You Don’t Need to Specialize to Be Successful

Encouraging all those who have difficulty finding a specific path

Woman aircraft worker — Photo by Library of Congress

World War II. Six years of global conflict between the vast majority of the world’s countries.

Labor mobilization of women was the response to the urgent need for keeping the war production at its best.

The civilian workforce with expertise was rapidly expanding in the war industry.

High demand for military technologies, new aircraft, ships, munitions and medical innovations.

The high priority to complete tasks and the urgent situation for human resources were the main cause of specialization. Even during The Great Depression.

This is how specialization shaped the world.

The society still values specialists by their achievements in their chosen field.

If you read this article, you are probably considering yourself as a “Jack of all trade” as I am. You already have experienced imposter syndrome or feeling of culpability when seeing people successful in a specific domain.

Let me say something to all generalists: you have superpowers.

You have the ability to transfer your knowledge to new situations, you have a broad education and you know how to think outside the box.

When specialization is required

I have to be honest, you need specialists around you.

One day, you wake up after a good night’s sleep. You stand on your feet, take your car’s key and start the engine. But it doesn’t start at all. You desperately need to call a car specialist.

You come back from a three-month road trip a week before a wedding, you probably need a fresh haircut. Do you trust your abilities with a how-to video on YouTube ? You desperately need a hairdresser.

You have been diagnosed with a heart disease and are scheduled to go into surgery soon. Do you want to be face to face with a generalist or a specialist ? You desperately need a cardiologist.

Without these people you will probably be not well dressed up, jobless, sick or dead. However, you still see these people’s skills from the top and probably think they are specialist, what if they are generalists like you ? It’s surely true.

Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most impressive generalist of his time. Maybe you know him for his drawing, painting or mechanical inventions. It’s just the top of the iceberg.

Do you really know who Leonardo da Vinci really was?

Photo by Mika Baumeister

He was an artist, show and party organizer, scientist, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, urban planner, botanist, musician, poet, philosopher and writer.

No more, no less.

He could have much more pronounced imposter syndrome than yours, but he made some progress in all these fields.

Specialists need generalists

Specialization is hard (as being a generalist) and I admire people going very deep in their chosen field.

But to specialize is digging your grave of your evolution.

The world is full of opportunity and fast moving.

We must remain curious about what’s going on and not lock ourselves in a box. In a few years, our specialization may disappear or evolve significantly. Maybe androids will replace you.

Who knows ?

Generalists are great to see the big pictures, it’s a considerable advantage if you want to become an entrepreneur. Because building your own company involves knowing how to hire.

You cannot hire a marketing professional if you don't know the basics of marketing.

You cannot hire a writer if you don't know how to produce good quality articles.

You can do so, but you trade quality and your company's sustainability on the long run.

You have to practice a lot of things by your own and acquire basic knowledge in all fields you encounter in the path of your entrepreneurial journey.

Adopt the T-shaped skills

The best way to go is to adopt the T-shaped skills. It's simple to understand and you can build your own easily.

The principle is to deepen your expertise in one field and stay curious on a broad selection of other disciplines you like or need to accomplish tasks in your specific skill.

You can be specialized in graphic design (vertical) having a broad knowledge in photography, web development and philosophy (horizontal).

Why T-shaped people?

T-shaped is the best compromise to succeed as a generalist. Becoming a generalising specialist.

You have the ability to transfer your knowledge to new situations, you have a broad education on specific domains and you know how to think outside the box.

Surround yourself with the right people. Every time. Everywhere. Don’t waste time with people who slow you down and don’t move you forward.

World needs you. Do not hide your superpowers.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store