Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Master of Nothing or Master of Something?

As a former teacher in both the traditional university setting and the career college setting I often had the chance to sit down with students and listen to them talk about their dreams and aspirations. One of my jobs was to try to get them to hone in on what they wanted to do for a career and move towards that. However, that was always easier said than done because as you may know, people end up doing some many different things that they never find their ultimate path to move towards. The end up doing everything under the sun and essentially they become a master of nothing.

A similar thing happens when I interview candidates for work at my fitness facility. If I see that they have no direction or goals for mastering their craft then that really sends off a red flag for me. Too many times I am bombarded with folks who are pulled in so many different directions, but really have no expertise in anything. Malcolm Gladwell, author of landmark book Outliers, discusses success and mastery in terms of the 10,000 hour rule. Gladwell explains that greatness and mastery require a tremendous amount of time and practice. Adding it all up it takes roughly 10 years for a person to gain a high level of mastery in their specific field of work. Now you might not believe this to be completely true as there are many factors besides time spent on something that determine an outcome of mastery (i.e. genetics, environments, etc.). However, one thing that I think is hard to refute is that mastery does involve intensity and direction towards a specific task. Without intensity and direction one cannot be considered an authority in anything.

So, the challenge with mastery in a specific field is that it must be given the attention that it deserves. Look at it this way. If a potential employee came to you with 15 certifications in various things or works 5 or 6 different jobs all at once how great can they realistically be at all of those things? This potential employee is a master of nothing, but wouldn't he/she rather be a master of something? How much of an authority can you be if your time is spent in 10 different places? I have had conversations with people in the past and people in the present about this and I always and they always attest that we have yet to see one person be excellent at a ton of different things.

My challenge to you is to get out there and find a few things you really want to do and make those things happen. Sacrifice for them. Be wrapped up in them for the love of it and not for the money of it. Listen, I didn't get into the fitness industry to become rich and if anybody reading this did then you are fooling yourself. You get into this business because you love people. You make peace with it and you own what you do. I know that times are tight and people are struggling, but you can make it happen even in these tough times. There is no time like the present time. I know because I went to school for 10 and a half years to get into the position I am in today. I was dirt poor throughout all the years of my schooling. I lived off of $7,000 a year and I made every single penny last while I pursued my passion for fitness, health and wellness academically and now I can be proud that I'm where I want to be professionally because I laid it down for what I wanted. I did not try to do eighteen different things or dabble in this or dabble in that. I zeroed in on what I wanted to do and made that my life's work. And you know what? I have examples of some great people in my life who have done the same.

My good friend Rob Montgomery zeroed in on being in the Air Force and many years later he is a Captain. My buddy Nick Langridge went to school for Public Relations and worked his way up through the Duke Club at our school James Madision University. He now is the Assistant to the President of JMU and I have no doubt that one day in the future he will be the President of JMU. My buddy Josh Moyer devoted his work towards being a worship leader at his church and now he has risen to putting out music with his band that is inspiring and hopeful. My brother Anthony (aka Wordsmith) started out with no resources in starting his own record label and getting his name out in the hip hop circles. Now he is one of the most recognized underground hip hop artists in America and his last mixtape was downloaded over 500,000 times and he has his own fully functioning record label. I could go on and on about amazing people I know that made the decision to run with something they loved to do and now they are super successful. Did each of these people struggle on their way to their current roles? Of course they did. That is part of the beautiful struggle in life. Greatness requires lessons in failure, disappointment and conflict. Each of these people were fueled by the difficulties they encountered getting to where they are now and they would all tell you that they needed that in order to be successful. They would also tell you that they were glad that they made the decision to pour their hearts and minds into the gifts they were given and to master those gifts in a distinct direction or field.

You too can be successful like this, but you have to make a choice. Do you want to be a master of nothing or a master of something?

Until the next time everyone...

Dr. D


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