*All of the bullet point asre direct quotes (I use Diigo.com)
*some highlights are not relevant to the topic.
- The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock’s interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.
- ut even if you want to devote yourself to being more honest and accurate, and to avoiding bias, there’s a good reason for you not to present yourself as a “rationalist” in general. The reason is this: you must allocate a very limited budget of rationality.
- It seems obvious to me that almost no humans are able to force themselves to see honestly and without substantial bias on all topics. Even for the best of us, the biasing forces in and around us are often much stronger than our will to avoid bias.
- we must choose our battles, i.e., we must choose where to focus our efforts to attend carefully to avoiding possible biases
- You should spend your rationality budget where truth matters most to you. You can’t have it all, so you must decide what matters most. For example, if you care mainly about helping others, and if they mainly rely on you via a particular topic, then you should focus your honesty on that topic. In particular, if you help the world mainly via your plumbing, then you should try to be honest about plumbing. Present yourself to the world as someone who is honest on plumbing, but not necessarily on other things
- “rationalist on X.”
- You can reasonably expect to be honest about a wide range of topics that few people care much about, but only on a few narrow topics where many people care lots. The close you get to dangerous topics, the smaller your focus of honesty can be. You can’t be both a generalist and a rationalist; specialize in something.
- However, as you move up the career ladder, T-shaped skills become more vital.Managers and leaders manage their teams to integrate with the work of other groups in the organization.
- In order to work well with other groups, you need to know your area extremely well. But, you also need to know enough about the other group’s areas to understand how your work impacts their work.
- Experts are most valuable to clear bottlenecks.
- Use non-experts to free up expert time to clear bottlenecks.
- Being an expert on a non-bottleneck task is essentially wasting time.
T-shaped people means we can do more with the same number of people (or do the same with less people).
- the term’s origin is recruitment.
- related skills and experien
- the horizontal bar includes a range of skills in the areas unrelated to the primary one.
- Do you believe that a team of top-class experts can be a nightmare for a software company? It can if the experts are tailored to a single field and have no understanding of the adjacent ones.
- The T-shaped approach, on the other hand, allows for a reduction of time expenses and a substantial efficiency growth due to the involvement of professionals with broad adjacent expertise.
- s a result, the communication inside the team improves due to a reduced staff number (3 to 5 experts possessing diversified knowledge and participating in project’s different aspects can substitute a team of 10 I-shaped professionals).
- Dash (-) shaped skills simply means having some general knowledge about everything. You are a generalist, no real specialist at anything
- If you are an extremely good copywriter and additionally have general knowledge about internet marketing, then the combination of both is really powerful. But if you only have some general knowledge about the internet, then marketing is not nearly as valuable. General knowledge is context and foundation.
- Usually when you go to a generalist doctor, you can know more about a specific problem you have than he does, just by searching for information and cases on the internet.
- But the value of generalists was made obsolete by the internet, search engines and the curiosity of people who don’t want to be only specialists but want to know and master more from their industry.
- becoming harder and harder to be a specialist. We annually produce more information and knowledge than we have in the whole history of humankind. Thus becoming a specialist means very hard work and
- Another big problem is also that faculties are producing more generalists than specialists, so becoming a specialist is a task you have to undertake on your own.
- Creative capitalism or the knowledge economy respects talented people more than anything else. Not only talented people, but those talented people who work hard to develop and capitalize their talent.
- teams are becoming more important than individuals.
- A combination of those two, being a specialist for one thing and a generalist for a few others, especially people skills, gives a really powerful combination.
- In agile teams, there is no room for general project managers.
- If you want to be healthy, doing only one sport you love isn’t enough. You also need to know the basics of a good diet, you need to work on your core muscles, flexibility, condition etc. All that is a strong foundation that enables you to be really good at a specific sport. The T-shaped skills approach.
- generalist on one side, but a specialist at two or even more things on the other. A magical power comes from transferring ideas and knowledge from one specialist area to the other and vice versa or from combining two fields into one product. For example, you are fitness specialist and a programmer, and so you make a fitness app.
- PI-shaped skillset.
- hashtag #-skilled person.
- e vertical bar of the T refers to expert knowledge and experience in a particular area, while the top of the T refers to an ability to collaborate with experts in other disciplines and a willingness to use the knowledge gained from this collaboration.
- The concept of T-shaped skills was described by David Guest in 1991, but was popularised by Tim Brown, CEO of design firm IDEO, when
- eatrice van der Heijden (
- The central position is that the possession of expertise is necessary to guarantee employability throughout the career.
- The central position is that the possession of expertise is necessary to guarantee employability throughout the career.
- We found that breadth of inventor expertise relates to the generation of many inventions, but not necessarily to those that are technically influential. Depth of inventor expertise enables individuals to generate technically influential inventions, as measured by patents granted. However, both breadth and depth of expertise are required for innovators to be deemed highly valuable, based on their records of effectively converting inventions into commercially successful products.
- Master Generalist.
- The Master Generalist captures the best of both world
- Picasso looks up and, without missing a beat, says: “No, madam, it took me my whole life.”
- The profiles included Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and many more.
- The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” E
- You have to pick something, one thing, at least to start with.
- Association for Psychological Science (APS).
- Although I accept that the process of writing an engaging popular article requires considerable simplification, I think it is essential that the article does not contain incorrect statements and misinformation.
- Jaffe’s article that were simply false or clearly misleading and then discuss how APS might successfully develop successful methods for providing research summaries for non-specialists that are informative and accurately presents the major views of APS members and Fellows
- At the very least they should not contain factually incorrect statements and avoid reinforcing existing misconceptions in the popular media.
- the roles of natural endowment and hard work in human performance”(Jaffe, 2012, p. 13).
- With these two sentences Jaffe reinforces misconceptions in some popularized books and internet blogs that incorrectly infer a close connection between deliberate practice and the “10,000 hour rule”. In fact, the 10,000 hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell (2008, p. 40) who stated that “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalization to a magical number. Our research found that the best violinists reported having spent a remarkably large number of hours engaged in solitary practice when, in fact, 10,000 hours was the average of the best group; indeed most of the best musicians had accumulated substantially fewer hours of practice at age 20. Our paper found that the attained level of expert music performance of students at an international level music academy showed a positive correlation with the number of solitary practice hours accumulated in their careers and the gradual improvement due to goal-directed deliberate practice. In contrast, Gladwell (2008) does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice.
- After only a few thousands of hours of solitary practice, the music performance of our musicians was clearly superior to other groups of amateur musicians at the time they were accepted to the music academy.
- affe’s most surprising and potentially most damaging criticism of deliberate practice was made in the section with the interview with Joanne Ruthsatz, where she is described as having “reanalyzed Ericsson’s data from the 1993 study and found that the top violinists had begun to distance themselves well before they’d put in 10,000 hours“ (Jaffe, 2012, p. 13) . Most remarkably, Jaffe’s APS article goes on to quote Ruthsatz as saying that, “when they [the top violinists] were eight years old, for instance, they won two-thirds of their competitions. Compare that to the “good” students, who only won about half at that age, and the lowest group, who won about a fifth of the time.” (p. 13). This statement is puzzling in light of our 1993 paper, which says that “The biographic histories of the four groups of subjects with respect to violin playing are remarkably similar and show no systematic differences between groups. The age when they began practice was 7.9 years old and essentially coincided with the age of starting systematic lessons, which was 8.0-years-old” (Ericsson et al., 1993, p. 374).
- Taken together, these two statements would imply thatthe violinists in all groups won competitions even before they started playing the violin or took systematic lessons—if confirmed, it would be the most compelling evidence for innate talent reported to date in a journal of scientific organization!
- focuses his article around a statement made by APS Fellow Hambrick, who is reported to say that “it seems clear to me that there’s something else [than deliberate practice]”,
- Nandagopal (2007a, 2007b) has a more comprehensive proposal for the account of giftedness.
- he most objectionable omission of a deliberate practice account in the evidence reviewed by Jaffe (2012) is presented under the heading “personality influences performance.”
- In direct contrast to Jaffe’s (2012) suggestion that personality characteristics (grit) have a relation to performance completely independent of deliberate practice, the cited article shows that this relation is fully explained by the differential engagement in deliberate practice.
- The more generalizable issues concern how factually incorrect statements and misrepresentations were not captured prior to publication of this article in the APS Observer. Unlike regular newspapers, such as the New York Times, Jaffe could not have engaged in fact checking or even interviewed researchers with different theoretical orientations.
- Even Dean Simonton, who was interviewed felt that his arguments were not accurately described.
