A dissenting opinion on what you should do with your career.
There are many leadership consultants, preening to give you advise on what you should and should not be doing in the different stages of your career. The following is a dissenting opinion to the norm. The norm being — you must focus on one thing in your teens and twenties, be consistent, show aptitude and authority on something early, so you can be the expert in the room.
I think this “norm” is a good strategy for an assortment of careers — professors, engineers, surgeons, psychologists, accountants, and other professionals where proficiency is required as a gatekeeper to earning an income.
But there are many careers that do not require expertise early. In fact, I would argue the redistribution of knowledge has shrunk the importance of an expert and begun to reward those who are generalists who can see connections and complexity and predict trends within a global economy. If you are wanting to be a leader of an assortment of professionals, proficieny early is probably not the best advise, as there is a need to understand the many different opinions and experiences of the people in your organization to lead cross-functionally. If you want to be in the field of design, digital product, technology where creativity, flexibility, and ideation is an important skillset, there will probably be multiple paths to proficiency.
Again, the following is not an indictment of the norm, but an alternative to it.
In your 20’s:
Try everything, be a generalist. Learn broadly. Create with passion. Production over consumption.
In your 30’s:
Winnow it down, pick a general direction. Learn deeply. Create discipline.
Do the work.
In your 40’s:
Say no to most things, so you can focus on a few things. Learn strategically. Create with intent. Mentor.
In your 50’s:
Sit back, observe and respond. Learn from contemporaries. Create with emotion and empathy. Teach.
In your 60’s:
Try everything, embrace the new. Learn from those in their 20’s & 30's. Create opportunities. Impart wisdom.
I’m 40, so this is both experiential and aspirational. One last caveat — in my twenties, I did not watch much TV and I did not play video games. I stayed away from consumption and focused on production. This, sometimes unpopular decision, has remained a consistent priority in my life.
Production over consumption.
I believe it to be the most beneficial habit contributing to fulfillment in my work and overall well-being in my life.