Everyone’s an expert — just listen and they’ll tell you. The thing about anyone in a position of authority is that, out of self preservation and general marketing sense, they tend to focus on their big wins to demonstrate why people should listen to them. But this presentation lacks context. Nobody wakes up one day and knows everything, and even if they did their advice would be less valuable because they didn’t earn it, and so they didn’t own it. It’s their mistakes and missteps, the very things most are reluctant to talk about, that make the difference.

James Altucher touched on this concept in one of his recent newsletter pieces. He asked, “Who would you rather take dating advice from, me or Brad Pitt?” He acknowledged that at first glance most would choose Brad Pitt, because after all clearly he would have no trouble getting dates. But, as James pointed out, that’s exactly why he probably wouldn’t have very good advice. His celebrity status (and having been named one of the sexiest men alive in various magazines) does a lot of the heavy lifting for him, so he doesn’t face the same challenges that the average guy would.

Everywhere Brad Pitt goes people know who he is, so he’s rarely the anonymous guy in a bar that has to impress a girl with a good ice breaker and carry that conversation into something meaningful. On the flip side, someone who’s been rejected a hundred times but has eventually succeeded can tell you all about the things that really work and what to avoid because they’ve lived it.

I think this is important for anyone we take advice from. What they know or have accomplished is a given — how they got there is just as important. Maybe even more important. People who own their blunders as a path to success have little to hide. Those that spend their time trying to be seen only in the most ideal way will probably focus more on playing the part of an expert rather than being one.