Jack of All or Master of Two?

by Dave Miller

Take a look at your career path to see which of the three roads you are traveling. Will mastering one skill outperform becoming a jack of all trades? Should you master two skills?

Master of One

Gary North says, in order to move into the upper levels of your industry you need become an expert in one field. Learn the industry, study the trade, educate yourself, get in the top 4% of your field. If you can become better than 20% of your competition you will survive and do well. If you can get better than 20% of 20%, being 4%, you’ll become an expert.

By focusing on one area you can devote more time, thus getting there sooner. The compounding effect works in your favor here. The more effort you put in the more there is to compound.

In order to master one trade you need to devote 10,000 hours. This is a serious commitment. It will be your life’s work. Think long and hard before making this pledge.

Many college graduates think they know what this one area of mastery is. They change their mind. They lose precious time.

Look before you leap. Check how deep the water is before taking the plunge.

Jack of All

These people have amassed knowledge on many subjects. They are extremely handy to have around. Every business should have one.

A Jack-of-all-trades guy usually gets hung up in the details. He focuses on fixing the problem which must be done now and puts his effort into finding a solution for the problem. He isn’t happy unless he is fixing something, anything. Just give him something to fix.

There are exceptions but most of these guys fail to delegate thus limiting their leadership skills.

Master of Two

I call this the Dilbert method. The author of Dilbert talks about combining two skills.

Specializing and excelling in one area is better than being good at two areas that do not merge. Devoting more time to one thing rather than multiple will speed up the process and get you farther. Yet he says if you can combine two skills that you are in the top 25% in both you can do well.

“I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare.”

The comic, Dilbert, was born.

The Dilbert method creates a niche not easily matched. It creates a unique mix of two or three talents.

If I want to hire a mentor to teach me public speaking for an event on real estate, rather than hire a top 4% speaker, I would hire a really good speaker that specializes in real estate. The combination of the two skills is more valuable to me than the guy who is better at speaking but knows nothing about real estate. After I have mastered the basics for the mentor I hired and still want to elevate myself I may go hire the 4% guy.

What is your focus?

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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