- I hope that the APS Observer will not continue to hire professional writers to publish articles independently. I
- engaging, yet accurate, summaries of research development. I
- f the professional writers are invited in the future to write on controversial topics, I recommend that the APS Observer rely on an APS member as an invited action editor that evaluates accuracy of the article by sending it out for peer review
- MalcolmGladwell said the following: “There is an important distinction to be made between popular works and academic works. My book is intended to be a popular work based on academic research, but it is not the same as an academic work. It is a different kind of literary enterprise. And it has to be judged by different criteria.” (Gladwell cited in Gruber, 2006, p. 398).
- d should focus on avoiding factual mistakes and biased simplified accounts that misinform its readers
- Dan McLaughlin got famous for valuing hard practice over talent. Then he didn’t reach his goal.
- Dan McLaughlin reckons he’s sat down to compose the farewell post to the Dan Plan a hundred times. “I just don’t know what to write,” he says.
- Seven-plus years ago, aged 30 and unsure even of which hand to grip a golf club in, McLaughlin quit his job as a commercial photographer, took in lodgers to cover the mortgage, husbanded his savings for green fees, and set out to make the PGA Tour, home to the world’s elite golfers.
- Along the way, it drew an avid community of followers riveted by the spectacle of a regular Joe living out an everyman fantasy. No less captivated: a salon of leading figures from the science of learning and human performance.
- What could you achieve if you committed to something completely, all-in, no excuses? How far could you go? For five years, McLaughlin cast everything else aside—career, money, even relationships—to put this to the test. But then his back gave out. He pushed himself to the limit and still came up short.
- He wanted to commit to something, anything
- “We [talked] about the idea of quitting everything to pursue something single-mindedly and whole-heartedly,”
- “Did you need talent or was it all about hard work?”
- Such questions were in the air. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, the book that popularized the idea that mastery in a given field takes at least 10,000 hours of practice, had just come out, as had Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated and Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, both of which emphasized the role of dedicated practice (and discounted natural-born talent) in excellence.
- taking a cue from Outliers, its time horizon would be 10,000 hours of practice
- Golf fit neatly with this empirical goal. There were no barriers to entry—
- And McLaughlin was a novice in it, a standing start against which he could measure his progress. To document this, he began the blog through which he’d soon become an evangelist for the sovereignty of hard work. “The idea of talent is [like] living in a society of kings and princes,” he says. “If you don’t limit yourself by this idea … it’s more like a democracy where anyone who’s willing to work [can] succeed.”
The blog also held his feet to the fire. “If you make [something] public, it’s harder to stop.”
- Fishing for advice once the project was underway, McLaughlin emailed K. Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose study of violin and piano virtuosi Gladwell cited in Outliers. The two struck up a correspondence.
- Ericsson was impressed. In particular, he was taken with McLaughlin’s commitment to systematic, “deliberate” practice—something he says Outliers glossed over by implying mastery is simply a matter of accumulating hours. “My feeling was, ‘wow, this is really exciting.’”
- He was stingy in tallying hours toward the 10,000 mark, only counting concentrated practice
- Barely over halfway through, he’d pared his handicap to an all-time low of 2.6—a mark achieved by fewer than 6 percent of golfers.
- With just one person, the Dan Plan was strictly a case study; what McLaughlin found wouldn’t prove anything either way about talent or hard work. But for the academic observers like Ericsson, it offered the spectacle of an attempt to test an idea, founded on retrospective studies, in real time. Moreover, McLaughlin would evaluate whether the dividends of long-term intensive practice were operative for adults as well as hothoused kids.
- As he progressed, McLaughlin found that many of our instincts turn out to be self-defeating. “People’s intuitions about practice are nowhere near optimal,” says Robert Bjork, a professor in cognitive psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose research has demonstrated the effectiveness of introducing “deliberate difficulty” into practice—for instance, constant variety, “interleaving” between different skills and “spacing” study to force students to retrieve, and embed, new knowledge between sessions
- “You want to increase arousal so [the brain encodes] information at a deeper level,’” s
- With advice from Bjork, Ericsson, Guadagnoli, and others, McLaughlin incorporated these principles. But only after he’d burned months drilling single skills like putting—intuitively the best way to practice, but actually the least effective
- Bjork got a look at McLaughlin’s game in 2014. “I could watch him and think it was remarkable for someone who hadn’t played before,” Bjork recounts. “Or, I could look at him … and say the whole idea of [making] the pro tour was unrealistic.”
- “What if I’d pursued being a musician, writer, or actor?”
- aughlin stuck to his task for years, but 6,003 hours in, his back would no longer comply. “I couldn’t swing a club for six months,”
- Today, he’s fine—as long as he doesn’t try to play golf every day. And the Dan Plan is a digital ruin, trailing off mid-stream amid the plaintive questions of diehard fans: “What’s the latest Dan?”
- csson, for one, wants closure. He dreams of a foundation that would fund multiple Dans to devote themselves to excellence in different domains, mapping their steps for others. “For people in middle age, that sense some have that they’ve lost their chance is sad. If Dan could document his path more [that would give others] a trajectory.” Ericsson compares it to climbing a mountain: “The first person gets stuck but, over time, people figure out how to get to the top.”
- For his part, McLaughlin doesn’t consider the Dan Plan a failure. “If I say it was a failure then I guess I’m a failure,” he says. “I don’t feel like a failure.”
- ut the Dan Plan crystallizes the sheer number of variables, beyond deliberate practice, involved in attaining excellence in a field—not least, reliable access to effective instruction and the support system and motivation provided by a cohort of peers striving toward the same goal. McLaughlin struggled to find both of those
- For Tiger Woods, “there was no push to have him practice; it was a reward if he got his homework done,” Bjork says. “Wayne Gretzky’s parents would have to go get him for meals; he was out there [on the ice] on his own.”
- I can’t help wondering if the Dan Plan wasn’t too cold-blooded. McLaughlin grew to love golf, he says, but passion was never the project’s animating principle. “I was very serious about it, but it never became an obsession. At the end of the day, I could always walk away and say, ‘what’s next?’”
- A much-touted theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. No innate talent? Not a problem. You just practice. But is it true?
- “When I announced I was going to quit my job, my co-workers started bringing books in and I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated and The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle,” he says. “These books all had this idea of 10,000 hours in them.”
- nders Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”
- It is Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely popular book, Outliers, that is largely responsible for introducing “the 10,000-hour rule” to a mass audience –
- But Ericsson was not pleased. He wrote a rebuttal paper in 2012, called The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists.
- The 10,000-hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell who stated that, ‘Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.’ Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalisation to a magical number,” Ericsson writes
- Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.
- “In contrast, Gladwell does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice,” Ericsson writes.
- Gladwell counters that Ericsson doesn’t really think that talent exists.”When he disagrees with the way I interpreted his work, it’s because I disagree with him,” he says.
- I think that being very, very good at something requires a big healthy dose of natural talent. And when I talk about the Beatles – they had masses of natural talent. They were born geniuses. Ericsson wouldn’t say that.”Ericsson, if you read some of his writings, is… saying the right kind of practice is sufficient.”
- Gladwell places himself roughly in the middle of a sliding scale with Ericsson at one end, placing little emphasis on the role of natural talent, and at the other end a writer such as David Epstein, author of the The Sports Gene. Epstein is “a bit more of a talent person than me” Gladwell suggests.
- It would be better to follow the progress of someone with no innate talent in a particular discipline who chooses to complete 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in it.
- David Epstein hopes that McLaughlin can reach his goal, but he has some doubts. In the sporting world innate ability is mandatory, he believe
- Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and you look at an equation and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do
- Epstein points out, found that the average player had 20/13 vision as opposed to normal 20/20 vision. What this means is that they can see at 20 feet what a normal person would need to be at 13 feet to see clearly.
- “Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and the teacher being at the board writing an equation, and you look at it and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do,” says Gladwell.
- “For those people to go home and do two hours of calculus homework is thrilling, whereas for the rest of us it’s beyond a chore and more like a nightmare.
- “Those that have done the two hours’ practice come in the following day and everything is easier than it is for those who didn’t enjoy it in the first place and didn’t do the two hours’ homework.”
- Vikram is currently a lecturer at Harvard University, where he teaches students to use multiple perspectives in making tough decisions.
- In today’s interconnected, populous world, it’s all about diversification.
- Engineers, who often are viewed as specialists in a certain field, are now following this trend as well, or at least should be, according to Rich Gavin,
- However, specialization is not inevitable. In fact, it may be on the decline.
- While many other fields see a trend towards increased specialization, engineering may well be experiencing the exact opposite trend: the rise of the engineering generalist.
