Does our specialized society still value the generalist

I've long considered myself to be a “jack of all trades, master of none”. I've rarely found something I wasn't “pretty good” at, but I've certainly never been hailed as the “very best in the world, second to none” at any one thing.

Consequently, I've done a lot of thinking about whether I'm happy to be a “renaissance man” or whether I should pick a direction and work like hell to fight for the pinnacle in some single area.

  • As a child, I really loved being decent at everything. No kid likes to feel like a loser.
  • Early in my career, I spent a lot of time envying one or two people in each area of my interest, jealous of their far superior skills.
  • More recently, I've realized that if given a magic wand that would grant me A+ skills in one area in exchange for my B+ skills in two other areas, I'd stick the wand in a dark drawer and not look back.
  • I'm open to regretting my current position as soon as my lack of a specialty runs me into a glass ceiling. But I try not to fear that possibility.

Despite the modern workplace looking for more and more specialists, there's still a natural human draw towards multi-dimensional personalities. Those are the innovators who think outside the box, they are the ones who surprise and educate us.

I urge even the most ambitious out there to get comfortable with the fact that you'll never be the best in the world at anything in particular.