When I evaluate an individual’s skill level, I find that they fall into one of three categories: a tourist, amateur or expert. Like many things in life, it may be tempting to want to be an expert in everything, but each of these are vastly different and it is important to know not only which one you are, but which one you want to be.

Let’s start at the top with experts. These people are easily identifiable as the ones who are excellent at what they do. What you do not see is what it took to become an expert. These individuals have not only engaged themselves in their field of interest, but they dive in and own it. They are willing to invest the time, the energy and take on the tough challenges. They typically do lots of research, continually seek out opportunities to learn, and find avenues to practice their craft so they can fine-tune their skills. What this results in is an evolution of these individuals over time to becoming recognized as an expert.

Now let’s look at a tourist. These individuals are also easy to identify because they are like window shoppers who stop to look and admire what they see but rarely buy anything. They may be sparked by an interest in something or have admiration for skills that others are demonstrating. I want to make a point that being a tourist is not a bad thing, as a matter of fact it’s a great thing, otherwise many of us would abandon our current lives and would instead be attempting to become an Olympic or Professional athlete. Everything is not for everyone, but being able to admire the skills of those you come in contact with is a fundamental part of life.

The last type of individual is an amateur, and this person has gone beyond simply a tourist’s interest and is willing to wade in the water, but not swim. They are not willing to fully engage, however their interest is enough that it prompts them to read a book, take a class or attend a lecture. This is also a great place for many of us who want to be good at something, but are not looking to be an expert. Being an amateur allows you to have a wide variety of interests and knowledge.

The confusion comes when an amateur mistakenly considers themselves to be an expert. After taking a class or reading a book, some may want to be considered an expert. The difference is, however, an expert is actually practicing and fine tuning their craft. You need to be wary of those who think they can buy their way to the expert level with books, etc. This is a great start, nonetheless becoming an expert takes time and effort and only those who are willing to invest and fully engage themselves into their field of interest will be able to make the leap and evolve from being an amateur to an expert.

Remember, we don’t all need to be experts at everything. What is important is knowing where you currently are, where you ultimately want to be, and finally how much you are willing to invest to achieve your goals.