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Screw Qualifications.

I posted this on my personal Facebook wall a few days ago, but I want to republish it here along with some of the great discussion that came from it.

Recently, James Cameron manned the submarine craft that made the deepest ocean dive in 50 years.

I told someone about this, and their response was:

Why did he do it? They should have sent a scientist. He’s a movie director; he doesn’t deserve to be the one to do it.

There’s so much wrong with this that I have trouble knowing where to begin. First off, James Cameron became a licensed scuba diver at age 15 and has been doing deep sea exploration for 50 years.

After he made Titanic, he literally quit making movies and did nothing but deep sea exploration until he made Avatar. There’s almost no one more qualified.

If you weren’t aware of just how much deep sea experience Mr. Cameron has, or if you just want to be inspired, I highly recommend taking some time and watching his TED Talk:

Cameron’s specific experience isn’t really the issue, though. The issue is that people seem to think you have to have some official title or BS qualification to do something amazing. They think that if you don’t, then you don’t “deserve” to do remarkable things.

Screw that. Screw qualifications. If you want to do something, and you have the ability to do it, then do it. It doesn’t matter what your day job is.

That was my first thought, at least.

As I said at the beginning, this generated some great discussion. My friend Sam offered up a counter:

When do you expect me to perform that quadruple bypass on you Thomas? Next week? Just because I might want to perform heart surgery on someone doesn’t make me qualified to do it.

When you go to an accountant, you expect someone who is licensed and has proper certification and experience to do the job.

To be honest, I completely agree with what he said. So I think there’s a distinction that has to be made here…

I think qualifications are important if we’re talking about doing something for someone else. When you’re performing a service for which there are established, expected results that another party wants, then it’s good to have the qualifications in order to establish trust.

Mark, another friend, said it a little more succinctly:

The only reason you get “qualifications” are to get other people to trust you.

When you’re doing something for yourself, though, the qualifications aren’t needed. Making a deep sea dive wasn’t a service being performed for another party, and it wasn’t something that should have an expected, guaranteed result.

Yes, we need people with recognized symbols of qualification that we can trust for certain things. But we also need patent office clerks who can revolutionize science 🙂