When Too Much Specialization Leads to Stagnation


One of the biggest takeaways from the job market today is the need to ‘specialize’. My five years as a post-secondary student led me to believe that in order to achieve my goals, I would have to become an ‘expert’ in my niche field and I would thrive.

Although this may be true to some degree for many, I feel this type of learned behaviour develops poor habits, some of which that can severely limit self-growth.

Constantly pursuing specialization in your field shuts out opportunities outside of your realm, and the result is closed mindedness.

If greed is a pathway to failure, why is solely focusing on your specialty not seen in the same light?

Consider this scenario:

It is medieval times and you ride into town on a horse after achieving victory in a battle. You are told of a local blacksmith that can craft you the finest sword in all the land. You go over to this man and ask to see his items for sale, but he does not speak. After a few moments you realize that no wonder this man cannot communicate with you – blacksmithing is all he knows.

This scenario may be bit of a stretch, but the idea is simple. You may be an expert in your craft, but when opportunities arrive from outside of your field, you will have a hard time grasping them.

Tim Ferriss wrote a great article which revolves around this idea. He talks about how being a ‘Jack of all trades’ is beneficial for becoming a well-rounded individual that excels in any arena. It can be found here.

I understand the importance of mastering your field and aspiring to be the best you can be. However, if you truly want to continue growing as an individual, you should go outside of your specialty and develop a skill or hobby that you are interested in.

This is for two reasons.

1) maintaining a healthy balance in life is necessary for personal and professional success.

2) being able to withdraw from your niche and diving into something outside of it will allow you to re-energize yourself.

Going outside of your comfort zone by focusing on something you are not as highly proficient in will create new challenges for you to overcome. This will open new avenues for growth and gives an escape from everyday norms that you have grown accustomed to.

When brought back to your natural environment, you will have the energy and balance to continue to reach goals like never before.

Just because it takes ten thousand hours to ‘master’ a skill, doesn’t mean you have to neglect other aspects of your life.

Having trouble finding the time to maintain balance in your life? Try reading my blog post on time management to help find the solution.


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