I am a Deep Generalist.
By the time you’ve finished reading this page, my ongoing articles and case studies, you’re going to want to be one too!
Like many graduates, my early career was a struggle.
This was the old world – a specialist world where we were expected to conform neatly to a specific career path.
Trying to fit into that box nearly crippled me and left me close to bankruptcy. I was
- a trained journalist
- a novelist who'd published a book on historic architecture
- an office manager with experience across IT, marketing, and training
- knowledgeable on a range of industries from real estate through the various venture capital companies I’d promoted
- a tv show host of a program I hope will never again see the light of day
Who would hire someone with so weird a mix of skills? I was beginning to fear, as this beach averse Brisbane boy sat in a Gold Coast office that a big 'NoooOne' was singing across the waves.
But then, something changed
I applied for a job back in Brisbane, for a firm with a complementary problem to mine. Seeking a state operations manager, the role called for a wide variety of technical, communication, and industry skills. At $40k (incl Super and a sexy hefty mobile phone), it wasn't going to make me rich, but it did validate that having multiple skills could be as valuable – or more so – than diving deep into one specialty.
Running my business
This became most apparent to me several years later when, as a business coach and now running my own business, I made the deliberate choice to run headlong into a recession and move to London, arriving 3 days after the GFC had eaten my work contract [more on these madcap adventures here]
The future is not in specialising
You might think that a great recession has a dearth of opportunities. And if you’re a specialist who can only excel at one thing and that one thing may not be relevant when the economy is in the dumps, that’s true. If nothing else, the GFC revealed that the future is not in specialising, it’s in generalising but doing it deeply.
During the 2 years I spent in London, the opportunities to help businesses ready for the challenge, to grow and change were legion:
- I helped a pharmaceutical research company restructure their team
- I coached a TV production house to revise their pitching process
- The toy store I worked with doubled their store locations.
- I helped the last photo printing studio in south-west London to grow
- I took on the COO role for the second largest coaching company in the UK where I rolled up my sleeves and created their marketing strategy, re-designed induction training to be more commercial faster, and opened up new communication channels for various regional team leaders so that during the second of the double-dip recessions our revenue increased by 100%.
25 countries and a bottle of Finnish vodka later
I've visited 25 countries with my beautiful wife, enjoying breathtaking experiences such as sipping Finnish vodka in a hot spring on a remote Icelandic farm while snow fell silently and I was warm in the knowledge that my business bank accounts were climbing and tenants were paying off a home that had more than doubled in value.
The Polymath has teeth
Today I am in demand as a coach, advisor, and speaker – not because I have one area of expertise, but because I have so many.
The Renaissance person, the Polymath, wasn’t T-Shaped. They had TEETH, both Width and Depth.
This is the Deep Generalist. Someone who may not have one single area of expertise that stands out, that makes them a world beater. They have depth all over the place: in multiple disciplines; in range and capabilities and expertise.