I remember seeing one of my favorite comedians of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, a year or two ago. It was my birthday, and my dad took me because he knows what a big fan I am.
So we went, laughed at observations about dinner parties and airports, and went home. Thinking back, though, I found the experience curious.
Why do people keep going to see Jerry talk about stuff they experience on a regular basis? Why do they pay to watch him talk about trivial things like uncomfortable relationships and cleaning his apartment?
It’s because Jerry has made himself the authority on the everyday. And all he had to do was stand up and say “Did you ever notice how…”
This tells me that it isn’t all that hard to become an authority on something. I’m sure no one ever asked him to start telling jokes about those things, and probably never even told him how good he was at it before he was doing it. Granted, not many of us are comedians, but I believe there is something to learn here that directly applies to blogging.
Consider: What can you make yourself an authority on? What could you stand up, today, and speak confidently on? If your topic isn’t the everyday like Seinfeld’s is, then what is it?
Tips for Finding Your Authority
- Check your thoughts regularly. Things that are commonplace and a no-brainer to you are usually not that way for other people. Oftentimes what you don’t think is worth writing about (even though it’s your passion and even though you know it very well) is just the thing others are waiting to read.
- Speak with authority. One of my favorite uncles retired from a high level management position to start his own business offering leadership training to companies and organizations. His main reason for going down this path? He started speaking with authority and people just ate it up. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not saying anything particularly earth shattering. But he’s the one saying it, and sometimes that’s all that makes the difference between the authority and the audience.
- Study other authorities. In blogging, this is imperative. If you want to blog on something as an authority, start looking around at what other bloggers in completely different fields are doing. I guarantee you will see trends and gain ideas just by studying how they write and what they write about.
Again, being an authority isn’t necessarily hard. A large part of it is stepping up to be that authority. So, before anything else: Are you willing to be an authority on your topic? Can you accept that responsibility? Being seen as an authority becomes a large responsibility (just ask Brian).
Decide now whether you want to be that authority or not. Once you’ve decided to become an authority you’re already halfway there. If you want it and expect the sort of respect an authority figure receives, you’ll be well on your way.
I’m curious—what can you, after reading some of these thoughts, confidently call yourself an authority on? It doesn’t matter if it’s biochemistry, knitting, or watching daytime television… so let me know in the comments.
Reader Comments (96)
Brian Clark says
He speaks the truth.
As for my areas of authority, I would say they are finding the angles and spotting fresh talent. Great post, Ryan.
These are some great comments. This is so true on everyday life (and huge in politics) I’m glad somebody pointed it out.
If you’ve never read “Words that Work” by Frank Luntz you should check it out, he gives you great suggestions on “What to say” and “How to say it” to really get people to listen so you can get your point across.
Practical Archivist says
I know how to organize and preserve family photographs and letters so they can be enjoyed by future generations. It’s not terribly complicated, but I’m amazed at how much bad advice is out there.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I have a Master’s in Library Science and have worked at places like The Library of Congress. My authority is pretty traditional in that sense.
The Practical Archivist
Steven Bradley says
Brian you can definitely spot fresh talent. I’ve been enjoying all of Ryan’s posts and this is another good one.
Ryan you nailed the idea of authority with your three points. I think being an authority is first having the confidence to see yourself as an authority on something and next convincing others of the same.
I like the idea of checking your thoughts regularly. It’s easy to fall into thinking that just because something comes easily to us it comes easily to everyone else.
Adam Snider says
I think I’m an authority on Edmonton, the city the I live in. That’s why I’m writing a blog about all things Edmonton. I intend it to be a sort of “user manual” for the city–both for citizens, and for visitors.
I think I’m slowly getting there, especially now that I’m starting to develop some cornerstone content.
How to Cope with Pain says
As a doctor who specializes in pain management, as well as a patient who’s experienced chronic pain, I know both sides of the coin. I blog about medical info with authority, but in laypersons’ terms, and also add in the human interest of what the experience is like from a patient’s perspective. I think my readers feel that’s a unique perspective.
The Tough Questions says
I’ve always been a fan of the idea that it’s more “how you say it,” than “what you say.”
Good content is important but a confident delivery goes a long way.
Missy Caulk says
I am an authority on Ann Arbor Michigan real estate, market conditions and pricing a home to sell.
I am a bargain hunting wine lover. I am good at buying terrifc spanish wine under 25$ a bottle
Ryan Imel says
@Brian: wow, thanks. I take that as a big compliment, coming from you.