- t may be counter-intuitive, but even as applied research relies more and more on previous research and appears inextricably deep in its specialization, the engineering generalist is gaining momentum. When dealing with such a large field, crossover happens, and now engineers have to wear a lot more hats than they used to.
- that training can become quickly outdated as technology advances.
- “the unemployment rate among recent IT graduates at the moment is actually twice that of theater majors,”
- IT may be slightly more prone to the rise and fall of certain trends than other disciplines, but the risk is there, no matter what your major.
- The advantages of specialization diminish rapidly once an engineer has secured that first job, however. Cross-disciplinary training in particular is important. I
- “engineering majors can do an MBA, but business majors generally can’t do a masters of engineering.
- nd outsourcing work that requires scarce skills but is not strategically important. This makes understanding the big picture even more important to the aspiring senior engineer. Engineers recognize this need, leading, for example, to a trend of senior engineers transitioning into project management to oversee all aspects of a program.
- alist. That balance may increasingly favor the generalist, or at least lean much more toward generalization than before.
- Vikram Mansharamani of Yale
- First is the increased risk of the “Butterfly Effect,” in which seemingly unrelated developments can affect on another
- Second is the risk that specialists face of dogmatic and single-minded responses to situations which may not be as well-defined as we’d like them to be.
- nd third is the suggestion that generalists are better at determining outcomes than specialists can be.
- management guru Peter Drucker put it, “the only meaningful definition of a ‘generalist’ is a specialist who can relate his own small area to the universe of knowledge.”
- he idea of working your way up from the ground floor in every respective role is absurd — and while that level of specialized expertise across a multitude of fields might be ideal, it’s also unnecessary. As knowledge and technology increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay on top of it all.
Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, two of the most prominent people in the tech world, address this idea of the generalist in their book, How Google Works.
“Most people, when they are hiring for a role, look for people who have excelled in that role before…. Peruse virtually any job listing and one of the top criteria for a position will be relevant experience. If the job is for chief widget designer, it’s a given that high on the list of requirements will be five to ten years of widget design and a degree from Widget U.
…Smart people know a lot and can therefore accomplish more than others less gifted. But hire them not for the knowledge they possess, but for the things they don’t yet know… Our ideal candidates are the ones who prefer the roller coasters, the ones who keep learning. [They] have the smarts to handle massive change and the character to love it.”
— How Google Works
- It’s not how much we already know — it’s how fast we can figure it out.
- A specialist brings in inherent bias to solving problems
A smart generalist doesn’t have bias, so is free to survey the wide range of solutions and gravitate to the best one.”
— How Google Works
- problem solvers, not specialists
Here’s an excerpt from an interview with a director of UX and Design at another firm:
“For every 80 applications we receive, we hire just one. We need generalists. People who are just smart. People that are willing to learn and adopt quickly.”
- it seems as though businesses big and small are looking for people who can make sense of the all of the information that’s available and turn it into usable insights and actionable plans.
- Lowered or eliminated barriers to entry are making many industries wholly accessible to the masses, and making generalists out of all of us
- The cost of experimentation and failure has dropped significantly, giving all of us the opportunity to attempt new things.
- he explains that without mastery, we’ll never be fully motivated to do our best work.
- Mastery, in its own right, is specialization. To master a specific skill set is to become a specialist. The contradiction is that the world we live in today demands that we become generalists, where the idea of true career mastery kind of falls by the wayside. When we take Pink’s criteria for motivation into account, it sounds like striving to become a generalist could actually be pretty demotivating on a personal level… unless there was a way to apply his theory on mastery to the generalist’s skill set.
Learning how to learn might be the ultimate needed skill to master?
- Generalists have to really love to learn, because in order to stay competitive they have to specialize in not just one discipline, but one after another.
- and generalists do it because it’s something they love to do. They’ve specialized in learning.
- nd while it may take a lifetime to specialize in something, for generalists, sufficiency is enough.
- The First 20 Hours, a book by best-selling author Josh Kaufman:
“While attaining world-class mastery of a skill can take years of practice, twenty hours of dedicated practice is often enough to attain sufficiency for our own purposes. Using strategies designed for rapid skill acquisition, we can gain sufficiency with a fraction of the time and effort.”
- “While attaining world-class mastery of a skill can take years of practice, twenty hours of dedicated practice is often enough to attain sufficiency for our own purposes. Using strategies designed for rapid skill acquisition, we can gain sufficiency with a fraction of the time and effort.”
“In his Ted Talk, Josh Kaufman presents why he believes that you don’t need 10,000 hours in order to master a skill. As Kaufman elaborates, the key is to embrace the first 20 hours, and learn the most important subset skills within that time frame to get the maximum amount of impact.”
- ing a world-class expert.”
- Peter Thiel went further in his book Zero to One, arguing that we should each make an explicit and lifelong commitment to a single career objective.
- But their argument is also dangerous because it implies that real success comes only from focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all others.
- fewer than 7% of American undergraduates now choose a major from among the humanities
- After all, pretty much every major business crisis of recent years—from Enron to Lehman Brothers to Wells Fargo—stems from having experts on top, not on tap.
- The evidence now clearly shows that we have consistently over-valued the value of specialist expertise—that specialist experts are no better, and often worse, at anticipating and resolving difficult issues. University of Pennsylvania professor Philip Tetlock has shown that nonexperts typically make better predictions than subject matter experts in a variety of domains—they are better able to draw upon an eclectic array of perspectives to solve complex problems.
- I am convinced, based on my own research and that of others, that the most reliable model for success in today’s world is the “T-shaped Approach”—a visual metaphor for a hybrid of breadth and depth, a broad generalist with a deep intellectual thread.
- For instance, a study by Wai Fong Boh and Andrew Ouderkirk among a sample of research scientists showed that the most successful in developing new commercially viable products are neither pure generalists, nor pure specialists, but what they call polymaths. These are people who, after a decade or so of specialization, begin to explore other domains while maintaining their established skills and knowledge
polymath not considered pure generalists?
- What this evidence seems to suggest is that the 10,000-hour rule is accurate but misleading. It may take at least 10,000 hours to become a world-class expert in any given field, or even just to be professionally competent. But most of us have a lot more time than that—the average working life has at least 75,000 hours, and we have many options along the way to broaden our experience and perspective.
- The marketplace for talent may be starting to acknowledge the benefits of generalist experience and knowledge. A recent study of 495,000 members of the social network LinkedIn shows that those with the broadest experience are the ones who are now going furthest in their business careers.
- Our age reveres the specialist, but humans are natural polymaths at our best when we turn our minds to many things. Life itself is various – you may need many skills to live it.”
- More recently is the 10,000 hour rule by Malcolm Gladwell which further buttresses the need for specialization. The rule says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.
It takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Malcolm Gladwell
- Because of my admiration for these two ideologies, I have developed a bridge concept called universal specialist.
- A universal specialist is one who is committed to acquiring the knowledge, aptitude and skills that applies to his/her universe.
- I encourage you to identify your personal niche/area of specialization and construct a world of desired expertise around it that accentuate and compliment your dominant skill.
- ushing beyond the present limits of human knowledge
- he Institute should be small and plastic (that is flexible); i
- ithout being carried off in the maelstrom of the immediate;
- it should be afraid of no issue; yet it should be under no pressure from any side which might tend to force its scholars to be prejudiced either for or against any particular solution of the problems under study;
- 2) the Institute should enable the curiosity-driven pursuit of knowledge with no view to its immediate utility or the expectation of meeting predetermined goals.
- In his essay “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge,” published in Harper’s Magazine in October 1939, Flexner presented the case for self-directed “theoretic” or seemingly useless research, citing, among other examples, the abstract mathematics of non-Euclidean geometry without which Einstein’s theory of relativity would have been impossible.
- Observing that most of the great discoveries beneficial to humanity were made by men and women “driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity,
- he argued that “curiosity, which may or may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking
- an institution that crosses disciplinary boundaries;
- remains relatively small so that it retains a sense of community.
- ten thousand hours equals ten years.
- kill, certainly. Patience, professionalism, many other things. But it was something much more subtle—and far more difficult. I almost hesitate to write about this, in that it borders on the
- mysterious and the sacred. I must silently (or not so silently) beseech the Muse’s permission.
- I understand why Zen masters give their students koans, i.e. unsolvable, logic-defying riddles. They are trying to crack open the young aspirants’ minds by making them hurl themselves over and over into a brick wall of futility until they finally and inevitably give up … and inexplicably succeed.
- How does the actor get past his own excruciating self-consciousness? How does the entrepreneur come up with an idea that’s really new? The answer is they both beat their heads against the wall over and over and over until finally, from pure exhaustion, they can’t “try” any more and they just “do.”
