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I was flattered and a bit embarrassed to be labelled a ‘qualitiative guru’ in an advert for an event I am speaking at in a few days time.

What, exactly, is a guru? I wondered…

Here are just two of the definitions I found:

1. an intellectual or spiritual guide or leader.

2. a leader in a particular field: e.g. the city’s cultural gurus.

Now it would be very ego-boosting to believe that I was an intellectual guide or a spiritual leader. But this would not be true, nor the basis of my expertise. I am not more talented, gifted, perceptive or intuitive than anyone else.

I have simply had more practice and better teachers.*

The ‘more practice’ stems from the fact that I have been doing qualitative research for 44 years. At 40 hours a week for 40 weeks a year for 44 years that comes to 70,400 hours of practice. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers derives a formula for attaining Mastery in any field, estimating that 10,000 hours is needed.

So, having done seven times Malcolm’s minimum, you can see that if I had not attained Mastery I would be the biggest duffer in the field – and I am not that!

The other key ingredient was that I had great teachers, particularly among those who taught me psychotherapy and how to work in-depth with people face-to-face and in a safe and supportive manner. That’s one big reason why all my courses have experiential elements, where participants get to try out at the new ideas and techniques they’re learning. I cannot overemphasise the confidence and creativity this practice inspires.

The difference that these hours and teachers made to me is what prompted me to spend my remaining years trying to pass on what I learned. So that you can be a great researcher too.

I guarantee it.

*You will find the evidence challenging the myth of talent in ‘Bounce, the myth of talent and the power of practice’ by Matthew Syed, once England’s No 1 Table Tennis player. This is a serious and heartening book for anyone who thinks or feels they’re not as good as others or could never be the best at anything. Shortlisted for the Sports Book of the Year.

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues