When it comes to investments of your time and money, it’s a very bad time, historically, to do things halfway.
What technology has done is create one global playing field, where the expected standard for everything is excellence. In a previous generation, the question was sometimes posed: “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?” Being a big fish in a small pond used to be a highly sustainable and lucrative possibiity. Technology and globalization have now mostly eliminated this strategic option.
My advice for young people is: Avoid spreading your tentacles too far; pick one thing to specialize in and do it well; only branch out if you demonstrate sustained success and have a strong urge to try something new; and when you are not engaging in the one thing you do well, you should relax, because our connected world, while thrilling, is also demanding and exhausting. Remember that sitting out has strategic value—you get to learn without cost or risk.
In a highly competitive global world, you might reasonably expect to have a small edge on your competition when it comes to your specialty. However, it is also reasonable to expect that you are at a large negative disadvantage if you venture into new fields. A poker player might expect to earn one big blind per 100 hands in the game he specializes in, but lose ten big blinds per 100 hands in a game that’s relatively new for him. This is the danger of dilettantism; it might take you ten hours doing the thing you’re good at to overcome the losses from one hour spent doing the thing you’re bad at.
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