- The writer says fuck it and writes a sentence in a way he would never imagine himself writing a sentence, and to his amazement that sentence is the first real sentence he’s ever written.
- The price of achieving that breakthrough is time. Time and effort. Ten thousand hours if you’re lucky, more if you’re not.
- The worst part is there’s no guarantee
- In the end those ten thousand hours must be their own reward—which is the way it ought to be, don’t you think?
The 10,000 hour rule came from studies in motor learning looking at mastery. (It actually may be based on the time required to learn to roll a specific cigar shape by hand! Bless them.) The mathematical rule of thumb is 1.5 times overlearning after mastery. For example, if I need 100 repetions to learn how to free throw correctly, I need another 150 reps after that to “master” it. As a Marine and law enforcement professional and trainer this rule held up pretty well when designing training programs and fighting for time and resources.
- I’m glad that banging my head against the wall counts towards my 10,000 hrs.
- ’m going nowhere, I tell myself “you’ve got 2,200 hours, of course you’re not yet a master, but you’re well on the road.”
- He remembers her telling him, “‘You’ve been writing about a world that writers know little about. You’re writing the real truth inside of almost a closed tribe. But there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who know more about writing than you do. I advise you not to do this.’”
- And she said, ‘Chemist, this is good’.”
- Carl Djerassi is a polymath. Strictly speaking that means he is someone who knows a lot about a lot.
- The word “polymath” teeters somewhere between Leonardo da Vinci and Stephen Fry.
- “Nowadays people that are called polymaths are dabblers—are dabblers in many different areas,” he says. “I aspire to be an intellectual polygamist. And I deliberately use that metaphor to provoke with its sexual allusion and to point out the real difference to me between polygamy and promiscuity.”
- Polygamy, serious polygamy, is where you have various marriages and each of them is important
- how poorly today’s polymaths compare with the polymaths of the past.
- Thomas Young gave
- Michelangelo, who was a poet as well as a sculptor, an architect and a painter.
- Although you may be able to think of a few living polymaths who rival the breadth of Young’s knowledge, not one of them begins to rival the breadth of his achievements
- But the distinction between the dabbling and doing is more demanding these days, because breaking new ground is so much harder.
- that merely to keep up with the reading is a full-time job
- t is not only the explosion of knowledge that puts polymaths at a disadvantage, but also the vast increase in the number of specialists and experts in every field
- Posner thinks like a polymath. “I’m impatient and I’m restless,” he says, in a matter-of-fact way. “After I graduated from law school, I worked first in government for six years. I enjoyed it but I didn’t really want to make a career of that. I
- Posner started to apply insights from economics to a broad range of subjects.
- he book was a success because Posner had the field pretty much to himself. “Sometimes one goes into a new area and there hasn’t been much done in it and then you are a little ahead of the curve,”
- The monomaths do not only swarm over a specialism, they also play dirty. In each new area that Posner picks—policy or science—the experts start to erect barricades. “Even in relatively soft fields, specialists tend to develop a specialised vocabulary which creates barriers to entry,” Posner says with his economic hat pulled down over his head. “Specialists want to fend off the generalists. They may also want to convince themselves that what they are doing is really very difficult and challenging. One of the ways they do that is to develop what they regard a rigorous methodology—often mathematical.
- “The specialist will always be able to nail the generalists by pointing out that they don’t use the vocabulary quite right and they make mistakes that an insider would never make. It’s a defence mechanism. They don’t like people invading their turf, especially outsiders criticising insiders. So if I make mistakes about this economic situation, it doesn’t really bother me tremendously. It’s not my field. I can make mistakes. On the other hand for me to be criticising someone whose whole career is committed to a particular outlook and method and so on, that is very painful.”
- For a polymath, the charge of dabbling never lies far below the surface. “With the amount of information that’s around, if you really want to understand your topic thoroughly then, yes, you have to specialise,” says Chris Leek, the chairman of British Mensa, a club for people who score well on IQ tests. “And if you want to speak with authority, then it’s important to be seen to specialise.”
- The way I work is I go into a trance and write. I don’t have to sit there and think: it happens.
- So applying a method to a new field is not the same thing as mastering multiple fields. To achieve mastery in unrelated areas in an age of specialisation is exceedingly difficult. On the other hand, to take a technique that can be applied to a variety of substantive fields is not as difficult. So if I write about the economics of old age and the economics of sex and the economics of the national security and intelligence services, I am not mastering the field. I am not becoming a sociologist, or a psychiatrist or what have you.”
- Not all polymaths find their way. Andrew Robinson, Young’s biographer, gives the example of Michael Ventris, who died aged 34, having tried to satisfy both his urge to be an architect and also his fascination with codes. Ventris was the first to make sense of Linear B, an early Greek script, but he could not apply himself as successfully to architecture.“With Michael Ventris, the polymathy gradually destroyed him,”
- Polymaths are disconcerting,” Robinson says. “People feel they are trespassing.”
- Even Leonardo warned against being spread thin. The other day Robinson came across one of his late notebooks, in which he had written, “Like a kingdom divided, which rushes to its doom, the mind that engages in subjects of too great variety becomes confused and weakened.”
- A new orthodoxy, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, sees obsessive focus as the key that unlocks genius.
- If you have an urge to take off your shoes and test the water, countless specialists are ready to hold your hand.
- And yet you will never get very deep. Depth is for monomaths—which is why experts so often seem to miss what really matters.
- Specialisation has made the study of English so sterile that students lose much of the joy in reading great literature for its own sake. A generation of mathematically inclined economists neglected many of Keynes’s insights about the Depression because he put them into words. For decades economists sweated over fiendish mathematical equations, only to be brought down to earth by the credit crunch: Keynes’s well-turned phrases had come back to life.
- Part of my regret at the scarcity of polymaths is sentimental. Polymaths were the product of a particular time, when great learning was a mark of distinction and few people had money and leisure. Their moment has passed, like great houses or the horse-drawn carriage. The world may well be a better place for the specialisation that has come along instead. The pity is that progress has to come at a price.
- Polymaths possess something that monomaths do not. Time and again, innovations come from a fresh eye or from another disciplin
- Most scientists devote their careers to solving the everyday problems in their specialism. Everyone knows what they are and it takes ingenuity and perseverance to crack them. But breakthroughs—the sort of idea that opens up whole sets of new problems—often come from other fields.
- he Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, is laid out especially so that different disciplines rub shoulders.
- Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes, he wrote, know many things; whereas hedgehogs know one big thing. The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule.
- Bruce, here’s some advice: The problem with physics is that most of the days we don’t make any major headway (on our projects). That’s why you should do other stuff: listen to music, meet good friends. There’s one exception to this rule: If you find a solution for a given problem, you work 24 hours a day and forget everything else. Until the problem is solved in its entirety
- For some other types of work, like building a truly big piece of software, thinking in terms of just putting in the hours can be actually useful. In the latter case there are lots of mundane bits to take care of during those uninspired hours. The piddly details are actually important.
- In my view and experience, inputs matter. I think the “pleasurable background hum” is more important. He would not have epiphanies without it.
- Feynman took the idea of inputs to the extreme. See his adventures. And see how dabbled in different things: biology, computer science, figuring out how ants decide how to walk around his tub, and so on.
- Many people think von Neumann was a genius so he could be a polymath. I think the causality is in the other direction. He challenged himself in many different ways, which made him a genius overall.I wouldn’t say I’m particularly noteworthy, but I have observed this in myself. The insights I make into my various endeavors flow into each other… and I find that it prevents me from thinking narrowly.
- I’ve noticed recently that you’ve been emphasizing the idea of focusing on a single activity/goal/project in order to accomplish something significant. I have a question on the exception to the rule: Polymaths. Do you think your philosophy applies to individuals such as Ben Franklin or Da Vinci.Cal responds:Here’s the problem. People think they can become a polymath by keeping a brand in several different fires. In the end, however, they become competent, but not unequivocally successful in each of the endeavors. The real reward-generating, stand out achievements tend to come from really focusing on one thing. Reflecting on people I’ve encountered who have are known for several grand accomplishments, it typically turns out that their first big score came from obsessive focus. (Franklin, for example, first became a successful printer, then turned to his science experiments, which made him famous, then turned more attention to political activities.) My point: it’s harder than you think to become really good at just one thing, so why make things even harder by gunning for more at the same time?
- ranches on a tree grow from the trunk. A tree may start with just a few branches, which supply the tree with sunlight to grow; Then the trunk gets bigger and can support more branches. The cycle continues. When caring for a tree you must make sure the branches grow correctly. The branches cannot be cluttered, grow to low, and they can’t grow larger than what the trunk can support, if not they will break. (Think of all that wasted time, too.)
