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The Expert Syndrome: Why is it that some artists work and others don’t?

I spent years trying to understand why some talent have lots of work and others don’t. I learned a lot from observing my colleagues and their shows, and through my own experiments on stage. But I learned the most when I analyzed the state of mind of the performers. Over time, instead of understanding why some talent were working, I came to understand why others were not! The problem was becoming clearer and clearer. Let me explain among all their problems, one of the things that prevents talent from going any farther.

The Expert Syndrome: The symptoms

  • You have excellent technique, and people are impressed by your technical skill. You get applause, you obviously have talent, but you don’t get enough contracts. So you spend hours perfecting your technique, you send out videos of the progress you’re making, but you don’t get any more work.
  • When someone contacts you for a performance, you’re uncomfortable talking business. When you need to negotiate your fee, you always feel like you have to justify yourself, even though it took you years to develop your skill.

The Expert Syndrome: The causes

If you have any of those symptoms, it’s that you’ve fallen victim to the most frequent problem encountered by talent trying to innovate and become artists. I call this problem the “expert’s syndrome”.

The expert’s syndrome is giving a technically perfect performance, and convincing yourself that a great technique is enough. It’s believing that your technique will get you work in show business. It’s remaining comfortably sheltered in your “expert’s world and its technical language”. You’re satisfied pushing your technique as far as you can, without asking yourself what artistic directors need. Artistic directors want artists who have a soul, not technicians! But since you don’t realize this, you keep pressing forward without changing anything. Worse, you grab onto your technique like a life raft, because show business is a vast and troubling ocean. In contrast, when it comes to your expertise, you’re in your element. You understand its language and codes, you’re comfortable. Your expertise is reassuring; it’s everything else that scares you! “The expert’s syndrome” is a refuge that keeps you from innovating!


If you see yourself in “the expert’s syndrome”, then do something about it. It strongly hinders your ability to innovate, and consequently harms your business. You must free yourself! Why?

  • Because in show business, it’s the bold and innovative talent that get hired most often.
  • If you’re too technical, your performance will end up looking more like a demonstration than a show.
  • You’re just a pure technician: you’re not yet an Artist!
  • Your show will be hard to sell.

Tom Shanon



  1. To find solutions to this problem, there are two guides to help you: