Stop Calling Yourself a Guru, Jedi, Rock Star and Ninja (Unless You Are a Guru, Jedi, Rock Star or Ninja)

Being an expert is cool. Think about it. You get to know everything about something without ever having to prove anything!

Have more than 1,000 followers on Twitter? You are a Social Media Guru! Have you made more than $100 online? Guess who is an Internet Marketing Rock Star? Were you an early adopter on Pinterest? Consider yourself a Ninja…or should I say a “Pinja?”

Now, I’m sure you are all that and a bag of chips, but what about everyone else? Could it be that all of these so-called experts really are what they claim to be in their fancy shmancy titles? Or is it possible that there is a little bit of posturing going on?

I think it’s about time we found out for sure.

After spending almost 5 grueling minutes researching this topic, I have come up with a formula. A scientific way to tell beyond a shadow of a doubt whether someone truly is a Guru, Jedi, Rock Star or Ninja.

Here it is. You’re welcome.

A guru is profound. They don’t talk all that much, but when they do they say stuff like “from the withered tree, a flower blooms”. Mind. Blown. If the most profound thing you have ever said is something posted on Facebook that received 6 Likes and is unclear whether or not you even wrote it, I’m sorry, but you are not a guru.

Luke Skywalker was a Jedi. Chances are good that you are not. Luke had to prove himself by moving a bunch of crap with his mind, fighting an epic battle with his father and making out with his sister. What have you done to earn it? You have a lot of Twitter followers? That doesn’t count.

Rock Star
During your next meeting I want you to leap out from behind the podium and dive on top of your fellow coworkers. If they catch you and pass you along the table on their shoulders only to return you safely to your original destination, you my friend are a Rock Star! If you have a broken nose, bruised ribs and are in the market for a new job, sadly you are not.

Ninjas are awesome. They jump out of trees to kill people and then disappear. That’s just how they roll. Still think you are a ninja? I’ll tell you what. I’m going out for a walk in 10 minutes. If you leap out of a tree while tossing around a pair of nun-chucks, I’ll take it back. Otherwise, you are to stop calling yourself a ninja. Effective immediately.

So, Did You Pass?

Me neither. My guess is that none of us are experts in the truest sense of the word. But that’s OK. Because it’s not about claiming to be an expert. It’s about striving to be an expert.

There’s a big difference.

Claiming to be an expert is telling the world that you have arrived. That you have already reached your destination. That there is nothing more for you to learn. If you truly believe that you are an expert, you are saying that you know everything there is to know about your subject. You are done.

Striving to be an expert is not about the destination at all. In fact, whether you even get there is completely irrelevant. Instead, it’s about the journey. It’s about your experiences along the way. It’s not so much what you get; it’s what getting it made you.

Will I (Meaning You) Ever Become an Expert?

I hope not. There should never be a point in your life where there is nothing left to learn. As Anthony Robbins once said “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” We are always learning. Always growing. There is always more. It’s part of our DNA as humans.

Becoming an expert closes that door. It stops you from digging deeper and deeper into a subject. It stops you from trying to squeeze everything you can out of the experience. It gives you the OK to stop learning more.

Why do you think some of the smartest people on this planet don’t call themselves experts? It’s because they know there is so much more out there. The rest of us might see them as experts but that’s only because we don’t truly know what they are capable of. However, they do. And they know they have merely scratched the surface.

So, If I Am Not an Expert and Likely Won’t Be, What Am I?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. Everyone is different. I wish I were a Guru right now so I could whip up something really profound and respond. I’m not.

Instead, I will leave you with this.

Becoming an expert is a worthy goal to have. It should be on your list. You should always strive to be the absolute best at what you do. After all, just because you may never get someplace doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

And if you do try, I hope for your sake that you never get there…but instead enjoy the hell out of the ride trying.

But Wait! There's More...
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  • Susan Hesse Weber

    Thank you for the smile today. :)  Right back at you..

    • Marc Ensign

      Thank you so much Susan!!! I really appreciate you not only reading but leaving a comment. Love that.

  • Simon Thompson

     Internet Marketing “expert” specializing in Search Engine Optimization, Social Networking and Internet Marketing.