- I think that works. To put it another way, focus on building a strong trunk and the branches will have an easy time growing. Start too soon on the branches, and you get a tangled shrub. Or something…
- If you had asked me, say, a year ago, if it’s possible to achieve high levels of skill in multiple endeavors, while keeping each of them active in your life, I would easily have said no. I would have pointed to the case of Rhodes Scholars, who, despite a high level of achievement in multiple endeavors, seem to achieve things linearly instead of in parallel.That all changed very recently when I changed my time management strategy to make it more flexible and more capable of handling multiple skill sets/habits. Although I’m still testing it, I’ve implemented it daily for a few weeks now and it’s been much more effective than any organizational strategy I’ve used before. (For most of my life, if I neglected anything for several days, it was at high risk of being neglected for weeks and then months, which was terrible because I ended up spending a lot of time regaining lost skill/knowledge.) It also requires much less overhead in terms of tracking activities and finding time for them. For the first time in forever, I’m making consistent progress along each skill set/habit without neglecting anything.
- It’s not possible to devote a significant amount of time to every skill set or habit every day, because this will push everything else out of your life and render your days rigid and brittle. However, it is possible to rotate “significant” time amongst your various desired skill sets, and the best way to do this is to spend some time on each skill set every day, so that you don’t drop any of them
- My theory is that it’s better to spend a tiny amount of time on any desired skill set each day than to let it go completely unpracticed for an entire busy week. These daily “microsteps”, punctuated regularly (such as every few days) by significant steps, seem to be ideal.
- What I realized is that one must exercise good judgment about which activities get the most attention.
- the proper reaction to an elite student such as Nicholas is not “I should be doing more,” but instead: “I should be doing less.”
- he reality of big accomplishments, however, tends toward the serial, with little to no overlap between different endeavors.
- Elite students leverage hard won ability to gain as many related successes as possible.
- When it no longer comes as easily(possibly they have gotten into a very challenging course or something similar), they get frustrated and they let things slide.
- Whereas people who dont have it as easy(probably not as sharp, or not as smart), consider things as challenges and set themselves up to succeed
- This is pretty good advice. I sometimes lose focus and work on multiple projects at once, in which each project will often stagnate and not really going anywhere. Though if I look back and look at projects where I really focused on that one project, completed it, and then leveraged the knowledge or resources that were born from it… bam. Beauty.
- An creative director trying to come up with a new ad campaign.
- A novelist trying to write an award-winning book.
- A CEO trying to turn around falling revenues.
- An entrepreneur trying to come up with a new business idea.
All these examples defy systematic deconstruction into a series of concrete next actions. There’s no clear procedure for consistently accomplishing these goals. They don’t reduce, in other words, to widget cranking.
- any given instance an undecidable task might be solvable, there’s just no systematic approach that’s guaranteed to always work.
- On The Value of Undecidability
- I argue that the ability to consistently complete undecidable tasks is increasingly valuable in our information economy.
- The bad news is that undecidable tasks are often really hard to complete. Because there’s no easy way to divide them into concrete actions you have to instead throw brain power, experience, creative intuition, and persistence at them, and then hope a solution emerges from some indescribable cognitive alchemy.
- What type of effort supports such difficult cognitive challenges?
Cal you are going to laugh at this…
Last week the Rhodes Scholars of 2014 were announced. I have read your post about how to become a Rhodes Scholar and I think much of your advice on this topic may have become “outdated”. In your old post you talk about the importance of focusing on a single thing and becoming so good they can’t ignore you. Now read a bio from a Yale student that won the 2014 Rhodes and try not to laugh.
Gabriel M. Zucker ’12 who graduated summa cum laude, majored in ethics, politics and economics, as well as in music. He won many major awards for character and service as well as scholarship. After Yale, he worked at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty “Action Lab,” conducting fieldwork in Pakistan and Indonesia. For the past year, he has been associate director of the Connecticut Heroes Project, a campaign to end veteran homelessness in Connecticut. As an undergraduate, Zucker had run Yale’s Hunger and Homelessness Action Project. He is a professional pianist, bandleader, singer-songwriter, and producer. A
- Not necessarily contradicting advice. Gabriel Zucker seems to have 2 interests – politics/economics & music, and worked in becoming good in both. I think it seems random when you first read his bio, but all of his activities advance his skills in his two main interests.
Study Hacks says:
Nameless’s reply above is right on the money.
My analysis of Rhodes Scholars (c.f., this post) promotes the idea that if you focus on a small number of things over a long period of time this focus will generate many related successes, all of which feed off the same concentrated effort.
When you then list out all these related successes in a laundry list, it’s easy to imagine them as each individual accomplishments tackled from scratch, but the reality is that it’s the Rhodes Scholars’s intense focus that enables such a sense of breadth.
- Even the ultimate “polymath”, Leonardo Da Vinci, seemed to have a core expertise, which was an eye for detail of physical structure. This served him well in the fields of anatomy, sculpture, architecture, cartography, painting and even with his sketches of possible inventions. An appreciation of what
a bit irrefutable.. ofcourse some of your interst will depend on others. what evidence do you need for the polymath story to be true/?
“It’s the messiness between these two extremes that always has me bouncing back and forth between structured and unstructured work. ” Exactly. As a researcher (and someone with a light background on software engineering) this is one of my biggest problems. Specifically the mental transaction cost of switching between lots of little GTD tasks and deep work tasks. Ideally you schedule out separate times for each, but project work does not always facilitate that type of scheduling.
- A little related: there’s a paper about physics professors consistently not solving an introductory textbook physics problem. The authors concluded the professors didn’t have the needed practice in the counter-intuitiveness of the problem. The link is here: http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~colloq/2013_2014/131010_ChandralekhaSingh.pdf
- The hard thing with undecidable problems is that it’s really hard to understand to what extent your previous experiences are useful problems.
- uch an ah-ha moment here. At the root of many procrastination and productivity problems is the decision problem. If you are a knowledge worker faced with much undecidability and you’re anxiously wanting to get things done, the next action is usually going to be a decidable task rather than the one that requires deep work…which leads to procrastinating on deep work and less productivity in the areas that could make you so good they can’t ignore you.
- Cal, I find your student advice and posts are valid for people studying and working in the US/UK. I studied in Europe for my school and came to India for my undergraduate studies. I used to unconsciously apply your advice in school and it was very, very helpful. However since coming here, I find that none of the advice is applicable. In the college I am studying, there is no option to ‘drop courses’ in my field. Every single person mandatorily does the exact same set of subjects every semester
This isn’t directly related to this post, but I’m curious how you balance the (implicit and often even explicit) expectation to work long hours with your method of working. As a junior faculty member at a research university, I worry that admitting that I don’t work 60 hours a week will lower my colleagues’ (aka tenure case voters’) perceptions of my work, even though I’m on track for tenure.
I don’t think anyone cares about the details of my work habits. They do care very much about my CV.
- Even two interests, in Rogoff’s thinking, represented one too many:
[A]t graduate school he became convinced that dividing his attention meant that both his chess and his economics were suffering. He had to make a decision. [He chose economics.] “Part of my strategy of moving on was to give it up completely. I don’t play chess casually…Not unless it’s incredibly rude to decline playing.”
- Be single-minded
- Honestly, I think people tend to make a small logic slip here. The real statement they believe in is, “it’s good to be passionate about what you do.” The related statement, “follow your passion,” seems equivalent at first blush, but it’s really not.
- Even elite powerlifter Matt Kroc says in one of is articles,“Show me one great person who achieved balance at the time of their greatness. To be in the top 10% of anything requires a selfish, fanatical drive that most people will never understand, let alone possess.Maybe there’s someone somewhere who can be great at everything, but I haven’t seen it.”
- I think that things we enjoy doing or things that we have some innate skill in are good places to start.
- o not begrudge the experience of putting major effort in one area that did not turn out to be “the one” because all that we learn and experience become part of who we are and this is the self we bring into the next “adventure” be it work or school.T
- o yes, follow your bliss,but know that your interest in an area must be overtaken by a single minded, hard working passion, if you are to achieve any kind of excellence in any fiel
- ut should your passion cool – do not waste time trying to manufacture enthusiasm – lift up your head and see where following this particular road has taken you to and look for the next path.
- It may be OK to teach a kid that to follow their passion, and that they can do anything they want – but it borders on child abuse not to teach them that they can’t do EVERYTHING they want.
