I often say, “learn a lot about a little, and do a lot of it.” This is also known as specializing. The most prosperous people today are specialists. They have a particular skill set that they have mastered. They are not trying to be all things to all people. They are not trying to serve all markets. They have learned as much as they can about a small slice of the world and they have practiced it endlessly.
Take medical specialists. They dedicate their entire lives to a particular specialty in medicine, and they go so deep into that area and they advance very far in the medical world by having a specialist mindset.
Specialization carries over into the business world as well. The most fruitful financial advisors are specialists. They learn as much as they can about a small part of financial advising and they focus on that for their entire careers. For instance, they might learn the ins and outs of a particular realm of financial advising – estate planning, retirement planning, succession planning, or even planning for business owners. Then, they do so much of that particular planning, usually with a particular group of people or to serve a specific market or product, that they become specialists.
Like so many things, specialization begins with a mindset. Decide what specific subject you want to learn a lot about, and then do that. Learn as much as you can and practice it as much as you can. Before you know it, you will be a specialist.
Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives at a fairly young age. That is great for them, but most people are not like this. Lots of people have an idea of what they want to do, but they don’t know specifics. There is nothing wrong with either type of person. The people who do not know exactly what they want to do have simply not yet found what they really love to do. They have not experienced something that excites them, or that makes them stop and think to themselves, I could be happy doing this forever. I could be happy doing this without getting paid.
If you have not yet found what you want to do with your life, don’t worry. You will get there. I always say that the best way to figure out what you love to do is exposure. Exposure is simply experiencing a number of different things within a broad topic and then finding which one you like best.
Take a high school athlete who participates in four sports. He swims during the summer, plays football in the fall, does basketball in the winter, and plays baseball in the spring. Obviously, this is a young man who loves sports. He knows that much – he loves competition and team bonding and challenging himself physically. What he does not know quite yet is which sport he likes best. So throughout high school he participates in all four of these sports. As time goes on, he may recognize that he has an affinity toward one of these sports or that he simply likes one better than all the others. When he goes to college, he has narrowed his four sports down to one – he has decided to play baseball. He has learned a lot about baseball and he has put as much of his time as he can into practicing and playing only baseball. Because he experienced many different sports, he was able to figure out which one he liked best.
Another example is a beginning medical student. She is entering medical school with the plan of becoming a doctor. During her course of medical school she will decide whether she wants to become a radiologist, oncologist, pediatrician, or another specialty. She will make that decision based on her various classes and the types of medicine that she has been exposed to.
Deciding what you want to specialize in is all about looking at your interests and then getting exposure and seeing the different parts of those interests. Then, you can narrow your search for a career. From that point, you look at what you have an affinity towards, what aligns with your values, and what you really love to do.
In the business world, there are 3 Ps: Passion, Purpose, and Profit. Passion is what you’re most excited about and Purpose is your natural ability. If you can find a job that connects both your Passion and your Purpose – something you’re great at and also really excited about -you have really hit a home run. If you can make good money on top of that, you’ve hit a grand slam.
Earl Nightingale, one of the founding fathers of the motivational/self-help industry, stated years ago that to become an expert in anything one must dedicate 10,000 hours to that noble pursuit to obtain mastery level. In the past few years books by Malcolm Gladwell and other bestselling authors have reinforced and validated the time commitment one needs to reach expert/master status. This demonstrates that those that learn a lot about a little and do a lot of it (10,000 hours plus) will be viewed and sought out as the best of the best.