How to be a generalist

The people we listen, the professionals that we choose, the folks we talk about are often at the extremes. After all, if you need a lawyer, accountant, or even a Pizzaman to make you dinner, why wouldn’t you pick the best one?

If you are a Jack or Jane of all trades, you are somebody, by definition, who is pretty good at a lot of things. How then to show up in the market place of ideas? How to show up in the gig economy?

There are a few choices. The first one is to realise being pretty good at a lot of things is in itself an edge of a skill that is worth talking about. The Swiss Army knife is worth talking about because most knives don’t come with a can opener. The Swiss Army knife should not go head-to-head with a chef knife in a fancy restaurant kitchen. But if you can only carry one thing in your pocket, carrying a chef’s knife is probably not the right answer.

So what that means is that you have to get very good at being pretty good at a lot of things. You have to get very good at context switching. That what it means to be a handy person is that the answer to almost any question is “no problem.” It means that you carry with you the tools of your trade. It means that you have figured out what you need to to do pretty good work on a moment’s notice. Because an expert is more brittle than you. You, by being an expert at a lot of things, are flexible.

The second alternative is to seek out gigs where it’s not necessary to be an expert. It’s necessary to be steady, to be resilient, to be a flexible, enthusiastic, positive, easy-to-work-with person, cause you can become the best in the world at that.

The third alternative is to start your own thing. By being a connoisseur at many fields, you can weave ideas together from separate places and connect them to interesting problems. You see possibilities of making things better, put together a directory of experts and weave together a system that works.

What’s not available is to say “I’m 3.5 stars at 40 things, I come in fourth place at every ranking, please pick me because I really need a gig.” Cause no one is going to pick you up that reason.

What we can do is to lean in to the fact that we are good at a lot of things.

[HT Akimbo Podcast]

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