- ow do you reconcile this example with your profiles on Steve Martin, who’s received awards for both acting and banjo playing, or Alisa Weilerstein, who majored in Russian history in college rather than cello? It
- Speaking of obsession…this site has become obsessed with denigrating passion. The answer is always, “it won’t help you to master something valuable.” So what?
Nick Campbell says:
- Jefferson spent 20 years studying law
- but they all stem from his singular focus of law analysis. The secret to his ability to apply his skills to other fields was the ability to read massive quantities of books about a topic & figure out how his skill set assimilated into it.
- ll those fields we recognize his skills in were fields that lack the breadth that we know today a
- nd were more tightly intertwined than we know
- Ben Franklin & Leonardo da Vinci are the closest to being polymaths like people are indicating, but you still see periods of intense focus on certain subjects during their lives and figuring out how they relate. Franklin wasn’t even a good craftsman but his own admission
- Leonardo? He was a math guy. Fortunately, at his time, that meant it crossed a lot of boundaries.
- Mike Moffatt considers the question:
“What real world experiences should I have to be a good academic economist?”
I’d say none. Academia, by necessity, is about focusing your concentrations on very isolated and unique problems. I’ve noticed the people who succeed in graduate school tend to have fewer outside interests to distract them from their focus, not more.
A lot of economics professors I know would agree with this answer. Indeed, I have heard similar advice given many times. But I am inclined toward a different judgment.
- If your goal is to maximize the probability of winning a Nobel prize, or at least to climb up as high as you can on citation rankings, then this advice is correct. Real world experiences and outside interests are a distraction.
- In other words, if you want to be the best academic you can be, get ready to be a miserable human being.
- Alternatively, you might decide that, at the end of your life, Saint Peter will not judge you solely by checking the Social Science Citation Index. If so, maybe you should make life choices using a broader objective function–one that encourages you to sacrifice some degree of academic success narrowly construed for a more diverse, more satisfying, and more noble life. “
- Inside Pixar: “I haven’t thought about anything but Toy Story for the past four years” compared to other animation/film companies, who have multiple projects.
- He found that managers and other skilled professionals were spending surprisingly large percentages of their time working on tasks that could be completed by comparably lower-level employees.
- He identified several factors that explain this observation, but a major culprit was the rise of “productivity-enhancing” computer systems. This new technology made it possible for managers and professionals to tackle administrative tasks that used to require dedicated support staff.
- The positive impact of this change was that companies needed less support staff. The negative impact was that it reduced the ability of managers and professionals to spend concentrated time working on the things they did best.
- But the losses due to the corresponding reduction in high-level employees’ ability to perform deep work — a diminishment of “intellectual specialization” — outweighs these savings
- : optimizing people’s ability to create value using their brains is complicated. Just because a given technology makes things easier doesn’t mean that it makes an organization more effective, you have to keep returning to the foundational question of what best supports the challenge of thinking hard about valuable things.
- What is the role of people who don’t have the opportunity for having a high-level specialization? I think this idea complements well with the importance of becoming learners instead of specialists.
- From my experience, the more a person gains knowledge and becomes good at his/her work, the more he/she is offered shallow work in order to advance in his/her career
- This is very definitely at work in the medical field. Electronic medical records (EMRs) have turned physicians into data and order entry clerks.
- The Efficiency Paradox.
- It rejects the degenerate belief that if you’re not working every free minute than you’re somehow failing as a student.
- Have one major.
- people are more impressed by someone who makes them ask “how did he do that?” than someone who has a sizable laundry list of standard activities. Achieving the former, fortunately, requires less time — and significantly less stress — than achieving the latter.
- rarefied territory of interestingness.
- The Zen Valedictorian is a specialist. He focuses on a small number of areas and works consistently over time to become outstanding in them. He realizes that the relationship between reward and skill level is not linear, but, instead, exponential. A corollary of this truth: being excellent at one thing can yield significantly more rewards than being good at many. Even though the former requires much less time than the latter.The goal of this principle is to maximize the rewards and interesting opportunities afforded while minimizing both the time investment and the schedule footprint; i.e., total number of unique activities: a metric that strongly predicts stress. The world rewards experts. It is indifferent to generalists. And it could care less how hard you worked.To satisfy this principle the Zen Valedictorian will, by default, make his academic major an area of focus. He chooses a subject that intensely interests him (not the subject that seems most practical). Because he believes in underscheduling, he has the time need to put serious thought into his class assignments. He soon becomes a department star, which opens up a wealth of exclusive opportunities and rewards hidden from most students.He will also typically chooses a single extracurricular activity in which to become excellent. By the time he graduates, a Zen Valedictorian should be well-known on campus for his focus-area skill.
- Hey… how come your book “How To Win at College” suggests a double major and now you are telling us to do just one?
- The suggestion was to add a minor as a way to focus your interest in some subject completely interesting and random and off the beaten path. I’m somewhat indifferent on that advice right now (I wrote that 5 years ago.)
- According to my colleagues, this star researcher tends to begin with techniques, not problems. He first masters a technique that seems promising (and when I say “master,” I mean it — he really goes deep in building his understanding). He then uses this new technique to seek out problems that were once hard but now yield easily. He’s restless in this quest, often mastering several new techniques each year.This sounds like an obvious approach, but it’s not. Most researchers are slow to adopt new bodies of knowledge — mainly because it’s really hard to do.This star researcher, by contrast, is much more nimble — jumping from technique to technique, finding improvements and making connections.What’s amazing about him, therefore, is not his ability to solve problems, but his ability to master things that are damn hard, damn quick.
- I hypothesize two things. First, ultra-learning is difficult but it can be cultivated. Second, it might be one of the most important skills for consistently generating impact. Those who are able and willing to continually master hard new knowledge and techniques are playing on a different field than those who are wary of anything that can’t be picked up from a blog post. (And yes, I recognize the irony of that statement.)
- Techniques I find useful: Spaced Repition Learning, Memory tricks, modeling, ‘I watch you do it, you watch and correct me, I do it, I teach someone else,’ Mastering in chunk and increase in speed.
- t first glance, there seems to be a bit of a contradiction here between your previous posts on narrowing distractions – e.g. ‘diversified’ studies and achievements – to achieve success within a particular niche?However, I can see this contradiction resolved as follows:
– Deep focus on a specific area of achievement (distributed algorithms research or environmental campaigning, for example) is necessary to make a remarkable impact.
– Once this narrow field is established, the means through which achievement can be accomplished should be diverse, as that is the only way to make a remarkable impact and surpass the status quo.
- (narrow career focus + diverse learning)
- the subject of your previous post, Erez Aiden.
- He evidently narrowed his focus and success to applied mathematics, but then pursued diversified techniques and applications within the field (e.g. quantifying language dynamics, 3D presentation of DNA, social network theory, etc.)
- e researcher I mentioned, for example, used it to continue to learn new techniques relevant to his niche of applied mathematics.I think @tyz, from above, summarizes this point well.
- It’s called creativity. Taking abstract ideas and problems and regurgitating them into more concrete terms. Take Einstein for example. More than brilliance his creativity led to his outstanding success and results.
- Ultra-learning fuels creativity. Einstein’s work is profoundly creative, but it depended on his ability to quickly master difficult new techniques
- hen colleagues ask me how I do what I do, I tell them it’s the product of having no life. While that’s a bit hyperbolic, I do try to practice a principle similar to the one Cal describes in this article.I spend a lot of my own time learning new design and programming techniques from as many different applications and programming languages as I can find, then I find ways to integrate those techniques into my day-to-day work.
- How does the ability to master damn hard things damn quickly differ from the ability to solve problems? Isn’t a technique unknown to me a problem to be understood and solved?
- So does this imply that there are unoccupied niches for extreme explorers or extreme exploiters?What predicts whether one will do better exploring or exploiting? Just faster learning?
- Doesn’t this go against your emphasis on taking just 1 major in university? Your posts seem to go against Generalists while this Ultra-Learning Hypothesis would seem to support them. I see Steve Jobs as a Generalist while Steve Martin a Specialist.
- This might be convincing if you had more data. I don’t think it fits the pattern I’ve seen in my field. There are lots of exquisitely wrought hammers out there pounding on lots of boring nails.
- For a problem, the answer is as yet unknown to the world. For a technique, there’s nothing left open, it’s just hard knowledge to be learned.
Doesn’t this go against your emphasis on taking just 1 major in university?
Ultra-learning seems to work best within a given area of focus. My case study, for example, is a theoretical computer scientist and all of his techniques are within this field.
- think this is actually common with ultra-learning. Once you really understand a topic, it often leads to surprising simple solutions.
