When people ask me what I do, I tend to freeze. I dislike labels. If I have to be labelled I prefer to be known as a Polymath. Something like that. And yet that doesn’t help When you are looking for your next piece of work. The market is skewed towards hiring specialists.
The world of HR and recruitment love labels. It somehow makes the hiring process less risky For them when they can you put you into a box. Specialisms, industry knowledge, groupthink. It’s a disease which is rife and one where Renaissance (wo)man stands no chance!
How can generalists become more useful? Some give back by working as a volunteer. Charitable work is very is rewarding But does not pay the bills. Others enter academia to become Priests to the religion that is education.
Others become authors or artists. Yet in business Creativity clashes with corporate straight jackets. Squashed between policies and boring routines We need a revolution! A revolution In the way that cognitive diversity is Recognised, commissioned and rewarded.
Ahah! I hear you say! It’s up to the generalist To market their skills and get themselves a job! However, generalists don’t like being tied-down To particular job descriptions. They don’t like Being put into a box. They are too inquisitive, Onto the next idea before the last has closed.
What if there was a pool of generalists Who could be engaged for an hour, day or week? They know lots of things about many things And can challenge like the Court Jester. Crazy ideas might lead to a great product or service. Who would commission them? Would you? And why?
When faced with a challenge, some folks lark about Thinking it’s funny. I used to do that sometimes. But as I get older, I find that those that behave like this Are oft lacking some training, skill or knowledge. Perhaps even covering up some learning difficulty … Because they have not applied themselves to MASTERY.
I was reminded by this last week by my flute teacher His name is James and he has a first-class degree in Music. He’s versatile enough to play in both a symphony orchestra As well as in a jazz or blues band. Read music and improv – After years of what he calls “shedding” it (which means Long, tedious practice in the garden shed!)
James has helped me to re-learn the Art of Mastery. I’m not sure if you ever took music lessons at school My first piano teacher was very solemn and stunk of perfume She didn’t like my casual attitude to learning. I hardly ever practised one week to the next And she became more and more frustrated by me!
She taught me FACE and “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” (As well as others I can’t remember for the Bass Clef). These have been useful with the flute because All the notes you play is in the Treble Clef. Since then, I have not read music. I’ve just “larked around” But if you want to play with others, you need to read music.
What does it take to become a Master in a given field? Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that It requires 10,000 hours of practice. That’s catchy and easy to remember but completely false! It’s not the number of hours that are important. It’s about the quality of time spent practising & rehearsing.
James tells me there are two types of students. Those who want to learn to read and play in an orchestra And those who just want to play by ear. I used to be the latter, but am now re-learning the fun Of reading music for the first time. It’s a slog, but getting easier as each week goes by.
James wasn’t born when I started to learn to play the piano But I still remember my first teacher’s perfume. Yuk! James is many years younger and wiser than me, He has taught me how to learn (again) And he has three words he uses to describe the Art: DISCIPLINE, FOCUS and PRECISION.
Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!