The Red Flag Of Self-Proclamation

“The moment you claim to be generous is the moment that people will begin to doubt it.”  -Adam Grant (Wharton Professor, Author of Give and Take)

We live in a world where it has become easier and easier to raise yourself up as a “self-proclaimed” this or that.  More and more we read in bios and hear people declaring their status, proclaiming to be an expert this, or a master that.

We are swimming in a virtual world glutted with guru’s and thought leaders, everyone an expert world.

Unfortunately, what many an “expert” or “guru” fail to realize is that “self-proclamation is a red flag“, or as Adam Grant recently shared on Twitter,

The moment you claim to be _________ is the moment that people begin to doubt it.” 

And it is not just that self-proclamation is a red flag, it also sends a deeper message.  When we entertain the idea of being an expert, a guru, a master of something, it sounds finished, complete.  It sends the message that you have apparently arrived, that you have learned all there is to learn and know.

And this is not to say that there are no experts or thought leaders, they just see no value or need in proclaiming this level of achievement.  Very often, they are too immersed in their work to spend that valued time proclaiming expertise.  Their focus is on the journey, not the destination.

Which requires retaining a learner mindset.

Or as Socrates so eloquently stated, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

Which is why it is so important to refrain from self-proclamation.  Not only does it raise the red flag of doubt from others, it creates your own expert mindset, as opposed to staying engaged in a learner mindset.  One says I’ve arrived, opposed to the other that says learning is an ongoing, never ending journey.

In the end, self-proclamation serves as the antithesis towards continued growth and capacity building.  It stagnates and stalls momentum.

Which is why it is important to remember…

In this journey of life and learning, the expert mindset has a tendency to pull off at the rest stop, while the learner mindset keeps going, ever onward and forward.


3 thoughts on “The Red Flag Of Self-Proclamation

  1. Well said David and how true it is. The learner mindset is everything and the journey the most important thing. I spend my time learning from the best and the very best teachers are master learners. They help shape who I am as an educator. A friend of mine did a blog post on Learning Goggles. The best teachers always have their learning goggles on and are constantly on the look out for anything that will make them better at their practice. By keeping these learning googles on, we will always put ourselves in a position to become better educators but it requires us to be open-minded and constantly learn from those valuable life lessons outside the classroom and the halls of our schools.

  2. This is one of my favorite blogs and I look forward to reading it everyday. It speaks true to what we need to strive towards as leaders.
    This particular post on Expert v. Learner Mindset reminds me of the Tortoise and the Hare fable. The Hare, thinking he was all that and a bag of chips, allowed his expert mindset to blindside him. While, the ever so humble tortoise was focused, determined, and kept going ever onward and forward and so won the race… The learner mindset!

  3. Great thought, David. I’ve wrestled with this, especially when interviewing for admin roles. Feeling confident in what I do believe to be true, vs saying “this is how it is.” Be well.

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