Why am I saying that this is the worst advice ever, when every article possible on the topic of “Success in life” states the opposite: “Be great at one thing, not good at many!” Just because it’s a whole lotta crap! If you are not great at one thing, but good at many, start feeling relieved, because you are the better ones! And here’s why!
First of all, let me start with yet another overused cliché that every other article begins with, that is:
Find your passion/purpose/calling/path, that ONE THING, you want to do in your life and…Just Do It!
Now ain’t that nice! Great advice, right? Why didn’t I think of it earlier?
Actually, I did! I thought of it many, MANY years ago, but still up till this very moment I can’t figure out what it is. What is that only one thing I should be great at!!!
Sounds familiar? Well, it will sound familiar for probably 99% of you. You, the exclusive 1%, can stop reading. You’re good. J
I just want to go back to those preposterous article headlines that are getting worse and worse:
Be great at one thing, not good at many
Be great at one thing, not average at many
Which turned into:
Be great at one thing, not mediocre at many
God knows what will follow next:
U NO Great at one thing – that’s Y U Suck at everything!
I think that those articles are written just to make you feel bad. And the worst part is that I use to believe that.
Not knowing that only thing I’m supposed to do in my life, made me feel like I’m a big failure, like I’m lost all the time.
As it turned out, from a very long research I did back in the days, I am not the only one. You can find thousands and thousands of articles and posts in forum from people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s that don’t know their “calling”. The interesting part is that many of them didn’t feel bad about it.
So after that, I took the 16 personalities test, which is mostly career oriented, to find out why I jump from job to job and why I lose interest so fast. I highly recommend you to do it yourself, although the results change in time because of the newly gained experience, knowledge and skills.
But enough fluff! Let’s jump right into why it is way better to be good at many things than great at one.
One skill vs Many Skills
Well, isn’t that self-explanatory? The more sets of skills, knowledge and experience you have in different fields, the more adaptive you are in different situations. I think we can all agree on that.
Some years ago I thought that having different jobs, interests and university degrees that have absolutely nothing in common was the worst thing that can happen to my Resume. Now I don’t. Now I think that this is actually an advantage. Do you know why?
Because we live in the years of the Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z. And what are they mostly known for: Laziness, Creativity (these two go hand in hand 😉 ), Multitasking, Short Attention Span, Don’t Giving a F***
Nowadays, you can hardly find a person who has stayed at his/her job for more than 5 years… even 2. This people are growing in number.
But let’s get back to the generations and the purpose in life. How many of the 20-year old people do you think know what they will do with their life? Apparently, there’s again this one percent 🙂 . Watch the video:
If you have knowledge and skills in various interests of yours, you can change not only your job, but your career!
The "10,000 hours rule" debunked
Now, I know that’s old news, but I just want to put a different perspective on it.
If you don’t know what that is, basically that was another way to discourage people. Not because it’s wrong, but because after becoming a huge hype it was misinterpreted by many people.
That is a research made some years ago in which many expert – level professionals as well as professional athletes took part in. The study shows that in order to become an expert in one field you need a minimum of 10000 hours dedicated to only one thing.
The people then decided that this 10000 hours are almost enough to become good at something, and then almost enough to learn something.
Well, the “20 hours” guy in the next video proves them wrong:
So, here’s my concern with this “10000 hours rule” concept.
But first let me tell you that I truly believe that there are professions that NEED these 10000 hours. Like doctors. I hope they spend way more hours mastering their job.
But let’s say you are not a doctor or a football player.
10000 hours is a full time job for 5 years. That is 8 hours a day for 5 years! No wonder you can become an expert at your job… if you want to. That’s great if that is the thing you want to do. But let’s face it, not a lot of people have the resources, such as energy, time and money to learn something new after a long day at work.
So let’s hope you don’t hate your full time job or you don’t burn out in the end of these 5 years and all you want to do is to milk goats till the rest of your life, because that would just be a waste of 10000 hours.
An amazing example of a person who is not just good but great at many things is Tim Ferriss. I hope you’ve all heard of him. That’s the guy with the Amazon Best Seller “The 4-hour workweek”.
That guy not long ago became an author, a body builder, a swimmer, a chef and what not.
Here’s what he thinks:
The “Blinkers” effect
I just came up with this term J. But there’s no better metaphor to describe those people that are like the horses wearing the blinders, running in one direction, avoiding “distractions”.
I’m sure that everybody knows at least one person that is like that – focused on one thing, and Nothing else matters (see what I did there 🙂 (ref. Metallica).
The people that I know who are dedicated to their jobs (I know many IT guys and girls) are waaaay ahead in their careers, no argument there. But somehow, they are neither the brightest, nor interesting, nor good conversationalists whatsoever. This claim does not apply to everybody of course, it’s just my observations for most of them.
Some time ago, I watched “Who wants to be a millionaire” and the guy in the chair was an opera singer. A very good one. He has even sung in “La Scala”. Bravo! Good for him. However, he didn’t do well. Like…Not at all. He didn’t have basic knowledge in basically anything.
My point is that even if you are perfect in what you do, the time consumption for mastering one skill, can put shadow on everything else that is out there.
Comparing and competition
Another negative trait of the ones who want to be not only great at something but the greatest at it is that they tend to compare themselves to others and to compete with them.
This of course is absolutely logical because that is their drive to go further.
There’s a big difference, however, between those who have already found their purpose in life and those who want to be great at something just for the sake of it.
The ones who are passionate about something, whether it is music instrument, math or advertising do not need to compare themselves to other. They are doing it for the love of it.
Whilst the others need to compete with others to get the appreciation, the pat on the back and the bragging rights. It is all about proving yourself to others.
And do you know what studies say always competing with others leads to:
This includes mental and physical tiredness
This is the side effect of trying to do too hard something that you don’t really love doing.
Stress is nothing to joke about with. Comparing and competing lead to constant stress.
That feeling that you never do good enough
It is caused by the inferiority complex. Basically, you act like an asshole with other people
But don’t get me wrong, competition in a healthy amount will never hurt anybody.
The bottom line is of course that we are all different. Whether you will go for doing one thing or many depends on many factors:
- Are you introvert or extrovert
- How are you brought up
- Are you financially pressurized
- Do you have the time to explore different fields
- Do you already know what do you want to do