Stories about Software


Wrapping Up and an E-Book: The Tragedy of the Expert Beginner

It’s been a pretty busy week for me, which is why I haven’t posted in over a week. I’m in the midst of my next Pluralsight course, and I spent the last week getting ready for closing, then actually closing, on a house. On top of that, the Expert Beginner e-book is now available!


Here is the start of the final post in the series and the conclusion of the book:

The real, deeper sadness of the Expert Beginner’s story lurks beneath the surface. The sinking of the Titanic is sharply sad because hubris and carelessness led to a loss of life, but the sinking is also sad in a deeper, more dull and aching way because human nature will cause that same sort of tragedy over and over again. The sharp sadness in the Expert Beginner saga is that careers stagnate, culminating in miserable life events like dead-end jobs or terminations. The dull ache is endlessly mounting deficit between potential and reality, aggregated over organizations, communities and even nations. We live in a world of “ehhh, that’s probably good enough,” or, perhaps more precisely, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

There is no shortage of literature on the subject of “work-life balance,” nor of people seeking to split the difference between the stereotypical, ruthless executive with no time for family and the “aim low,” committed family type that pushes a mop instead of following his dream, making it so that his children can follow theirs. The juxtaposition of these archetypes is the stuff that awful romantic dramas starring Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Lopez are made of. But that isn’t what I’m talking about here. One can intellectually stagnate just as easily working eighty-hour weeks or intellectually flourish working twenty-five-hour ones.

I’m talking about the very fabric of Expert Beginnerism as I defined it earlier: a voluntary cessation of meaningful improvement. Call it coasting or plateauing if you like, but it’s the idea that the Expert Beginner opts out of improvement and into permanent resting on one’s (often questionable) laurels. And it’s ubiquitous in our society, in large part because it’s encouraged in subtle ways. To understand what I mean, consider institutions like fraternities and sororities, institutions granting tenure, multi-level marketing outfits, and often corporate politics with a bias toward rewarding loyalty. Besides some form of “newbie hazing,” what do these institutions have in common? Well, the idea that you put in some furious and serious effort up front (pay your dues) to reap the benefits later.

To read the entire conclusion, or if you like this series in general and want to support it, please consider buying the e-book. It is available right now on Amazon and will be available soon in other e-book stores as well. The price in all stores is $4.99. Here it is on the publisher’s site, where you will be able to find links to everywhere that it’s available. (As an aside, any of you with a blog should take a look at Blog Into Book, an 1871 startup that can help you generate an e-book from a book-worthy string of posts on your blog.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will publish this last post in its entirety around the end of the year. This series of posts is, well, a series of posts, and I certainly don’t want to penalize regular readers of the blog by withholding content. But the e-book is more than just the posts strung together — it is complete with some additional content, better segues, and a more continuous flow. So I’d encourage you to get it if you want to see my conclusion sooner rather than later or if you’d like to read the series as a single work.

Also, I’d like to thank Amanda Muledy for editing and illustrating the book, as she does with my site.

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John Pazniokas

Excellent. Purchased. Thanks. 🙂

Erik Dietrich

Thank you — I appreciate the support!

Jeff LeBert

I love your blog. I just shelled out $4.99 and am happy to do it. 🙂

Erik Dietrich

Thanks for buying the book. I’m glad you like posts, and I appreciate the support, both in terms of the purchase and the kind words. It’s always nice to hear that people enjoy the writing.

Lucian Podereu

I received “undefined method `[]’ for false:FalseClass.” when checking out my purchase. It seems it needs more unit testing 🙂 I’ll try again later

Erik Dietrich

I think there are still some kinks being ironed out with the submission to a bunch of different book stores at once. I know that the lead time is longer in some of the stores and modes of purchasing than others, but admittedly navigating the book stores is not my forte. I appreciate the persistence and the support, and drop me a line if you still can’t get it and I’ll inquire with my publisher to see what the issue is.


Thank you very-very much for offering the book DRM-free.

Erik Dietrich

That was really the publisher’s doing, to be honest, but I definitely like that you can buy a PDF. DRM is evil stuff — when you buy something you should, well, get it.


[…] in September, I announced the Expert Beginner E-Book. In that same post, I promised to publish the conclusion to the series […]