Yes, I’ve chosen Fallout 4’s skill tree to illustrate my point.

Don’t specialise. Generalise!

This could potentially be awful advice, kids… so listen up.

For the last two years I’ve been trying to pin down Me. The guy who knows some field X extremely good. The guy who loves X more than anything. The guy who gets called on emergencies just to do X for a crazy amount of money and eternal glory because he’s JUST. THAT. GOOD.

The other day I realised that it ain’t gonna happen.

I’m not saying that the fantasy is a lie — I’d be foolish to do so. There are plenty examples of professionals that are so good at their craft it’s crazy. They chose a field — or found it by a happy accident — stuck to it, loved it enough to not let go of it even in the face of hardship and doubt, and when the dust settled, they emerged champions.

There’s a chance that I just gave up on that path. Never really going the extra mile to find out if one thing was or wasn’t for me, making the conclusion of the latter too early.

But at this point I’m almost certain that I won’t reach the master level in any field because I can’t commit to only one field. And to be honest… I don’t want to.

It gets boring. It gets dull. You lose interest as fast as you lose inspiration. You want to make a thing that requires knowledge of something other that logo design, but you can’t, because logos are the only thing you know!

I see fields as tools. Or rather toolboxes, even. Design is a toolbox. Development is a toolbox. Writing is a toolbox. UI and UX are tools in the Design toolbox, like the hammer and screwdriver in the contractor’s toolbox. The same goes for HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP — they’re tools in the Development toolbox. Writing? Advertising / creative copy, storytelling, SEO are the tools in that box, son.

Contractors raise buildings, and digital people build stuff. Amazing stuff.

And the prospect of creating excites me even more than the thought of finding a field so close to my heart that I’d want to practise it exclusively everyday until the end of time.

The best thing is that you don’t have to be 100% fluent in the tools you need for your projects. A contractor knows how to use a sander just enough to make the floors free of splinters and safe to walk (slide) on. Similarly, you can learn PHP or Python just enough to whip up an MVP for that app idea that’s been laying between the pages of your Moleskin for ages now.

On the flip side, generalists are less attractive in the eyes of employers. Not all, but most of them seek specialists, and that’s the only sensible thing if you’re building a team of professionals.

Also, it’s hard to pinpoint what you are, exactly. A creative? Entrepreneur? Maker? That’s a topic for another post. Or person.

On the flip flip side — a generalist on the team may see the bigger picture more clearly. Heck, maybe he or she is the OP of that picture? More often than not, that’s exactly the case.

A generalist, having a certain level of knowledge in many fields, has an understanding of how different elements in a project work together and apart, how they coincide. Not only does that save time, but also adds a dash of rationale in generating new ideas. A generalist, even ofttimes being a dreamer, can foresee what is too good to be possible given the circumstances.

Indeed it is, The Dude.

In short, specialists are awesome. They spill blood, sweat and tears for the things they love. But not all are meant to travel that road. Like many opinions passed down to us from older generations, the notion of “specialise or die” finally entered a time when it may die.

So if you’re not feeling particularly professional, today or everyday, remember: some have a unique skill, others are unique in having many skills. It’s just a matter of applying yourself.

Hi! My name’s Mantas. I’m a designer/illustrator from Lithuania who doubles as a part-time copywriter. I run a publication called “PREACH IT!” containing short pieces on creativity related topics such as the one you just read. If you liked it, give it some and check out the others. Thanks! 🙏

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