Versatility vs. One Big Thing

Versatility vs. One Big Thing

Recently I commented on a post by Phil Cooke titled “The Bread Plate Lady and the Power of Your “One Big Thing.” You can read his post and the resulting discussion here.

In the article, Phil makes some valid points in the defense of what he calls your “one big thing.” What he means by this is the thing (ability, talent, skill, passion) that you have completely mastered. He’s pushing for being remarkable in something so that you can “cut through the clutter and get noticed in the crowd of competition.”

I get it… it sounds nice. And I heartily agree with the concept that I we should all strive for excellence in everything we do. But what I think is missing from this idea of “one big thing” is versatility, flexibility, and adaptability.

I recently departed, or rather fled, from this idea. The belief that I needed to have “one big thing” suffocated me for years as I pressured myself into thinking that I had to be master of one skill. I wound up frustrated and empty handed in the end. When I finally embraced the fact that God made me to be diverse in my skill set, and useful in more than one area, I was inspired to chase after all of those different things. Now my biggest problem is deciding how to divide my time. I feel like I’m finally on my way to becoming what God wants me to be instead of trying to squeeze myself into this mold that the world has created for me.

I believe with full confidence that we can pursue many passions, and achieve excellence in everyone of them. I believe that we can lead dynamic multi-dimensional lives that keep us learning and growing all along the way. I also believe that God created some of us with the drive and focus to pursue one big thing, and he made others with the ability to span a wide ranging array of skills.

Today’s unstable job market will smile on the people who can demonstrate proficiency in varying areas. The guy that can develop your website AND edit your video AND do your accounting will probably be a more useful member of your team than the award-winning accountant that only does accounting. Diversity and agility in skills is a becoming more attractive to employers, especially small non-profits like religious ministries that require much work on a small budget with limited staff. If you’ve achieved that “one big thing” in your life, perhaps it’s time to add another one. It’s never too late, you’re not too old, and you’re probably not that busy. Never stop learning and developing whatever skills you have to be the best version of yourself.

Agree or disagree? Are you a “one big thing” or a “jack-of-all-trades” kind of person? What holds you back from jumping into a new skill?

1 comment

  1. I was afraid when I started reading that you were going to promote the “one big thing” idea. Glad you didn’t. Yes, he has created some of us with that drive to really excel in one particular area, but only do one thing well is a little like only exercising your arms. You will become lopsided. My dad was a great carpenter, but he could not do even the smallest car maintenance, or plumbing, or electrical work leaving himself a bit handicapped. I’m glad there are doctors who excel in certain areas, but at the same time, specialist are often blind to everything but the one area they know. I have heard of people going to 3 different drs for opinions. The surgeon insists they need surgery, the oncologist insists on chemo, the radiologist says only radiation will help, etc. Some of us are lopsided on the other spectrum. We know a little bit in a lot of areas, but don’t go deep anywhere. I guess it’s not either/or, but both/and. Keep thinking; keep challenging!

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