People are often confused by the abundance of skills I developed over the years. And I guess what confuses them is the apparent spread of those skills over areas which are apparently incompatible or difficult to match together. For instance, if I bring into the conversation with a programmer an astrological opinion on some fact, chances are that I will get a “blue screen of dead” conversation. And if I bring into a fine arts conversation something about programming, I’ll be most likely left alone with that “mambo jumbo” sentence and labeled as an “unsolvable case of geekery”.
The examples above use extremely distant knowledge areas, but the confusion remains even on more closely related activities like business, marketing and sales. A marketing person will expect that I know nothing on entrepreneurship, since marketing guys are usually employed by somebody else in an established structure. And a sales person will expect that I know noting about marketing, since this should be a complete separate activity inside the company.
I can talk for hours with an astrologer only about astrology and have a fulfilling and entertaining conversation. I can do the same with a programmer and share a lot of the newest web 2.0 technologies and feel at ease with that. I can also talk about entrepreneurship and starting a company from scratch and never feel on moving sands with the person in front of me. But the moment I start to bring new perspectives on some topic and use other skills I have for that insight, my conversation partner becomes reluctant.
I acknowledge that I’ve been pretty affected by that. The moment I opened to somebody and let him know that I know more than what he expected, I was rejected. I came to the point that I felt ashamed of what I knew or learned so far. It’s better to stick on one topic of your life and seek only people who can understand you, I’ve said to myself. I do have the need for social acceptance, so if that’s the price to be paid, let’s pay it. Let’s stick with a limited set of skills, which at least will provide me with a comfortable environment and put me in touch with similar people, and bash all those new and interesting things I could learn.
But I confess I wasn’t able to do this. Although I did my best to succeed in limiting myself, I failed miserably. The dryness of such a life was simply unbearable. Limiting myself to only one major skill was just unconceivable for me and unfulfilling, at least.
It’s Not About Them, It’s About You
The moment I stopped focusing of what others think about me, things began to change. In fact, things were always pretty good to me, in terms of knowledge hunger, it was only the fact that I’ve been exposing what I’ve learned publicly that made me afraid. Whenever I felt the need to get a social approval of my knowledge bag, I started to feel the stress and pressure. Cumbersome, believe me. So, I just let that acceptance and approval need apart and started to see if I can do without it.
Guess what? I can. If somebody doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, well, that’s his problem. As long as I’m satisfied with what I know it’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok, because having this abundance of perspectives offers me an incredible advantage. The advantage of being able to react in a far more flexible way than others. If there is some situation in my life that the usual psychology can’t explain, I can turn to astrology and see if I can get an answer. If there is a business strategy problem that I can’t break into smaller pieces I can always use some productivity techniques and find another perspective. If the marketing strategy I used doesn’t give me enough revenue, I can link it with other sales strategy.
Every time my current path seems blocked, I can come up with a new solution. And every time I move forward.
And it really doesn’t stop here. I develop new skills every day. During the last years I’ve learned a lot about my health, vegetarianism and raw food diet, for instance. I am on a raw food diet for more than 100 days now and I feel fantastic. Being raw vegan is by far the most socially impairing activity I’ve had so far, but also one of the most useful and precious to me. Because of that raw food diet my health and physical shape changed dramatically. I get a lot of “blue screen” from most of the people when it comes to the way I eat, but I really don’t take that into account. I’m no evangelist either, I don’t try to convince anybody to go against his set of believes, or to change their way of eating just because it proved beneficial to me. If we can’t have an interaction on any of the topics I can manage, then I simply move over.
And that is huge time saver. No need to excuse myself for knowing more than the other guy, no need to explain the benefits either. If it can’t be linked, it doesn’t exists, so move on.
Managing Unrelated Skills
The easiest way to understand how multiple skills can be beneficial to you is to imagine the world as a puzzle. Imagine the surface of the Earth like a fresh territory, with no roads and made of billions of puzzle pieces put together. Every piece you flip is like a part of a road that will lead your life. Every piece you understand, even if it’s miles away from your current location, will bring its meaning and shed light on your path. So, if you started to walk on a small road, this will tend to flip only pieces that are ahead of you. This is what “specialization” is: getting to a narrower path. Getting on a narrow path will have some advantages over time: you’ll meet fewer people and not be bugged by them, you’ll be the first to unfold some new places – like in making discoveries, you know – and will tend to be a little more relaxed, if not isolated.
But there are some disadvantages also. Suppose you meet on this narrow path of yourself, unfolded with patience and effort, another guy, who’s been on other foreign paths also. You’ll have little or no benefit at all from this encounter. Because the only language you’ll speak will be the language of your narrow path. You’ll understand only what’s related to your little path, and take everything else as a meaningless bubble. But chances are that those bubbles could have an enormous impact on your path. Chances are that you can unfold amazing new puzzle pieces and start to make new connections with other roads. Chances are that those roads will have unspeakable beautiful sceneries. And you will lose all that because you chose only one safer, easier and narrower path.
Hunting For Crossroads
This is what “hunting for crossroads” means. It’s a continuous search for new paths, for new connections and for new beautiful life experiences. Hunting for crossroads means flipping new puzzle pieces all the time, hoping that the new unfolded piece will build a new road and create a new path. I do encounter a lot of narrower roads on my journey, and meet with a lot of people who are only speaking the language of their own little path. In fact, most of the people I meet are on narrower paths. And most of the time I can only share what they are prepared to share, or what they understand as possible.
But that’s ok with me. I share my part and then move on, hunting for the next crossroad and enjoying my journey in each and every second. And I know that the most important part of my life is still unfolded and that the next skill I’m building will give me more happiness and joy of life.Tags: management, Personal Development, relationships, skills