    • Marc Ensign

      That was the old me!  Ancient history!  I’m a changed man. I actually started this post with a completely different outcome in mind but as I wrote it just took this direction. I probably learn more from this blog than you guys do :)

  • Joe Boyle

    My granfather once taught me a very important lesson – if you are about to hire somebody to do a job, and they refer to themselves as “professionals” or “experts”, tell them that you are not in need of their business and hang up the phone. The only time one should be referred to as a professional or expert is when a customer of the employee or company says it themselves.

    It’s pretty sad how over-used and under-valued the terms “rock-star” or “professional” or “expert” have come in today’s society. Hell, we live in a world where Justin Bieber, the un-known blogger from Norway, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles all “fit” in the same category of “Rock-Star”. It’s pretty degrading (for The Beatles and Pink Floyd, that is).

    It really all is apparent with the commercials we are force-fed on the t.v., too. Everyone and everything is marketed to be the ultimate answer to every problem. We are in a world where it’s not acceptable to admit that you’re not the best, but you love what you do and are good at it. It’s pretty pathetic.

    If we all could start selling ourselves out as what we really are, I think it’d be pretty surprising how much better we’d do in our careers. Great post.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Joe! I really look forward to all of your comments. Always well thought out.

      I agree…it’s the customer that should perceive you as an expert on their own if they see fit, but the second you start to consider yourself an expert is the second you stop learning and become complacent. From a marketing perspective it’s also a losing strategy because people have been trained not to hear that stuff any more. When you say that yoga are an expert, people automatically discount it and throw it away.

      • Joe Boyle

        Awh, shucks, thanks (:

        I remember reading a post a couple of weeks back that included an interview with about four or five bloggers with Alexa ranks in the 20,000 range, yet whenever referred to as professionals, said, “I don’t view myself as a pro, but thanks for the gesture”. I think we need more of those people in the world. People who would rather admit that they’re pretty good, but there’s better. It’s worth thinking about.

  • Mike Goldman

    I think you are an expert, non-expert.

    • Marc Ensign

      HA! That’s actually very funny! I’m going to use that somehow…don’t worry, I’ll give you a nickel every time I say it!

  • Peg Fitzpatrick

    I am a Pinja – hi-ya! I really wonder who, in their right mind, came up with Ninja as a title. And then used it. And who was the doofus that copied it.

    I like this article a lot. 😀

    • Marc Ensign

      I thought you might be a Pinja! Not sure who came up with it first…personally, I think one is just as ridiculous as the next!

      • Peg Fitzpatrick

        Wow, I was kidding. Do people really call themselves Pinjas?

        • Marc Ensign

          I hope not…I just made it up. Maybe I should start the trend so when you want to know who the doofus was that started it next time, I’ll have the answer for you!

  • Coelement

    This is Hilarious, and also very true! Some people can get so wrapped up in these self-given”titles” after obtaining a certain number of followers. Stick to the basics…. interact and educate :) Great Post Marc!

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks!!! Sorry it took me so long to respond. Didn’t catch this comment until today. Clearly I am not a guru at monitoring comments.

  • Corey Vandenberg

    Might be semantics, but while I agree that the self proclaimed titles are worn out, I disagree with the premise that Expert means you’ve arrived.

    I think that Expert simply means you have a deep understanding of a subject. There were marketing experts before the internet…the only thing that changed was a new medium came along. Guys like John Carlton, Gary Halbert or Dan Kennedy are still brilliant, and IMHO – Experts in their respective areas.

    Have they arrived at the “end of the internet” and learned all that there is to learn?No of course not.

    I’m not trying to be pedantic, but I think defining the word Expert as the nirvana of knowledge misses the mark on a very important point that needs to be made.

    The posturing needs to stop for sure. The nice thing is that just like any industry there will be a weeding out process. Those who can’t contribute more than the equivalent of “you should use this [insert new platform]” to the discussion, will eventually be revealed when their advice yields no meaningful results.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Corey! I appreciate your comments. The use of the word expert that you are describing is more of a perception. “I think these guys are at the top of their field so I consider them experts”. In my world Chris Brogan is at the top of his field. Many will think of him as an expert but you won’t find him shooting his mouth off about him being a expert. Same with a majority of the best that are out there in any field. The problem with the title expert (or any of the others) are that they are watered down. They are primarily used by people that have given themselves these titles. They have not earned them. Like you said, posturing. We’re very close to saying the same thing. I just think that rather than calling yourself an expert, put your money where your mouth is.

