[PMC] Mailbag: “Narrow in service of broad or deep”

Fred Ross sent a really interesting reply to https://philipmorganconsulting.com/pmc-narrow-in-service-of-broad-or-deep/:


So I’m one of the mythical polymaths, and my take on this is that there is no dichotomy between specialist and polymath.

I was a physicist, a statistician, a microbiologist, a software engineer (this is what I am at the moment), a novelist, a semipro violinist, I could pay the bills as a cook if I need to, I can do landscaping, typesetting and layout, or teach martial arts or dancing. And there’s an important point that everyone seems to miss about me and the other polymaths I know (and I do know several more): we didn’t do it all at once. At any given point in time we’re specialists. We just have this long trail of previous specializations that we reached a fairly high level in that we can draw on. They’re rusty, but a rusty professional is still not half bad for most cases.

The dichotomy is between “focus” and “distracted by shiny objects.”

That being said, what you are specialized in may not nicely match someone’s existing categories, which can make you look like a polymath when you just happen to be pursuing something that twists and winds in a way that drags you across the accepted discipline boundaries.


Thanks so much for sharing this, Fred. Extremely well said.

To repeat for emphasis: The dichotomy is between “focus” and “distracted by shiny objects.”

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From now until until the end of this year you can get 30% off both The Positioning Manual (http://thepositioningmanual.com) and Specializing Without Failure (http://specializingwithoutfailure.com).

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-P