Making the Case for Being a Jack of All Trades
You've been told that success will roll your way when you discover your niche and specialize. Figure out where you fit in, discover your tribe, and serve their specific need. Laura and I have discussed this very thing many times trying to reconcile the guidance that flows down from experts with our natural inclination to learn new things continually. Our business name and model are counter to this guidance. Crafts doesn't really line up with the professional services provider that we work very hard to be, but it is broader than our previous iteration of Turning Leaf Custom Woodworking. As we added skill sets to our repertoire, we felt the need to make our name more inclusive. The fact that we aren't enamored with the name is a blog post that we will save for another time. We are, and will always be, generalists.
I am a self - proclaimed serial hobbyist; I learn a new thing to basic, minimal proficiency, lose interest, and move on to the next most interesting thing that completely consumes me until something shinier comes my way. A few things have really stuck with me for a long time, building things is one that I likely will never shake. Generally, though, I tend to enjoy the anticipation of mastery more than mastery itself. In the course of adolescence to adulthood I have learned how to build wooden bows and arrows from scratch, boomerangs, folding chairs, fly fish (well, sortof), tie flies for fly fishing, play a handful of different sports, hunt small game, ride a motorcycle, make and bottle wine, work on cars, paint, refinish, and upholster furniture, and many other things that slip my mind at present. I think that it's safe to say that I haven't been a master at any of these things, but the experiences have all been part of the shaping of who I am now. All of these experiences have also done a fine job at honing my bullshit meter so I can pretty quickly discern the difference between someone that really knows whats up and a quack.
Laura is basically the same as me in this regard, she grew up being exposed to all manner of arts and craft activities. Her eyes light up when confronted with the prospect of learning how to do something new and interesting. I think that we'd be a pretty good team on a deserted island.
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote of the 10000 hours to mastery in his book "Outliers". I'm not here to argue whether this number seems accurate, or whether practice negates the need for genius, but that there is value in being a good generalist as well as being an expert in one thing. For the ones of us that are wired to be generalists, it's the only way.
The case being that avoiding specialization may not necessarily be a bad thing. Are we thankful for those folks that have achieved complete mastery and have; therefore, gifted society with their achievements? Heck yes! Do we have to be like them? Absolutely not. I think it best that we all strive to be our own true selves. This is a big enough feat for many of us. For most of my life I have been aimed down someone else's path. It hasn't been until recently that I made a change for me and it's effing amazing. I highly encourage you to find what makes you happy and get on with it.
But you don't have to take my word for it, I think Tim Ferriss does a nice job explaining the virtues of being a generalist in his podcast episode: "The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades".