As I am using the term ‘expert,’ whether someone is an NBA basketball player or someone who has taken it as his life mission to darn socks with utmost precision does not matter so much, as long as the skill is the result of extended-deliberate practice and the individual still has the drive to improve. To contrast this view with everyday expertise, of the sort we all have in our daily ablutions, I sometimes refer to those whom I want to call experts as “professional-level experts,” but this does not mean that they necessarily have become professionals in the sense of making a living from their skills. As I am using the term, the vast majority of us who have merely spent ten-plus years mindlessly slipping one lace over the other do not count as experts at tying shoes; however, you would be such an expert if you spent more than ten years practicing with the intention of trying to improve your knots and bows. This is the idea I have in mind, yet how can I tell if someone satisfies it? Indeed, in order to identify someone as an expert, I need to know not only that she has spent the requisite number of years training intensively, but also that she is still intent on improving.
How do I verify that the individuals whom I cite to illustrate the think-to-win principle are such individuals? How, when I call someone an expert, do I know that this person has engaged in around at least ten years of deliberate practice and is still intent on improving? Typically, I reap this information from the individuals themselves, or from biographical information about them (or in my own case, of course, autobiographical information), though occasionally I might simply take professional status or recognized national status, such as being a member of an Olympic team, as indicative of having engaged the relevant practice and having the relevant drive. This is far from a perfect indicator, yet I think that it is adequate for my purposes.