It’s commonplace to believe that there is a single path to success that starts early with a specialized, narrow focus. Our minds are influenced by popularized stories such as Tiger Woods that started playing golf at two years old. The most effective path to success in any domain is not what you think. Generalists, those that have skills across a broad range of domains, are more creative, more agile, and able to make connections that create new meaning. Developing deep, specific knowledge in a single area increases the risk that you will be made irrelevant by computers and AI. Learn and gain diverse experiences to develop range and thrive.
Adopting this strategy and mindset has wide implications to shape what courses you choose to study, the books you decide to read, and the work experiences you pursue. People who have knowledge in diverse areas are able to connect concepts and leverage themselves with people who have depth in those areas. I used to think that my work experience and studies across diverse areas were viewed as unfocused and someone that did never figure out their path. Now I realize it’s a valuable asset. Our lives and interests change, and having “range” gives us the option to pursue new opportunities when the time is right.
There are times when deep, narrow expertise can be an asset when exploited for its scarcity. But trends, economic shifts, and technological advances create a risk to your relevance and livelihood. It’s unreasonable to be a scholar in all domains but there are certain areas of knowledge that are foundational no matter what career you pursue:
- Product Management – build and market profitable products that customers love – view everything that solves a problem in life as a product
- Sales – the art and science of selling products and services
- Persuasion & Influence – how to advocate for yourself or your organization’s purpose to influence outcomes in your favor.
- Technology – continually learn technology to create opportunity and maximize productivity
- Managing Relationships – the skill of reading people and working effectively together to achieve more
- Financial – the world is driven by money and wealth.
Experiment With This
- Spend time with people who have expertise in a different domain than you do. Listen and learn.
- A generalist with a broad mix of skills can be valuable in the market given the time it requires to develop these skills. How can I weave together my broad knowledge in diverse areas to create a unique value proposition that is in demand?