When I sat on my first panel of professionals before an audience, I received some useful advice. “The audience thinks you’re an expert,” a dear friend told me. “So, just accept that mantle and be one.” The audience turned out to be tiny, but I ran with the advice and pontificated to the sleepy assemblage about journalism and civic engagement, my favorite subjects. Indeed, they took me for the expert I was billed as (even presenting a commemorative mug from the oh-so-glamorous local chapter of the American Society for Public Administration).
You’d think that at the age of 43, I’d know what I’m good at. But there I was recently participating in a workshop run by Katie Orenstein of The OpEd Project, completely freaked out at the notion of having to identify what I am an expert in. My mind was a blank. I knew I could handle the first part of the assignment Orenstein was giving us, but the second and third parts were the killers. She gave us our instructions and a few minutes to gather our thoughts.