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The Key To Success Is Not To Specialize and Become a Subject Matter Expert

  • 7 min read

We learn who we are when we try new things

When I was a kid, people always asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

To be honest with you, I never really knew what to say.

I had multiple interests and was thinking about becoming a dancer (because I started taking ballet lessons when I was four years old).

A vet (because I loved caring for my pets and the hedgehogs in the garden).

A musician (because I started playing the violin when I was four years old).

Or a writer (because I loved writing short stories with life lessons).

There Were Some Things, Not That ONE Specific Thing That Lighted Me Up

Once I became a teenager and young adult, I often heard from my parents and from the teachers at school that I had to pick this ONE thing.

I rolled my eyes when I heard someone recommending this.

To be honest with you, whereas others knew exactly that they wanted to become a doctor, I had a hard time thinking of that singular thing that claimed my heart and soul… and would sustain me.

So, this might surprise you:

Finally, I picked ONE thing.

I studied…law.

When you’re reading this you might wonder:

What? Why law?

Well, I was 19 years old, felt discouraged and inferior and at some point, my dad just picked one for me:

“Everyone needs lawyers. They are specialized and you can earn good money because you’re a subject matter expert. If you’re exceptional, you’ll succeed in this area.”

I Learned The ONE Thing I Didn’t Want To Do

Studying law showed me the ONE thing I definitely NOT wanted doing and the ONE I really wanted to spend all of my time doing in this season of my life: writing.

One day, I jotted “I want to become a journalist” down in my journal.

So I left the university in Frankfurt (the “little big apple” in Germany) and my hometown behind to move to the media capital Cologne.

My parents weren’t happy about this decision. They said I was on my own now and my dad added:

“In this day and time, sooner or later journalists become alcoholics. They don’t get paid well and live in a small apartment (with mice)).”

The funny thing is, that’s exactly what one journalist who worked for a top-tier media in Germany shared with me (except the mice) about his daily life as a reporter.

You don’t get paid very well, pressure is high, time is short and you see a lot of things you don’t want to see.

Even Though He Was Exceptional At Writing, He Felt Discouraged And Inferior

The ONE thing the top-notch journalist wanted to do was write… but not news.

He wanted to share his poetry with the world and showed me his beautiful poems about love, loss, and lust.

Back then, he thought he had to stick to being a subject matter expert in the field of news. He told me that he had already over a decade of experience in this field and would get paid more as a specialist.

Being a specialist is the route to success, isn’t it?

The Key To Success In Life Is Not To Specialize

If you’re also struggling with finding this ONE thing that fires you up, I recommend reading “Range — Why generalists triumph in a specialized world” by David Epstein.

The key to success in life is not to specialize

Epstein explains why it’s 100% okay to don’t feel you have this ONE passion and that one thing that you are really exceptional at (like others).

Additionally, there’s no reason to feel discouraged if you feel there’s nothing in your life at this very moment that you are passionate about.

If you’re a jack of all trades and the master of none, that’s totally fine too.

We Learn Who We Are When We Try New Things

A lot of people fall into the trap of playing it “safe”.

Pick one thing, learn, become better at it, gain more experience, and excel.

When you’ve got all your eggs in the “way it’s always been done” basket, you’ll never know what a life on your terms looks like, what your true passion is, and who you really are.

40% of Americans already have a side hustle. For quarter four of 2022, many plan to start one.

But when 79% of people globally are not satisfied and engaged with their work… What does that tell us?

For Many, Picking ONE Thing And Then Sticking With It Forever Feels Is Impossible

It tells us that for a lot of people in our society, it’s impossible to pick this ONE thing and spent all of their time doing it.

in fact, this is limiting, explains Epstein in his bestselling book. Plus, specialized knowledge can make you blind to all of the possibilities that are out there.

The cool thing about a side hustle is that you can fully embrace David Epstein’s core lesson: We learn who we are when we try new things.

Here is what’s really cool.

In the process of building my own business on the side, I tried new things besides my job as a marketer and explored what worked.

Guess What? I Found My Passion — For Now

It really surprises me but my passion is… teaching and making a difference in others' lives. But this ONE thing is multi-faceted.

I love to help others in their journeys to becoming better writers and successful business owners.

That's what lights me up and pushes me to keep going forward every single day with my side hustle.

Writing, coaching, and course-building are all just the vehicles that get me there.

Plus, my knowledge and experience as a trained journalist and professional marketer help me get going.

More Likely Than Not, There’s Something Inside You Waiting To Be Released

If you read Epstein's book you understand that in today’s world, you don’t have to be a specialist.

You don’t have to build up experience in just ONE field to be successful.

A side hustle can help you finally find the things that really claim your heart and soul.

You’ll get to know yourself better when you try new activities and step outside your comfort zone.

Of course, your side hustle business will go through many changes as you grow as an entrepreneur.

The thing you want to explore now doesn’t have to be the thing you’ll do two years from now.

We learn who we are by doing, and by trying new activities.

Final Takeaways

There are 7 billion people in the world.

Our world needs specialists and also generalists. People who think differently, try different things, experiment a lot, and find creative solutions.

So being a specialist isn’t the route to success (anymore).

It served me well to have multiple interests and diverse experiences and try different things.

Through my side hustle, I found something that I’m truly passionate about, that I enjoy, that’s profitable, and that I couldn’t do in my 9–5.

So, if you feel like there’s something more you want to explore, I’m 100% sure you’ll find this once you dare to take that first step out of your comfort zone.

Remember: We learn who we are when we try new things!

© Kristina God

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