Scott Adams of Dilbert fame is an interesting guy. This recent blog article is a useful idea for discussions with children, grandchildren, employees and in times of desperation, yourself. The thesis is:
“Most people can – with practice – develop a variety of skills that work well together. I call this idea the Talent Stack.”
The article deals with the Trump Talent Stack and takes a look at how “The Donald” is the holder of passable or better skills in several useful areas.
His success poses an understanding challenge for some. That same understanding challenge causes us to miss how we can make ourselves more functionally capable.
“Trump’s critics have a hard time understanding Trump’s success because he lacks any best-in-the-world talents. They mock his simple speaking style, his lack of policy knowledge, his provocative Tweets and more. But as they criticize the trees they lose sight of the forest. Trump has no trees in his forest that are the best trees in the world. But his forest is one of the best forests in the world.”
Being the best at anything is near impossible and thus is a false goal. Building a forest of good, and better than good, skills is achievable. It is the work of a lifetime and is much more interesting than narrow perfection. In my experience some of the best forests are owned by litigation lawyers and investment fund managers. Knowing a little about many things and a lot about a few are valuable to them.
When you look back, toddlers are exceptional forest builders, but somewhere they lose the breadth idea and become depth oriented. Good at math, not so good at English. Career discussions tend toward specialization not generalization. That is too bad. No one sets out to become a generalist, even though the world needs more of them.
As the world becomes more complex, specialists can provide answers that no one else can. Unfortunately, people at the other end of the spectrum on that subject can’t understand them. Talk to an income tax specialist about income taxes sometime if you are missing the specialist experience. A generalist becomes the communication intermediary. They translate.
Generalists also have the ability to see problems and opportunities sooner. In our fast changing world that is an especially useful advantage. Specialists see things in their realm, but not much more.
I recall some years ago a young physicist noticed that you could describe the foraging flight of honey bees using the math from quantum mechanics. Her parents owned an apiary and she grew up with bees.
How many physicists would look to a beekeeper for help finding a macro world analog for their theories and how many beekeepers would call up the quantum physics department at a university to help them decide where to put their hives?
Everything you learn and can learn will make you a more complete generalist. You will be surprised how the pieces fit together. Steve Jobs audited a course in calligraphy while killing some time at university. That lead him to the notion that fonts were an important part of the computer experience. I know not a single person who today chooses courier as their standard font.
Encourage breadth of knowledge. It is more fun and it has uses.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772