By the way, does that mean you should try being a head hunter? Ha, just saying…
@Alex: I’ve added it to my list, thanks. Have you seen Made to Stick? Not directly on speaking, but a lot about how to present ideas in “sticky” ways. A good read.
@Practical: Checked your blog out, sounds like you’ve found your topic. Awesome. And very interesting.
@Steven: Wow, thank you Steven. I greatly appreciate that.
On checking thoughts, I’ve found that simply stopping and making myself think through my thoughts looking for value, I end up with a lot of shareable content. Usually while driving.
@The Tough: Thanks!
@Ryan Imel, I hadn’t even heard about it until just now. I appreciate it, always looking for new good reads 🙂
Jean Browman says
I’m an authority on the art of being happy and also on stress hardiness. The purpose of my two blogs (CheerfulMonk.com and StressToPower.com/blog) is to learn to write with authority on these topics. I hadn’t thought of it that way, so this post was a great help. Thanks.
Steve Tylock says
After I spent time last year individually training people to use LinkedIn I realized I _was_ an authority – at helping people figure out what they needed to do (and why). The book (The LinkedIn Personal Trainer) flowed from what worked.
The benefit the book offers – saving hours of time poking around online – finding, reading, sifting, understanding – bits of help and suggestions.
So yes, decide that you are and then don’t look back.
Ken Harthun says
Great article, Ryan! Keep them coming. I always look forward to my dose of copyblogger.
On one blog, I’m an authority on PC Security. My mission is to educate computer users on how to stay safe and keep their machines uninfected by the nasty stuff on the Wild, Wild, Web.
My other Geek blog (askthegeek.kennyhart.com) positions me as an authority on all things Geek.
Michael A. Stelzner says
I would have to agree that what you say really does work.
I was on the phone today with a “prospect.”
After listening to me, he labeled me an authority.
If you speak with confidence and know your stuff, you will be labeled as such.
Mike – A “so called” white paper authority.
Better Blogging with Michael Martine says
Ryan, good points. Many bloggers deliver advice on topics they know nothing about, and you can tell. You can’t fake experience, and experience is what gives you real authority. Presumption is only part of it. Whenever I dish out advice, I always try to point out how I have been walking my own talk. My experience is the proof behind the presumption.
Edward Dowd says
I think authority, in blogging and life has to do with power. Seinfeld has authority because of his show. By doing something original that no one else is doing and getting more traffic, you can become an authority.
Your post is remarkably true and at the same time very logical. Great advise and I will for one will be taking it!
Diane Aurit says
Hey, I nominated you for an ActiveRain contest…another great post. My expertise is a bit diverified: relocating to Lake Norman North Carolina from California, selling real estate in a new state after being in management/ selling for 15 years in another, marketing listings in unique ways, consumer centric service, Catawba Valley Pottery, Craftsman architecture, non-profit board of directors, being a mom of a child with learning disabilities.
Blogging Experiment says
Fantastic post! It touched on one of the things I’m finding to be the most helpful with my new blog (see my name). Things that I take for granted as common knowledge and certainly not worth writing a post about are exactly the questions I get asked or see asked in forums. I get so wrapped up in what I do that I assume everyone else knows the same things when in fact, most people probably don’t. Again, great post, Ryan, I can’t wait for more.
P.S. Seinfeld is fantastic!
The Denver Egotist says
We’re an authority on the good and bad things happening in the Denver ad and design community, putting it all in the context of the best things happening internationally.
We’re just getting started, but here’s our manifesto:
In order to promote creative growth in Denver, one must admit the city is conceptually stunted. It’s not on the tip of any tongues, and for good reason. Safe solutions, droll concepts. It is our belief, as creative participants in this city, that the opportunity for change lies at our feet and that it can happen by challenging one another, by holding each other accountable for our work, and by hiring and promoting local talent. This is our attempt to foster big ideas and radical thinking on a local level. To remind us all why we love this job. This is The Denver Egotist, a means to an end.
Check us out at: http://www.thedenveregotist.com. Thanks.
I’m not sure where it would go in the list, but sometimes it seems you can be an authority on a subject simply by being the first to talk about it…be it belly button lint or Tapping Creativity.
Great post. It’s nice to have our blogger egos stroked every now and again.
I think one of the best ways to become an authority blogger is to simply keep up with current trends in your field. And it helps to post regularly, so readers aren’t left in the dark.
