In a world of specialists, generalists struggle for attention. ~me
In case you weren’t aware, we live in a world of categories, genres, and sub-genres
If you open your Netflix, iTunes, or Spotify you are immediately confronted with the infinite universe of entertainment specialists. Generes categorize our choices into bite-sized collections such as, indie rock, hardcore, easy listening, mystery/thrillers, action and adventure, romance, etc.
At first it feel like the hard work of choosing has been made easier. But as you wade into deeper water with menu after menu subdividing your choices into infinite subcategories, you realize that you’re holding your breath. It feels as if you need to resurface and you start rapidly clicking your back button just to get back to the main menu. Ahah, you’re there jus long enough to inhale deeply and dive down again into the milieu of choice.
Choice makes it more difficult to see the bigger picture
Although this automatic categorization of choice seems like a good thing, you realize that you want fewer choices. You feel less out of breath when the choices you have are limited instead of limitless.
- choose one primary care physician from a pool of three hundred
- choose a potential dating partner out of 100 and swipe right
- choose the half-caff-soy-latte-whatever from over 55 choices
And yet, by the time we’re 18 we’re supposed to have all of our life choices nailed down.
I’m 18 and I don’t know what to say
I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart
Took eighteen years to get this far
Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about
Feels like I’m livin in the middle of doubtCause I’m eighteen, I get confused every day
Eighteen, I just don’t know what to say
Eighteen, I gotta get away
That’s Alice Cooper’s 18, an important anthem of my confused brain back in the mid-70’s. In fact, my first concert was Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome to My Nightmare Tour’ at the Los Angeles Forum in 1975. It’s still a great, albeit dated, memory.
I wrote recently that the only career advice I’ve ever given my four kids was this: “Find an activity that you’d do for free over and over and pursue it with every bit of your waking energy. It’s the only path that will guide you to what you can’t-not-do.”
Focusing on what you can’t-not-do is essential if you are to survive in the 21st century marketplace. Getting there is a tricky business, however.
Our parents and teachers tell us we must chart a clear career path by aged 18. We are somehow supposed to niche our way to a specialists life without experimenting in the multiple areas that might find fulfillment.
“But that’s what college is about,” you say.
No, that’s what life is about. To limit our exploration of interests and the development of our talents to an additional four years or academic classrooms is not right for everyone. Two of my four kids are college graduates and have advanced degrees and professional certifications, yet all four are pursuing their life path doing what they can’t-not-do.
Not everyone is a specialist
In the world of Internet microbusiness, specialists rule the universe. Few and far between are the generalists who swim successfully in the shark-infested waters of the specialist. Every Internet marketing course I’ve taken (and I’ve taken many) has preached the same message: Specialize, specialize, specialize!
And I get it – it’s good advice because a person or firm with a problem is looking for a definitive solution to their problem and not an individual. It’s difficult to attract attention when your message is convoluted and fuzzy. But still there is a way to be known for what you do better than anyone else, or at least good enough to attract a following.
Renaissance individuals thriving in a world of specialists
You aren’t doomed for the trash heap of the blogosphere if you write about many things. You aren’t considered obtuse if your interests in Victorian-era fashion and modern hardcore punk music clash on your website. (Wow, can you image a blog like that? I’d love to see that!)
The Renaissance individual is most likely a dynamic person with many interests. Bringing their many interests together in a single brand can be a challenge.
The following Renaissance individuals do it better than most.
I think of people like Jonathan Fields who runs JonathanFields.com and GoodLifeProject.com. Jonathan is a former attorney who now follows a path that leads to what he can’t-not-do. A dad, husband, serial entrepreneur, growth strategist and award-winning author, Jonathan Fields inspires possibility. His book Uncertainty was a big help to me and might deserve a reread soon.
I think of Tammy Strobel who writes RowdyKittens.com. Tammy is creative author, photographer, teacher, and journaler to brings all of these interests together in a way that inspires readers to seek meaning in their everyday lives. I’ve corresponded with Tammy many times over the years and she always brings a unique presence to each communication. Her books and iPhone photography course are treasures. I love her work and you will, too.
The struggle to bring together varied interests is real
It’s harder than these two make it look. In my case, I’ve recently begun working on a strategy to bring my many interests under this one web-umbrella. I currently have two websites that are active, though I own many domains. I wonder about the potential loss of audience for the sake of uniting my interests.
My big interests include:
- writing books and courses
- digital business marketing and consulting
- motorcycle touring
- productivity tools
Over the next few weeks I’m going to bringing all of these interests under the umbrella of this site and begin to reinforce my personal brand. I started this a few weeks ago when I renamed the site so the transition will simply continue. I’m still planning how best to represent my personal brand, but it’s an exciting undertaking anyway.
Are you interested in developing a personal brand?
I came across an online cheat sheet from the book, Personal Branding for Dummies. If you’ve been wondering about how to make a personal branding splash in the world, this might help:
Your unique promise of value and personal brand statement
Your unique promise of value and your personal brand statement are closely linked; the statement is an expression of the promise. Both of them focus on what your target audience expects from you; they create an expectation of what you can deliver. These are probably the most important pieces of your personal brand profile, so you want to get them right before you start to communicate with your target audience.
Your unique promise of value: This is the promise you make to your target market that your brand will fulfill. It clarifies and communicates what makes you special. You must be able to live up to this promise.
Your personal brand statement: You use your unique promise of value to write the all-important personal brand statement. When you work on your statement, envision your best self. To begin your thought process on what your brand might include, answer the following questions:
What three or four keywords describe your essential qualities quickly and clearly?
What is your essence factor, the core of who you are? “I know I am in my element when __________.”
What is your authority factor, the knowledge that you hold and the skills that you possess? “People recognize my expertise in _________.”
What is your superstar factor, the qualities that set you apart? (This factor is how you get things done or what you’re known for.) “People comment on my ability to ___________.”
To help you get started writing your statement, use this fill-in-the-blanks template. Don’t be constrained by this language; simply use it as a starting point.
I use my ___________ and ___________ for ___________.
Known for ___________, I ___________.
Using ___________ (key trait), I ___________, by providing ___________.
Through my ___________, I ___________, when I serve ___________.