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Be the Best at Something Instead of Average at a Lot of Things

Be the Best

It’s common knowledge that you should work on things you’re not so good at. If you’re a star baseball pitcher who can throw the ball faster than anyone else but can’t throw a curve ball to save your life then you should improve your curve ball. If you’re really good at math but can’t write worth anything then you should really try to improve your writing skills. You should try to improve your weaknesses so that you can do everything. Basically you should focus most of your energy on improving your weakest points.

I completely disagree! Spend most of your energy improving the things you exceed at, not your weaknesses.

If you’re a great baseball pitcher that can throw a ball faster than anyone else, being able a throw a curve ball becomes less and less important. Not only that, but if you don’t improve on your main skill (throwing an amazing fast ball) than you’ll just be like everyone else. A pitcher who can throw a decent fast ball but with a limited repertoire of pitches. Nobody will really care. But if you throw the fastest and meanest fastball people will care. You’re skill will be rewarded. You will get attention. You will succeed!

If you can do math like no one else people will pay attention. You will succeed. People will overlook the fact that you can’t write. They’ll care that you can do amazing mathematical feats. They’ll focus on that. You’ll be rewarded for that. Only few people can achieve the heights off any skill.

Another example is basketball. Look at Shaquille O’Neal. He’s a very famous basketball player but he continually struggles with free throws. Something that’s considered a standard skill in professional basketball and he can barely do it. The reality is that it doesn’t matter, he’s focused his time and energy on improving his greatest strengths rather than working on his biggest weaknesses. Do you think people would care if he could get a decent free throw percentage if he hadn’t built up his other basketball playing skill? I doubt it.

I’m not saying that you should ignore your weaknesses, what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Put some effort to improve them but instead focus the vast majority of your effort and energies on improving what you excel at. Focus on your strengths. If you’re beyond amazing at something success will follow. People will overlook your weaknesses.

I’d rather have a Shaq on my basketball team than an all around average player. I’d rather have a team of Shaq’s, each with a very different expertise than an all around team of average players.

As Joel Spolsky says:

“The mediocre talent just never hits the high notes that the top talent hits all the time. The number of divas who can hit the f6 in Mozart’s Queen of the Night is vanishingly small, and you just can’t perform The Queen of the Night without that famous f6.”



 
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Comments:

  •     George Sudarkoff
    · December 31st, 2007  · 10:53 am  · Permalink

    That’s a lazy person’s approach to success. How about excelling at *everything*? And don’t tell me you can’t do it. I’m not a baseball fan, so I cannot make an appropriate example, but I am sure you can think of someone who was great at everything.

  •     Steph
    · December 31st, 2007  · 10:59 am  · Permalink

    Hi George,

    Can you name me someone who is great at everything? And not just in their field of expertize (any field). Even Einstein, someone who’s considered one of the brightest geniuses of our time was not excellent at everything…

    That’s what specialization is all about. Excel at especially one thing and be good enough to great in all others.

  •     George Sudarkoff
    · December 31st, 2007  · 11:44 am  · Permalink

    Steph, obviously, you can’t be *equally* good at everything. And when you do become famous, it’s usually because of just one thing that people care about the most. But being famous and being a better human being (and more successful) are two very different things. I wouldn’t say that being famous is a good measure of success. Unless successfully starving yourself to death, like Gödel did, or successfully murdering a famous person, or burning down a famous building considered a great achievement. I guess what I am saying is that “specialization is for insects”. People can do much better that to be excellent at just one thing.

    Besides, by saying “be good enough to great in all others (things)” you basically subscribe to my point of view. 🙂

    Happy New Year! Love your blog!

  •     Steph
    · December 31st, 2007  · 12:10 pm  · Permalink

    Hi George,

    Yes I’m basically subscribing to your point with the only exception being that you really should try to excel at one particular thing. Being the best at something is better than being good at everything, at least in business. That’s where the whole concept of USP (Unique Selling Proposition) comes from. Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be the best person you can be!

    By the way, when I mentioned reward I wasn’t alluding to fame as per say. When I said reward I meant whatever you wanted it to be. This could be fame, it could also be money, it could be respect, it could be just about anything. The idea is that you will stand out and be compensated for it in some way or other (fame, money, respect, independence, etc). Whatever is of value to you personally.

    And thank you! And Happy New Year to you as well 🙂

  •     The Workforce Expert - Achieving Your Goals
    · January 21st, 2009  · 6:19 pm  · Permalink

    […] Be the Best at Something Instead of Average at a Lot of Things “It’s common knowledge that you should work on things you’re not so good at. If you’re a star baseball pitcher who can throw the ball faster than anyone else but can’t throw a curve ball to save your life then you should improve your curve ball. If you’re really good at math but can’t write worth anything then you should really try to improve your writing skills. You should try to improve your weaknesses so that you can do everything. Basically you should focus most of your energy on improving your weakest points. […]

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