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Jack of All Trades or Master of One

Written by Jeffrey R. Armstrong – President/Owner of Armstrong Capital

Your favorite Master Note Buyer – Straightforward, Honest, Fair…

Specialization vs. Generalization

Recently I was involved in a discussion of “specialization vs. generalization.” The gist of the conversation was that schools, employers and businesses today were pushing specialization over generalization resulting — in the opinion of some — in a legion of workers who “can’t see the forest for the trees.” They are focused on their narrow area of expertise, know their stuff well, but have no idea how their little piece of the puzzle fits in with what everyone else is doing.

So the question then becomes, is it more desirable to specialize in a certain niche or to be able to “do it all?”

You can probably do lots of different things with a good team. But mastering these things yourself may propel you to be much more powerful, independent and free.  A lot of these things can also be combined and the more you master, the more powerful you are and the probability of success becomes much higher.

You may have heard of the term “Jack of All Trades and Master of None”. This is used in a derogatory fashion to refer to someone who knows a little bit about everything (or perhaps a wide variety of knowledge areas), but has not mastered any particular field of study. The negative implication is that the person cannot do anything perfectly and is useless.

There is another school of thought that suggests that this situation, in fact, may not be necessarily bad, as opposed to “Master of One Trade and Knows Nothing Else”. The train of thought is that by generalization, we have a greater chance of survival in a changing economic environment than by a detailed specialization in any particular area.

Therefore, a combination of the two, “Jack of All Trades and Master of One” would sound like the best of both worlds: Specialize in one field, become an expert, command honor & high salaries, do meaningful work, while being able to switch over to another area if circumstances demand. In reality, this is not quite as easy as it sounds; yet, this is the path I have chosen.

As a specialist and expert in individually held seller financed notes there is not a question I would not be able to answer or situation I couldn’t handle.  However, when I get contacted for different potential real estate transactions – such as portfolios of notes, non-performing notes, hard money loans, fix-n-flips, short sales, wholesaling, etc – I have the ability to quickly evaluate the situation and can choose to work on it myself or refer it out to competent and trustworthy associates and colleagues.

The primary problem with this situation is about resolving two conflicting demands on personal resources. To be a master requires intense focus with huge amounts of time and energy spent in being an expert. To be a “jack of all trades” requires, by its very nature, multi-tasking in different areas and spreading out time and effort. How can we achieve this balance?

One way is to start with focusing on being an expert first – make the necessary commitment and effort to achieve a high degree of knowledge and achievement in an area. This will be a significant investment in every respect, including years of one’s life spent. It is vital to choose wisely. Understand your interests and capabilities.

Recognize when you have achieved a satisfactorily high level of excellence and stop exerting the same level of effort. In simple terms, understand when you have reached the level where the “law of diminishing returns” kicks in. At this point, split your focus and spread your efforts. You still would devote some percentage of your time keeping up with developments in your specialty, but it will be much less compared to what you did before.

Finally, start learning about areas unrelated to your current skill set. Keep the learning at a level of interest. The trick is to use books or media tuned towards the novice audience. Attend workshops, seminars and conventions in the desired area of interest. Read books from authors who bring complex subjects to a basic, step by step, and even an elementary level .

Being a “Jack of All Trades and Master of One” makes for a great life. As an expert, you are able to do your job well and bring pleasure to yourself and those who benefit by your work. By gaining general knowledge in other areas, life can become more enriching and exciting each day.

Remember, success demands action! Keep on marketing, it’s going to work! TWITA! (That’s What I’m Talking About!)

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