. Or you can instantly recognize any type of flower and remember it by name. Whatever the subject, being a “minor expert” can be really gratifying and a lot of fun.

What’s a minor expert?

I first heard of the term a few years ago on an episode of the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. As a minor expert, you don’t know everything about a subject, but you know more than the average person. And it seems that whenever you dig in deeper to any subject or pursuit that you’re interested in, you want to continue to learn more.

The key to identifying an area where you can be a minor expert is that you genuinely LIKE the subject and are curious about it. Otherwise, it’s just no fun. There should be no forcing yourself to learn about the Civil War if it bores you, or trying to learn about trendy whisky cocktails if you prefer gin. But if you follow your natural interests wherever they lead, you really can’t go wrong.

A trick to help you on your way

One trick I’ve found to easily absorb chunks of information associated with minor expertise is to keep the information out in plain sight, where you can interact with it on a daily basis. It’s a trick that teachers use all the time. My third grade teacher listed all of the helping verbs (there are 22, in case you’re even remotely interested) on a chalkboard and left it up all year. Every time I was bored or my mind wandered, I’d look over at that chalkboard and those verbs. Eventually, I could recite them from memory. And I still can! In high school, I’d stare at a banner that snaked around my math classroom with the first 20 or so digits of pi, and after a while, I could remember way more of that number than any mass communications major would EVER need to know.

Holy crap Jenna these are SUPER nerdy examples. Get it together.¬†The point is, even random, not-so-interesting stuff sticks if you’re exposed to it enough.

If you prefer your inputs to be audio-based (and not as nerdy), you could replay a song or a podcast or a recitation of a poem. They key is repetition and familiarity.¬†Personally, I’d like to learn how to tie some fancy knots, so I think I’ll dive into this website and print some photos to keep by my desk!


Whatever your topic, becoming a minor expert can help you meet new people, discover new interests and increase your confidence in your abilities. Because the goal of becoming a minor expert is not just the knowledge itself, but, as Gretchen Rubin asks, “where will it lead?”

Are you a minor expert in something, or do you want to be? I’d love to hear!

– Jenna

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