I work several jobs, so I am in the interesting position of being able to introduce myself as “front end developer,” “tutor,” “product manager,” or even “startup founder.” I used to worry it demonstrated a lack of focus, but I’ve come to a different perspective. I no longer see it as a lack of focus.
I see it as a strong commitment to being well-rounded.
I have found that having so many different areas of interest has allowed for tons of cross-pollination. My self-taught web development skills inform my teaching, which in turn makes me a much better business owner and partner. I am a more creative writer, able to draw in experiences from a variety of fields to try to illustrate my points. Because I’ve taught myself so many of my skills, I am very good at explaining them to others.
The conventional wisdom is that you have the option of either being decent at many things or really good at one thing.
I have a different model: Being really good at anything actually depends on being decent at a number of things.
The more things you are decent at, the more effective you will be at the one thing you focus on. It will also allow you to better handle novel situations because you can draw on different conceptual models.
- An excellent computer scientist is also a decent mathematician, programmer, electrical engineer, and maybe even a bit of a psychologist.
- An excellent pilot is a passing meteorologist, emergency responder, mechanic, navigator, in addition to his or her unique skill set operating a particular machine.
- A great martial artist is both psychologist and athlete. Really excellent martial artists are good at standup (punching and kicking) and ground (grappling).
- Brilliant authors end up dabbling in tons of different fields as they write their books. They are certainly exceptional in wordplay, but that is enabled by a wide exposure to many ideas.
- Great front-end developers need to think like designers and understand at least some parts of the technical tools they use. At the same time, they should be able to understand and communicate with clients about their expectations and needs.
- Excellent teachers are able to understand their students as well as the material, and bringing the learning methods of non-related fields can help them break down obstacles to learning that are holding some students back.
Really, any of the creative professions (I would argue that any profession) benefits from a multi-faceted approach. The broader your knowledge, the deeper you can go in any particular area, controlling for time and energy limitations (which are consistently overestimated anyway).
“So what do you do?”
“I’m glad you asked. Get comfortable.”