Be a Master, not a Jack

Expertise is vital, mastery is precious.

I would rather have a team of experts working on a problem than a team of generalists. The probability of success rockets with the number of specialists in the team.

Polymaths, Renaissance men (or women), the likes of Leonardo, Galileo and Newton are one in billions. For regular people, it takes years to become good at even one thing.

Being very good at something is very good. Aim for it, be proud to be striving for it and content with achieving it. Immerse yourself in the same thing most of the time. It takes a long time to master something, as we know from popular self-help books. Then you achieve excellence and contribute something vital or beautiful to the world.

Do not take pride in saying, ‘I can do it all’ or ‘I can do that too’. If your organization is role-based consider yourself fortunate. Respect well-defined roles and responsibilities, at all levels. Do not break the mould. Stick to your role and encourage others to stick to theirs. Every role is important for a balanced team. Do not put any role down. But be proud of being good and fit for your own role.

If someone is not doing a good job, see if you can enable them to improve. Don’t try to do the job for him or her. If improvement is not evident, replace the person with a more capable person with the same role. A person with a different role doing that work should be the very last resort.

Avoid taking on more than one role, for any reason. Especially not to try and make yourself stand out or become indispensable. It will not serve you or the world in the long run. Be alert to not let it happen unconsciously or forcibly either.

As an architect, specialise, specialise, specialise.

At the end, your professional epitaph should be ‘Oh he, he was a very good …..,’.

It’s unlikely to be ‘Oh he, he was a very good A and B and C and D’.

And you don’t want it to be ‘Oh he, I don’t know what he did exactly….’

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