10,000 Divided by X Equals 4 Hour Credibility
In contrast, Tim Ferris shows how one can create the appearance of expertise in a mere four weeks, and thereafter enjoy the four hour work week.
- Join 2 or 3 related trade organizations
- Read 3 top selling books on your topic
- Give one free 3 hour seminar at the closest well-known university
- Give 2 free seminars at branches of two well-known big companies such as AT&T or IBM
- Offer to write 1 or 2 articles for trade organizations
- Join a service that journalists use to find experts to quote for articles
At the Philly Law Blog, Jordan Rushie has been struggling with this very question.
Nevertheless, Rachel became a "4 hour expert" in starting virtual law offices by generating publicity for herself, and then using that publicity to manufacture expertise in starting VLOs. Now she sells the same "4 Hour" model to other people, which you can do with just about any area of law. But is the 4 Hour method really worth anything to a law practice in the long run...?
Jordan's envy grew out of an online article by Rachel Rodgers in Forbes. He found it astounding that a legitimate media outlet like Forbes would publish something so utterly vapid and worthless. There was a sense of blame directed at Rodgers, but it was misguided. Don't blame Rachel Rodgers for effectively executing a scheme to circumvent competence.
Sure, she can be blamed, as a new lawyer, for ignoring the ethical implications of her proposition, but then, young lawyers of the view that the internet is an ethics free zone, or that ethics are archaic, or perhaps ethics are a weapon used by old lawyers to keep young lawyers in their place, her philosophical distaste for ethics can explain it away.
It would be far more worthwhile to ponder the question of why any legitimate source of information would be party to a scheme like this. After all Tim Ferris' bullet points can't be accomplished without the complicity of others who, by inviting, allowing or acquiescing in the scheme, make it work.
One can't give a seminar, free or otherwise, at a well-known university unless the university allows it. The kicker is that it's free, and free is always a tempting price. At the same time, universities tend to have a relationship to knowledge and education, some even scholarship, and one would expect the university not to allow someone to speak on campus who lacks the ability to make people smarter. In fact, one would expect a university to say "absolutely not" to someone who is so lacking in substance as to have the potential to make people stupider.
And yet, having kept an eye on people who speak at universities, including their law school, I find that isn't the case.
Then there are the "well-known big companies such as AT&T or IBM." One would expect that they would be a bit more critical of the competence of those allowed to give seminars. But again, my eagle eye has taken note of some well-known law firms who have welcomed self-proclaimed social media experts with open arms.
Trade organizations are always looking for free articles for their publications, depending as they do on the kindness of strangers and, since their members are busy working, often lacking sufficient fodder to fill their next issue. And when it comes to journalists, they couldn't care less who they get a quote from, as long as it's pithy and brief. It's just the lunch meat in their journalistic sandwich.
What all this relates to is credibility. There are three types: attained, ascribed and attributed. One attains credibility by one's efforts and deeds, which is the sort of expertise Gladwell writes about. This is credibility that is earned through hard work and accomplishment.
Attributed credibility is the sort that someone else gives you, such as when a reporter tells a story in which you are described as an expert. Whether or not you are, in fact, an expert is of no moment; the mere fact that someone calls you an expert means that whatever you have to say is experty.
Ascribed credibility is the cred one gives oneself. It is by far the weakest of the three kinds of credibility, and thoughtful people realize that it's just as likely to be a product of delusion or deceit as a reflection of merit. Tim Ferris recognized this, which is why his scheme relies on attributed credibility from otherwise credible institutions.
Is it fair of Jordan to question Rodgers' effective use of this scheme to manufacture credibility? Of course it is. The scheme diminishes the value of effort, of achievement, of the attainment of expertise, by substituting the feigned appearance for the substance of expertise.
But the scheme cannot work without two things happening. First, sources perceived as credible allow the incredible to bask in their reflected credibility. And second, the rest of us fail to subject claims of credibility to the barest scrutiny. They allow it. We accept it.
While this not only fails to establish young lawyers and adherents of the number 4 as credible in fact, but impugns them for having seized upon a scheme that is deceptive at its core, there remain many who can't be bothered giving any of this enough thought to question it. And for those who recognize the fallacy of manufactured credibility, but refuse to speak out against it, they too are party to the scheme.
On the other hand, achieving real expertise is not only hard, but takes a very long time. Far too long for those who demand your immediate adoration. Just do the math.