Knowledge diversity, skill flexibility, social and career adaptability…these qualities help you learn how to be more versatile in your life and career. Research is telling us that people are making a bigger impact in their lives and careers by developing multiple skills.
My story is filled with my diverse interests and experiences: engineering school, NASA internship, record label owner, music producer, husband, father, published author, marketing agency owner, blogger, Jesus follower. These experiences and interests help me write confidently on various topics — entrepreneurship, music, technology, faith, sports, love, parenting, and more. My writing benefits from the ability to craft richer analogies and make more clever connections. I’m prepared for a future when the multi-talented will thrive. I hope that you are too.
Here are some benefits of practicing diverse interests:
- You can approach problems in unique ways
- It gives you more life and career options
- You are more attractive to people who could hire you
- You will be a helpful resource to more people
- You will be more comfortable in different social situations
This article is largely inspired by Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (this is an affiliate link…I might earn a commission if you purchase this book from this link). Epstein’s book challenges the notion that people (athletes, musicians, anyone) need to specialize at a young age in order to be successful in their field.
Epstein begins his books with a great comparison between Tiger Woods (who was specialized by his father at age 2) and Roger Federer (who played a variety of sports throughout his youth). Yes, Tiger was the best and most popular golfer by age 21, but his success is not typical for people who hyper-specialize. Most fall prey to burnout and overuse injuries. You can argue that Tiger fell prey to burnout later in life, and suffered back and knee injuries while at his peak. But the world loves the Tiger model. People love the idea of child prodigies and young masters of a skill, but they don’t consider the potential consequences of being a prisoner of your talent or activity. Tiger and millions of other people who put their all into one area of focus eventually had meltdowns that were cries for freedom.
On the other hand, Roger Federer has achieved greatly on tennis’s biggest stage deep into his 30s. Federer credits his superb hand-eye coordination to the wide range of sports he played as a child, which included soccer, skateboarding, basketball, badminton, and several other sports. His mother, who was a tennis coach, refused to coach Roger because she didn’t like how he returned serves. He refused to move up and play against older athletes because he wanted to stay close to his friends. Roger didn’t specialize in tennis until his mid-teens and still played other sports recreationally during that time. Federer had a normal childhood and it has benefited him greatly in his life and career. There’s a lot that we can learn and apply from Federer’s approach as opposed to Tiger’s approach.
Adapting to change and diversifying your knowledge
The only thing in this world that’s constant is change. Diverse knowledge and experiences make it easier to adapt to new circumstances, adopt new practices, and accept new challenges. As I write this article, we are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19 coronavirus. Most people are sheltered in, working from home (if they still have their job), and parents are homeschooling their children. This ‘new normal’ is a lot easier for people who can adjust. And we will learn that versatility, which leads to resilience in this climate, will shine as an ideal model for success.
Knowledge positively applied is wisdom. Therefore, the more diverse your knowledge, the more potential you have for diverse areas of wisdom. Here are several ways that you can diversify your knowledge and become more adaptable:
- Try a new hobby (I’m going to try gardening)
- Volunteer at an organization that’s out of your norm
- Read more books and articles across different topics
- Find a mentor who is a master in a different area from yours
- Try an entrepreneurial experiment or side hustle (how about some successful blogging tips?)
- Challenge yourself to write about a new topic (this will force you to learn something new)
Practice is necessary
Practice is important for anything you want to accomplish. Simply put: if you don’t practice, you won’t improve. The cool thing is that you can practice many things in life! It’s not necessarily about becoming a master at everything. Mastering one or two things and being serviceable in other areas is fruitful because the serviceable skills can further boost your areas of mastery.
NBA player Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers is one of my favorite examples of a person whose serviceable skill enhanced a mastered skill. He started playing basketball relatively late in life, but played a lot of soccer while growing up in Cameroon. You don’t see many (or any) 7-foot soccer players so basketball was a natural fit for his body type. But once he started playing basketball, he caught on quickly and exhibited great footwork. His superb footwork from his soccer experience greatly enhanced his basketball skills.
Focus is still key
Having multiple interests and being multi-talented does mean you should exhibit a pattern of multitasking. I’m not encouraging you to jump from project to project without completing anything. It’s still important to focus and see things to completion. Be present wherever you are and in whatever you’re doing. Deep focus will help you improve in whatever you’re doing at a faster rate…leaving you more time to do other meaningful things in life.
What do you think? Will you try something new today? Leave me a comment and let me know what you plan to do as you learn how to be more versatile in your life and career.