- hings like “impact” seem to be, to me, a skill that humanities based people are much better at – it either comes naturally or with practice, but it seems to be something that scientists find a lot harder to do
- When it comes down to it, I think dedication and focus should come first. Breadth can come later when you’re already an expert in one subject.
- xactly how Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in Economics? She was NOT an economist by training, she was a political scientist, she was credited with being an iconoclast, and she studied how people put together local organizations in different societies. One of my own theories, noted above, is that researchers tend to get gratifying results when they apply known categories to new areas, new species, new languages, etc.
- The title of your blog post is contradictory to the content of your post. If your talented colleague did not map the newly learned technique onto a receptive problem (i.e. done something with it) then it most likely would have been lost to posterity unless he/she would have written about it.
- What I mean is that many of the highest-impact papers in computational biology aren’t about brilliant new methods. They’re often about rather straightforward (or slightly novel) methods applied to important new datasets, or they’re basically arbitrage: traditional methods from subfield X applied to subfield Y. Occasionally, they’re a clever new framing of existing questions. It can take a long time to sort out the flashy cool new arbitrage from the stuff that really changes a field.
- “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
- You’ll make more if you specialize in something hot and in demand. You’ll work longer if you’re a jack of all trades.
- on’t confuse “specialist” or “expert” with “master”. Mastery requires a deep understanding, not a decade of learning from mistakes. In technology, someone who masters one field tends to be able to master other fields in short timeIn some areas, mastery and experience are inversely related where masters tend to have little experience.
- s far as career longevity, I would much rather be a jack of all trades.For one, it seems like too many technologies are getting eaten up by the cloud now days.For example you could spend 5 years getting a CCIE in voice, and then everyone takes their phones to the cloud and your time was wasted and you have to retool.
- when the poop hits the fan is where not being an expert in a subject can come back to bite you in the ass.
- find it embarrassing when I’m talking with someone who does know their stuff on a topic
- he constant context switching can leave your head spinning at the end of the day.
- I find that most people who are heavily specialized get tunnel vision. They understand one area so deeply that they are blind to new technologies or other areas. They have a hard time seeing how their area fits into the larger picture. It is common for these people to resist change because they are so invested in one thing that it becomes their anchor point.
- She chose to have mostly generalists with one outstanding specialist. She relied on Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Ali Raisman and Kyla Ross to do well across the board, and on McKayla Maroney to do one thing, the vault, exceptionally well. The approach worked with Maroney playing a pivotal role in getting the U.S. ahead
- a blend of generalists and specialists.
- “business in general” is an irrelevant theoretical construct. What matters is your business. Since each business is different, each business owner needs a different answer.
- You probably can’t afford the luxury of many specialists in a start up. As the work changes rapidly you need flexible resources. You need people that can switch from meeting with customers, to balancing the books, to sweeping the floor without blinking
- While generalists vs specialists is an age-old debate, it turns out that one type is more attractive to employers. Someone who can ‘wear many hats’ is more likely to be offered a job than someone who is highly skilled in one area.
- Merluzzi and Phillips built up a detailed profile of each person, including academic results and work history before, during, and after business school. Their research suggests that students who had specialized in investment banking throughout were less likely to get multip
- Merluzzi explains how the specialists in her study were “penalized” in the jobs market: “Not only were they less likely to receive multiple offers, but they were offered smaller signing bonuses,” she says. “In some cases the specialists earned up to $48,000 less than their generalist peers.”
- For the purposes of her research, Merluzzi defined a specialist as “someone who’d worked at an investment bank before school, concentrated in finance at school, and did an investment-banking internship”.
Although young people are often urged to find a specialty, or a niche, it appears this advice may not translate well to the jobs market.
“Among MBAs, there’s now a strong emphasis on building a consistent profile as a finance person or a marketing person,” Merluzzi says. “You end up with many similar people in the market. Specialization becomes commodified, giving you less bargaining power, because you’re easily substitutable.
Asked whether the people who specialized in one thing tended to be less accomplished than the jacks of all trades, Merluzzi says the opposite is true.
“We actually found that focused people were usually higher-quality job candidates. They were more likely to have additional graduate degrees, higher undergraduate GPAs, and higher salaries before business school.”
Surely some workers must benefit from specialization? Yes, says Merluzzi, there are many areas where being a specialist is an advantage – critical, even – to career advancement.
“When you’re good at something, you tend to continue getting better at it. But at business schools, the shift to specialization is not as beneficial.”
“It will be interesting to see how this plays out within firms,” says Merluzzi. “My prediction is that generalists continue to do better, because they are more unusual, have diverse skills, are redeployable, and are more likely to be tapped as leaders.”
- We were encouraged to be amazing at one thing, but pretty damn good at everything else too.
Are we entering the era of the specialist generalist?
- I love the variety and she loves that she can get everything she needs from one person.
- Pro: I hate structure, so I love being able to create every day as it happens. The bigger the swatch of unscheduled time I have, the more productive I grow.
- I could probably make larger amounts of money more quickly by specializing.
- I’m defining a specialist as someone with a degree that narrows down the job possibilities. For instance, two people with business degrees may have two very different jobs in any number of sectors. Conversely, two nurses will have more similar jobs in the health care field.
- In that list, according to my hastily applied criteria (see “note” above), I think three out of 20 are general (Natural Sciences Managers, Marketing Managers, and Financial Managers). That means that the majority are specialized careers. (Of course, my methods are unscientific.)
- hen I looked at the 30 occupations with the largest job growth. Of this list of 30, I think about 15 were specialized.
- Even after researching this article, I don’t know what is really true. What I’ve read seems to indicate that people who specialize make more money. And my anecdotal experience supports my theory.
- Being specialized wouldn’t help you if there were lots of qualified people for a handful of jobs.
- After a long analysis, I don’t think that being a generalist or specialist is really the point. Er, so thanks for reading this far :).What’s more important is selecting an occupation you’re interested in, one that will pay you enough to maintain your desired style of living
- Based on my own experience positions where a generalist fits are easier to fill, and thus generalists are seldom rare. And thus they cannot demand much money. A specialist function is almost always difficult to fill and thus, when essential to a business, the candidates can ask for a lot of money.
- But there are some problems with being a specialist. For one there is the risk that your speciality goes out of fashion. Than suddenly you change from specialist to ‘untrained, out-of-fashion and old’. And second it is very difficult to plan to become a specialist. You usually end up being one by following opportunitie
- This is a different take on the “high risk, high reward” concept. Being a generalist is low risk but low reward. Specializing increases reward but also increases risk due to fewer job options.
- n the general marketplace, the most effective and proven strategy is to start by becoming a super expert in a micro-niche, the ultimate in specialization. Build a good reputation as the expert in some little thing. Then branch out from there by adding more and more capabilities.
- Get hired as a specialist.
After getting hired, develop a second trade just in case your specialty goes out of fashion.
I believe a specialist is typically something you tend to become, either because of the job you are doing or the career you have chosen. Often you are given tasks at the job, and if you do good work, more tasks of similar nature come your way. After a while you become the X task specialist where whenever a question comes up on X people are told to run it by you.
In the end, expecting a specialty gained early in your career to hold you 30 years without additional training and learning of new skills is what makes you obsolete.
- ob security. S. jobs offer higher job security, because it’s harder to replace an employee with a S. job.
–job location. S. jobs are concentrated in big cities and are hard to find in small towns. If you are a neurosurgeon or a water architect, you’re more likely to work in New York rather than some small town with a population of 20,000.
–career opportunities. Some S. jobs are NOT careers. Being a teacher or a librarian is pretty specialized, but is that a career? No. I think careerwise, both S. and G. jobs offer the same chances. Well, maybe G. is slightly better.
–dependence on employer. S. jobs make you more dependent on your employer. What if you are a rocket scientist and lose your job? You will have a longer lag between finding another job. And when you will, you will probably have to RELOCATE – you and your whole family – because they don’t build rockets in every city, right?
- Economically speaking it’s pretty unambiguous. Greater specialization (almost) always yields higher returns (see: competitive advantage). And when you get down to it, we’re all specialists to some degree or another. You probably didn’t build the home you live in. You probably didn’t grow your breakfast this morning.
- That said, it’s not always win-win for specialists. For starters, you’ve got to specialize in something the market needs. Specializing in 19th century poetry isn’t likely to increase your income. If you look at that list of top paid jobs, almost all of them are positions that require a lot of technical knowledge (mainly in medicine or engineering). T
- Second, specialization might be higher reward, but it’s also higher risk. If you specialize in a very narrow field and demand drops for that field,
there’s also the two body problem, if you are a specialist with a specialist spouse.