But those two things give one the air of authority. For example, I keep up with all things literature and writing and spend every day checking out various news websites and blogs to see what’s going on in this diverse world. Because of that, my readership has grown considerably in the last few months.
Thanks for writing this post – it helped me in a significant way in a very short period of time (the time it took me to read it).
Here’s what I got out of it:
Seinfeld is the authority of everyday things. That is his niche – that’s what makes him different. He is not the best comedian the world has ever seen, he is the everyday things comedian and he is very good at it.
What makes me different? What is my niche? What am I an authority on?
I think I have been straying too far from my specific niche and your post helped me come back to what I am going to be an authority on – change. Changing your life. Not success, not spirituality, not enlightenment, not self-help, not buddhism. Change, that’s it. I’ve made tremendous changes in the last 18 months in my life and I can share what I did, how I did it and what my specific experiences were.
Thanks for getting me back on track with this post.
Nathania Johnson - Bold Interactive says
I disagree with you only slightly. People go to see Jerry Seinfeld because he’s an authority in comedy. And the best comedy is rooted in truth. His truths about “the everyday” are something that people can relate to.
Even more important – the best comedians know that by saying the things that everyone is thinking, but no one thinks is appropriate to say out loud – is when they get the laughs.
Comedians are bold. They take a risk by going against the status quo (aka being polite).
Bloggers build an audience by confirming people’s suspicions. They thoughts they keep to themselves because they’re not quite sure. Visitors become loyal readers when they feel good about themselves and their confidence is built up.
Brian Clark says
Good points, Nathania. Simply believing yourself to be an authority and having an authoritative voice are the very first bold moves that bloggers need to make on the path to having everyone else recognize them as the authority they are.
kher Cheng Guan says
I agree with Nathania Johnson. Jerry’s NICHE is “normal everyday stuff” We can recognize and relate to them. That’s all. Other comedians can and are doing that. Anyway, satirical swipes in blogging arena is not that readily acceptable. Most bloggers try to suck up to the top bloggers waiting for linkbacks. Very few fellow blogers dare or want to rock the boat. Read those redundant comments in those established blogs. There are very few “bad” boys in the blogging community. Almost everyone conforms be’cos they want to make their moola!
Better Blogging with Michael Martine says
It’s not about avoiding rocking the boat. Sure, there are ass-kissers, but there’s a world of difference between civil disagreement and being a troll. If it has anything to do with money, it’s that being positive pays more in the long run than being “bad.” Trolls might get their little traffic spikes, but it’s pretty short-lived and after a while, nobody wants to read the jerk’s blog anymore.
kher Cheng Guan says
Agree TROLLs are short-lived bad asses. Those meta-bloggers will advise you to write pleasant comments. Get link up with them be’cos their sites can help you to get loads of traffic. That’s what most bloggers want. To improve their ranking and to monetize their blogs. You don’t find many critical bloggers. Until and unless you’re well-established and you get thousands of subscribers and tons of ever-ready replies to anything you post.
Very true. This is great information and I will put it into practice. Thanks Ryan.
Practical Archivist says
@Ryan, thanks for the kudos. You have no idea how much that means to me!
@Blogging Experiment — “I get so wrapped up in what I do that I assume everyone else knows the same things when in fact, most people probably don’t.”
I’ve had the same experience. It’s so hard to forget what it’s like to not know what you know. I’ve even started blogging basic tips on how to improve your Google searching because OMG! I can’t believe how many people don’t know about the power of quotation marks.
I love to see thriving marriages. I love helping couples learn to be romantic, learn how to have fun and be intimate, and learn to communicate through their sexual issues. I am an authority on marriage and sex. Thanks for the reminder!
I think I am an authority on low risk / high return (essentially value) investing for a better world (www.whatisrisk.com), but haven’t even really begun the journey of proving this.
The time I have spent has been spent on developing a site about China and living in China, which to be honest I am not a true authority in – I’m just another observer.
Probably smarter to focus one’s efforts in the thing you most believe in, right?
That’s how I roll. If you want to learn about Boston from the perspective of a 32 year old Black man who lives in the inner city or pick my brain for thoughts about Hip Hop, film, comic books and general urban culture I’m the man to come check out.
You will respect my authority
Lyman Reed says
Did you ever notice how sometimes you’re browsing through your feedreader and an article just jumps out at you? 🙂
I spent a long time pondering this, and this article really helped to clarify some things. Thanks, Ryan!