  • Buble

    Great blog, Marc.
    I like it because it’s what I think too. :) For great examples of people who think they’ve ‘arrived’, talk to any teenager. They know everything about everything. My son, an apprentice chef, is currently teaching my 75 year old mum, the best Masterchef in the universe, to cook. Bahahahahahah….

    • Marc Ensign

      HA! That’s funny! My daughter is 9 and she’s arrived! Today is her first show at drama camp and she’s schooling me about being on stage. I performed on Broadway for 10 years. Too funny. I’m sure I was just as bad when I was a kid.

  • John C


    I flipped my years of blogging as the majority of the criteria for my state credentials as a mental health professional. Calling it hacking the system, but it was ethically, morally, and legally done.

    Not publishing a book. Not by an online trade school. By passing state regulatory checks, national criminal background, educational experience, and direct work done in the community. Through blogging.

    A person isn’t an expert because of any claim they can make. It’s the claims that are made of them by others. When a person holds bonafide and easily confirmable credentials that are under the authority of State or Federal consumer protections…

    …then they don’t have to use the same inflating rhetoric the rest of the snake oil salesmen pitch.

    • Marc Ensign

      I agree that you can’t rightfully peg yourself as an expert while someone else can call you an expert. The funny thing is that once you are called an expert, you are at a point where you realize how much more you have to learn and how little you really know in the grand scheme of things.

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  • Jason Diller

    Someone in my office called my “the SEO ninja” today.

    I had a long conversation with him about this.

    I thought of when I saw you speak for the NJ Ad Club. No one likes ninjas anyway.

    • Marc Ensign

      I believe the punishment for such a crime is to have to buy you lunch for the remainder of the week. He’s getting off easy if you ask me!!! Keep fighting the good fight Jason!!!

  • George Michie

    I recall someone making this point about “writers”. You’re not a writer unless other people say you’re a writer. Similarly, if others say you’re an expert that’s cool; if you say you’re an expert that’s lame.

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  • MeilaniM

    Wow I love this post! I was interviewed on a local radio program 2 days ago, it highlights local business and I was there to promo an upcoming presentation “WHY Social Media” which talks about social media strategy planning (why are you there, who do you want to reach, what do you want to accomplish, etc).

    The host of the radio program referred to me as a social media expert. I had to point out on air that I am no expert, and I don’t know if there is such a thing because “social” is a living, constantly changing, constantly evolving thing. And how can anyone be an expert of something constantly evolving and changing?

    I got some feedback that I should just take the praise and compliment and go with it, that it is good for my own marketing. But I just cannot do that. I am not an expert – I simply know more than my clients, who are new to it. So, in their viewpoints I seem like an expert. Your post articulates so well why I don’t agree!

    What do you do when you get a testimonial where someone refers to you as the expert, guru, ninja? Do you post it? I had a client make a public post calling me the “Queen of Google.” In honesty, I shuddered… there are many, many people who know far more about Google than I!! However, to my newbie client who was learning so much from me, the name fit. I don’t know what to do with that testimonial now. Do I post it to show how much my client loved her sessions with me? Do I not post it because those people who do know so much more about Google than me will scoff? I’m interested in your thoughts.

    Cheers and thanks for the great post, love your blog!

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  • Corey Lewis

    Oh man…that was great!

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  • True MasterNinjaGuruExpert

    OMG, I realized my 9 year old son is a fraud. He’s claimed to be a ninja for weeks now. How dare he impersonate a real ninja. He hasn’t actually mastered ninjitsu!

    Lets start a campaign to prohibit the impersonation of ninjas, gurus, and jedi. They have important roles in our society after all.

    Every hipster, cute copywriter who says they are looking for a “code ninja” should be severely punished. Let all the socially awkward kids who somehow literally think engineering is the same thing as crushing one’s enemies with ninja tactics be vanquished. We will not tolerate anyone’s sense of humor, personality, or fun loving antics. It’s not what Yoda would want.

  • Prasaad Agbotakou-Bush

    Awesome comment by legal marketing expert Corey Vandenberg, check it out:

  • Clipping Path

    Haha you are really a guru 😛
    Cheers from your friends at Clipping Path Clipping Path Service

  • Clipping Path

    Haha, I have more than 1000 fb follower and also have twitter follower
    as well. You made some good points there. Very nice post. It seems you
    are a Ninaja :) Clipping Path

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