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Master of None or Master of Many?

We’ve all heard the expression “jack of all trades, master of none.” Expressed differently, there’s fierce debate as to whether you should strive to be a generalist or a specialist. Frankly, there are excellent arguments on either side.

Myself, I’m a polymath. That, of course, is just a fancy way of saying, “I do a lot of different stuff.” Though I must confess a particular fondness for a term that has fallen out of usage - Renaissance Man. 😀

What I’ve been thinking about this week is if that’s actually true.

Is it possible to be a specialist in a passion instead of a function?

When I look back over my career, the common thread has always been a passion for helping people change. Whether it was shifting perspectives through telling stories as a filmmaker, helping men transition into single fatherhood as an author, or aiding organizations in embracing new and effective ways of solving problems.

To follow this passion, I’ve had to continue to evolve my skills; doing a graduate degree, training as a facilitator, training in design thinking, practicing mentorship, training as a facilitator, and training as a coach. I do this out of a sense of responsibility to show up how I’m actually needed to be of service instead of how I‘m most comfortable. Because “If all you’ve got is a hammer everything looks like a nail.”

In a group session we were running with a wide array of professionals, there was a graphic designer who was adamant that all of this organization’s complex challenges could be solved with a new logo. When Mike and I help organizations solve challenges that cross multiple departments, the first step is always to raise them above the views of their particular silo.

There’s nothing wrong with being exceptionally good at a particular function, you just need to make sure that you’re constantly keeping your eye on the ball of what you’re collectively trying to accomplish.

What is the bigger picture or passion you are pursuing?

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