I’m an authority on Personal Development… holy cow, did I just say that? I know what has worked and what hasn’t in my own life and the lives of others. And there’s nothing that greases my wheels more than seeing a person rise from the muck and make something of themselves.
Ryan, I really enjoyed your post. What’s uncanny is that I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately — about positioning myself as an authority or expert, if you will.
Thanks so much for your great advice! I’m actually already taking your advice — I’m visiting your blog (at John Unger’s behest) to study your authoritative words of wisdom!
..So, I’m an authority/expert on the dangers of sugars and refined carbs and on sugar addiction. And, I’m also a sugar-liberation authority. I basically became an authority because of my own sugar nightmares and then because I’m a journalist, who spent some 5 years writing my book SUGAR SHOCK!
Thanks again for your great tips.
Sarah Deutsch says
Thanks for the great post, Ryan – it seems a lot of us have been thinking about this lately. I was just poking around Squidoo for the first time this week and thinking that I’d love to create a lens, but I didn’t think I had anything useful to say.
What you wrote about “checking your thoughts” made me look at it in a different light, though – there are a lot of things that I take for granted because I can’t remember *not* knowing them – but that doesn’t mean everyone else knows them…
So, to answer your question, I’m an authority on stage management, organization, and time-management. I’m totally passionate about all of those things, but I didn’t think anyone would be interested in what I had to say about them before. Now I’m starting to change my mind – I think I’ll start a Stage Management Blog and see what happens!
Gobala Krishnan says
Oh I just love Jerry Seinfeld. At 7.30pm here in Malaysia, I shut off the world and just watch old reruns of Seinfeld 🙂
Patrizia Broghammer says
I think that the best way to be an authority is to be no authority at all.
I am good in nothing , but I am good in saying it.
And that makes people liking to listen to me.
I just say: I am exactly like you, may be slightly or even a lot worse, but I do not care that much.
I am me and you are you.
This world needs stupid’s as well as geniuses.
The genius wouldn’t be a genius if there were no stupids.
If all people were the same then geniuses would be just normal people.
And the real entertaining guy is not an authority, he is just somebody who looks what people see.
And tells them what he sees.
The laughing side of everyday life.
Humor is mostly in the beholder’s eyes.
You are born a comic as much as you are born a not comic.
I do not think that is something you learn.
You can learn to see, you can learn to talk, you can learn to write.
But being able to say, to write, to see the right thing at the right moment, that is something you cannot learn.
What you can learn is to say: look I am this way, and I can be this way, and I am happy to be this way.
May be you can find an audience.
In a world where everybody wants to be the best, being able to be what you are and being happy to say it, makes you something quite different and may be interesting.
Dave Zan says
I don’t label myself an “authority”, although I can’t help it when some people call me such on domain name issues. Oh well.
Gotta love this blog entry. It reminded me that sometimes things are simpler than they look.
Great article …you have got me thinking! That could be dangerous but hey lets go with it anyway. Now what was I thinking…yes that’s it I am authority on travel and I never really appreciated it. @5 years of traveling and helping clients to enjoy many varying experiences is rewarding to say the least.
But I never once considered myself an authority…not any more though. Travel authority it is..THANK YOU
Sorry about the spelling in the previuos post. For sure I am not a spelling authority.
It should read 25 years not @5 and who knows what a anautority is but we all know what an authority is right?
Jen / domestika says
There’s a pile of truth in the statement that “Things that are commonplace and a no-brainer to you are usually not that way for other people. ” It’s rather like the way we yearn to leave home to seek adventure, overlooking the adventures that are to be found in our own backyards. Thanks for a thought-provoking (and encouraging) post!
Jim Walton says
Great post! I feel that I’m kind of like your uncle. Putting humility aside, I am apparently an authority when it comes to technology in the church. I didn’t start my blog thinking I was an authority or that I would become one, but the more I wrote and interacted with people, churches and church leaders, I seem to be viewed as an authority. I don’t say much that is earth shattering, but I am simply the one that says it and people listen and look to me. Also, I say what I say confidently, not arrogantly, just in a way that apparently causes people to notice and pay attention. I am also open about what I don’t know, if I have questions or doubts, I am honest about that.
Robert Hruzek says
Ryan, add one more to your list: “Be consistent in what you say or do”. At MZM I tell stories about lessons learned from the University of Life, and monthly collect stories from readers as well. By concentrating on one main thing, and doing it consistently, authority just sortof… shows up.
