Focus. I mean: FOCUS!

Find people who are very different from you ("Altaic People": Copyright Historygirl08 on flickr)

Some people are good at about everything. Though, honestly, I have yet to meet one of them. For the rest of us, we have to deal with the fact that we are great at some things, o.k. at others and will always remain less than mediocre at some.

The question is: How do we deal with this? The eduction system in most countries puts a lot of effort into making everyone o.k. at everything, which means in practice: You spend a lot of time working on subjects that are very difficult for you and where, even with all your time and heart blood, you will never excel. And you spend very little time and effort on those things that you have a special talent for, because you are good enough already. What a waste, you remain “good enough” instead of getting excellent…

And it does, for the most part, discourage collaboration – many cases where you work together with a classmate who is better in the fields that you don’t get would be considered cheating, anyway.

Does that make sense? Well, I suppose there are a lot of arguments for having a basic knowledge in a lot of fields…

But, it teaches you something about learning and about life and work that might keep you from being amazing at what you do, and draw you towards professions that will make you miserable: It teaches you that it is more valuable and worthwhile to focus on improving your weaknesses than on expanding on your strengths. Or, to put it more bluntly: You learn that it is better to waste your time on becoming mediocre in a field where you have little talent than on becoming exceptionally brilliant in a field that is easy for you. If it’s fun, it can’t really be work, right?

I’d say: Put most of your energy into getting really good in the areas that are easy for you. Spend some time getting just good enough in the tasks that you have little talent for but that are unavoidable. And learn how to spot people with talents vastly different from yours. We intuitively are drawn to people similar to ourselves (I have written about homophily here and here before) but make a point of finding partners who are weak in the areas you are strong in and strong where you are weak. Because you want to get to a situation eventually where you can spend the majority of your time being amazing at what you do best and other people will take care of the rest – people that are amazing at these other things. Well, at least I want to get there…

Tell me how you are partnering with people who are different from you and how that changes your life/work!

2 Responses

  1. How do I become “socially savvy”?…

    I am all for developing your skills, practicing and reading books. But I would also encourage you to stay true to who you are. Some people are great in working the room and moving the crowds, others are amazing in one-on-one conversations and make peop…

  2. What is the dividing line between giving up on trying something after estimating my real strengths vs being pessimistic to not try it?…

    I think in our society and school system there is far too much focus on trying to teach people to get mediocre at stuff that they have no talent for instead of fostering that they get excellent at the things that they have a natural gift for. If you fo…

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