So an aeronautical engineer with a marine biologist spouse, or two professors or researchers, are going to have a lot of problems finding work for both of them in the same location, that may outweigh the financial benefits of either one making more when they can find a job that works for the whole family.
- pecializing also doesn’t guarantee that there are fewer applicants for those jobs. academia is a good example of a field in which you have to be highly trained in a very narrow range of skills, yet there aren’t any jobs.
- I meant to say that the deeper you specialize, the narrower your possibilities become should your type of work go out of fashion
- My parents ran a private dance school for kids for years. Recently the government started pouring money into extra-curricular activites for kids, including dancing, so having a private business compete with organizations receiving government funding… was not really a good option.
- I get it was a metaphor, mine was a metaphor too, and it was meant to say this: burgers are real-world objects with so many possibilities no simple concept can encompass them all. When a specialist looks at their work, they see infinite possibilities, like William Blake’s grain of sand.
- Since I love food, however, I could suggest a ton of paths for a burger joint: switch the bun, switch the patty , add trendy fixings. Become a “vintage” shop where people go for an out-of-fashion experience. Hire a PR person to reintroduce the fashion. Stay tried & true & weather the storm.
As for the dance school, we switched to training adults instead of kids 🙂 Changed the bun, so to speak 😉
- Yeah, see, that was option b) — take the specialty to a new niche where the competition can’t get you.
- see what you’re saying, El Nerdo, but the specialization vs. generalization questions I feel like I most often see today aren’t at the dance teacher vs. dance/violin/juggling teacher level. They’re at the ballet vs. ballet/tap/jazz level. Or the environmental biologist specializing in mussels vs. environmental biologist specializing in mussels found only in rivers in Western Pennsylvania.
- I’m not claiming that specialization is problem-free, all I’m really saying really is that in a modern economy with extensive division of labor and trade networks, specialization pays off.
- say this as someone who was a jack of all trades for a very long time and had the low net worth to prove it–
- The specialist takes a risk that their specialization will go out of style, get oversupplied, etc. As a reward for taking that risk, the market supplies them with the reward of higher pay.
- I have to say I am a bit disappointed with this article. It’s filled with qualifiers, references to anecdotal evidence or experience, and phrases such as ‘x thing may be true, but I don’t know.’ When putting together an article, please do the research so that you can contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
- generalist (scanner as barbara sheer calls) and I simply cannot commit to anything at long tearm, I
- it is very sad for me, because I admire the specialist and the “glory” they can have (the knowledge they receive, plus the money).
- at the end, it would be “safer” maybe for me to become a specialist, but I can’t deny that I am doing good as a project manager, although being useful at this work, being a jack-of-all trades does not make me feel secure.
- Professionals early in their career should consider taking several years to understand the fundamentals of their trade
Benefits of Being a Jack of All Trades
- big picture.
- You have a well-rounded point of view.
- Smaller firms or companies might be looking for you.
- Generalists have transferable skills
- You experience more variety
- You could face more competition.
- You might sacrifice breadth for depth.
- You could earn less
Benefits of Being an Expert
- You can capitalize on your passion
- Expertise is desirable
- You can expand your platform within your expertise.
- Fewer open positions
- Sometimes it’s harder to get invited to the party.
- They might write off a specialist’s area of expertise as “details” and overlook the value a specialist can bring to even broad discussions. A
- More susceptible to market and industry changes.
- This is a tough ask and has become the ultimate career dilemma today. Irrespective of whether you are a beginner or at a mid-level in your career, whether to be a specialist or a generalist is a tough choice to make. T
- he good part about being a generalist is that a wide variety of skills offers greater scope to market oneself and ensures better job chances. Given today’s gig economy, generalists can take up multiple freelance jobs as ‘career flexibility’ is one of their strongest suits
- On the corporate front, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, organizations are valuing generalists for their ability to multi-task, see the bigger picture, and work with different departments to solve issues. Generalists also have more transferable skills – a critical aspect in ensuring business scalability
- he biggest disadvantage of being a generalist, however, is the trade-off between depth and breadth. Having knowledge of several things prevents one from mastering a single discipline to the best extent possible. This makes generalists more replaceable on job and breeds job insecurity.
- it takes more time to be a specialist in any discipline and that’s the reason specialists often earn more, even at entry level jobs. They have tightly defined job roles and organizations often employ fewer specialists than generalists, meaning that the dependence on specialists is way higher, making them more valuable and difficult to replace
- career inflexibility,
- Yes, and factors such as
- limited opportunities pool, and the fear of being replaced by robots and other emerging technologies looms large for specialists.
- T-shaped employee skill set – a combination of generalist and specialist skills is increasingly becoming the go-to choice for employers as a best of both worlds solution. The horizontal top line of the T represents generalist skills and capabilities, while underneath it, the vertical line represents the ability to deep dive and specialize in a particular aspect. The future of work will be dynami
- from a point of view of making money
Why it’s bad to have a Niche Blog
- A small audience means a lower number of potential “customers”
- few affiliate programs
- ads are few
- It can be much harder to get other sites to link to you
- It can take a long time to start getting search traffic.
Why it’s good to have a Niche Blog
- a lot of dedicated readers.
- 25% return rate is pretty good.
- he search engines can start to like you
- people that are searching for your subject have a pretty good chance of finding your site.
- you can get some reasonable deals if you go looking. The same rules of supply and demand work for anyone working in that niche, so people selling related items are looking for as many people as possible to sell their goods
- Your name can get around.
- expert in your field
- Because there are so few sites dealing with the subject of my blog, people who are interested in the subject are more likely to return once they find me.
- ou’ve got more chance of finding a subject that few people have already covered.
Is it Worth it?
Overall, I’d have to say yes
- Perhaps the critical point is the size of the niche and whether or not it’s growing or declining
- I didn’t think my blog would be as niche as it turns out to be. With the number of secretaries around the world, I figured everyone would be doing blogs about admin work. Well, if they are, they certainly haven’t heard of SEO, because I can’t find them *laughs*.
- The trick of commenting on everyone else’s blog doesn’t work too well since there aren’t that many to comment
- I have found success in building multiple niche blogs under a single domain
- I write a skateboarding blog, and while it’s not throwing money at me in affiliate money, it’s refreshing and gets 80% search engine traffic from around the world.It’s nice.Meanwhile my other sites, which are geared towards making money online, are not making money.
- m a niche blogger. I blog about making fitness easy for everyone, and I can tell you right now it’s tough. I’ll read about how the big boys will get 10’s of thousands of visitors a day, and I’ll get excited if I get 20!
- My site has only been up for about two weeks,
- have several niche blogs catering to the gift industry, and the reason it’s successful is because my name is synonymous with the industry.
- For me the downfall of niche blogging is that I would need to be an expert or have a strong interest in one area…and I don’t.
- I’ve had a niche blog for about 2 1/2 years dealing with making homemade wine and beer. Daily, I get about 400 visitors and revenue buys me lunch each day.
- I enjoy niche blogging, but it is a lot of work to build it up to a decent size. Definitely a long haul project and you do experience the cons on a daily basis. Not an area for those trying to make a quick buck or those that don’t have patience
- When I started blogging six months ago I was so naïve. My topic was Personal Development. I didn’t realize at that time that there were billions of blogs on that same topic. I was a drop in a virtual ocean of blogs.I tried to narrow it down a bit by focusing on Self Mastery but I fear that topic is still way too broad. It’s been a real struggle to figure out which sub-topic to focus on. Maybe I need several blogs, one on each topic – who knows? This post really got me thinking about what I should do – I just wish I knew!Great post. Thanks.
- Participants showed greater trust in Website, Web agent, and product descriptions when exposed to a specialist Web agent than to a generalist Web agent. T
- onsidering this flood on the market, consumers have turned to smaller, more specific brands that appeal directly to their tastes and interests.
- In today’s blogosphere, successful blogging means appealing to as specific of an audience as possible. Becoming a big player in a small but powerful niche is much easier than being even mediocre among general interest blogs.
- Of course, there are disadvantages to building niche sites, many of which are discussed in this Pro Bloggerarticle about the pros and cons of niche blogging. For one, you will have a smaller audience by proxy, one that is interested in your specific niche, and you can’t much expand beyond that niche audience. A few other obvious disadvantages are that it will take longer for you to get substantive search traffic, and it will also be more difficult to get other sites to link to yours, since there are obviously far fewer sites dedicated to your topic.
- iche blog are the topics that one can dwell on – They are pretty much limited. Of course,
- Reductions in working hours in Germany, the British proposal for a jobs guarantee, and basic income trials in Finland offer alternative models to support young people in the future of work.These all have the potential to reduce the number of hours worked by those in the labour force, creating demand for additional workers.