I am an authority on Toon Boom and Flash animation, and building an audience around online cartoons.
Lisa Braithwaite says
It only took me ten years to realize I was an expert on public speaking.
And what’s interesting is that I spend a lot of time with my clients helping them to develop their confidence so they’ll be able to stand up and give a presentation as an authority on their topic.
Jason Falls says
Excellent post, particularly for those of us either trying to build a blog following or even those new to the blog scene. I sure hope deciding to become one is halfway there. I like to think I know media relations and now I’m saying it. Great confidence boost! Thanks!
Justin Smith says
“Jack of all trades, master of one” – Benjamin Franklin
Mark Messing says
If you think about it, most blog posts could start just like a Jerry Seinfeld joke
“Did you ever notice how….”
Roberta Rosenberg says
This is a terrific article on so many levels, but the one point that jumps out is that 1/we’re all authorities on something and 2/we don’t need to be shy about what we know.
It’s not bragging, just a fact. Embrace your inner “maven” and your blog, site – whatever you’re working on – will be stronger for it.
Ethan Lee Vita says
My authority area would be philosophy, more specifically political theory and ethics. I firmly believe that relationships are the basis of society and happiness. I truly appreciate your article and will be bookmarking it in netvibes.
I’ve been a girl surfer for 14 years now. When I started there just weren’t any in my area (and few in the UK at all). I get to write about it now, but often feel a bit of a fraud cos I’m not amazingly skilled out there in the waves. But yes, I am an authority, so thanks for the boost!
Mary Prantil says
Been looking for a post like this. I had the same problem and thought it was a waste as well but the post will help me thanks
Sonia Simone says
I’m an authority on writing that strengthens customer relationships.
I’m also amused to find myself an authority on participating in new social media, which back in the day translated to “screwing around on the computer all day instead of working.” (I was involved in online community before there was a worldwide web . . . I am an Ent.)
I’ll sign off with a Peter Drucker quote–this is a very useful lens for figuring out your own sphere of authority. “What are the things that I seem to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?”
Romie Bourne says
Words to live by…it took me a while to go from being a “people pleaser” and compromising myself and being afraid of making people angry by saying no to their requests – to being tactful and “disinclining to acquiesce to their requests”!
Jorge Ramirez says
Great Post Ryan.
I think that every person can be an authority in something, and I’d like to be an authority in business and entrepreneurship, it’s something really exciting, I love startups and I’d like to help other people to start their own business here in my country.
P.S. Saludos desde Chihuahua, México.
Guy Kenneth says
Great post. After 35 bilingual years being associated with Japan I decided I wanted to become an authority on Japanese subcultures. It’s the best life decision I’ve ever made.
Great post, interesting points that I will be working on. Thanks.
Amit Ganguly says
Thanks for this great post. I am an authority in make money from home. I have just started writing. I am totally new in this field. I have got great info from this post.
Jon Boyd says
Experience helps. I’ve helped hundreds of home buyers save a ton of money on their Ann Arbor home purchases.
Also, I’ve taught mortgage negotiation and optimization to other Exclusive Buyer Agents across the country. So I guess teaching helps too.
Finally being in a position of authority can be significant. I was the president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents recently and quite a few reporters contacted me for opinions on the real estate market because of that position.
Excalibur Apartments says
It’s hard to really define what authority is anyway. But other than that, very good article. 🙂
Hmm, that would be: red wine. particularly red zinfandels. I’m also one very persuasive broad. I once convinced an anesthesiologist that I needed a general anesthesia to give birth to my 2nd child because I was too chicken to have an epidural. 🙂 He remarked at how persuasive I was and had never had such a patient as I. My OB nixed that idea after it was determined said baby was breach and was coming out pronto.
I’m also very compassionate and epathetic toward the downtrodden. I’m extremely strong in verbal wars and have been known to take down a PhD or two along the way.
I dunno. I guess I’ve never considered myself an authority in these matters. But, perhaps I should reconsider.
Happy blogger says
I can see the post full of good ideas. I am learning it now.
I like to be the area of motivating others. Thanks for your useful tips.
Hi there. I had THAT little problem…I wanted to write about something and create my own blog about that, but always thought it was a waste of time because I considered it to be important to me only. This post has helped me so much in clarifying some thoughts. So thanks for the great help.
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