Everyday Exceptional: seeking people who are awesome at something specific

Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

TL;DR: do you know someone who’s exceptional at something specific? Or is it you? I want to profile that person and their skill for an upcoming blog series. Submit them here, and read on for more details.

Trying to be good at everything doesn’t work. At best you end up passable at a lot of things, but not truly great at any of them. But it’s the exceptional skills that stand out and make a person memorable, even if they’re really niche. Maybe especially if they’re niche.

Professor and badass Frances Frei has challenged people to “dare to be bad.” Stop caring about where you suck and focus on where you’re exceptional. It’s okay to be bad at certain things. Own it, take the time you gain from discarding those things, and funnel it into your unique talents. “Daring to be bad” at skill A is really “committing to be awesome” at skill X.

Most VCs are generalists. We need to be Jacks of all trades and masters of none, from everything spanning emerging technologies, to the right amount of equity to give an engineer at a Series B company, to the IPO process, to the psychological considerations around a co-founder relationship breakdown, to the legal red flags in a term sheet, to the pattern-matching we’ve seen around fundraising. And that’s just a tiny smidgen of what we do. But we’re generalists who have an eye for exceptional people, whether to invest in them, hire them for our portfolio companies, or ask for their advice.

It’s an amazing job but I often miss the specialization and expertise of being an operator. I’ve always felt like a successful career means having the expertise — often in a niche area— where you’re one of the best in the world at something, you’re known for that thing, you love that thing, and people come to you for advice around that thing. At best, that expertise gives you control, autonomy, respect, and depth around your schedule and your life. At least, it’s a good cocktail party conversation.

I’m fascinated by what people at the top of their crafts have learned, so I want to meet and profile individuals who are known for being awesome at something. If a person is awesome at X (where “X” is a very specific skill that comes up in everyday situations), I’ll interview and profile them for an upcoming blog series. My goals: help readers learn something quick about that skill and give that person a public shout-out for being a standout.

The best skills are those that are specific; nothing is too small. In fact, the more niche, the better. I’m looking for the exceptional among the everyday. Some examples:

  • the best at ending a meeting early without pissing anyone off
  • the best car-buying negotiator
  • the most prolific creator of gifs from “The Office”
  • the best at firing people
  • the most accurate at guessing strangers’ ages
  • the best designer of NPC AI in video games
  • the salesperson with the best memory for personal client info
  • the fastest iOS keyboard typist
  • the best at saying ‘no’ in person
  • the best dystopian sci-fi world builder
  • the most effective blocker of robocalls
  • the best Mario Kart 8 green shell shooter

I’ll write up how they learned their skill, how it’s helped (or hindered) them, and their tips and stories around using it.

Please submit your ideas of exceptional people and their skills here, or email me with questions or suggestions at sarah(at)accomplice(dot)co.