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Stop Telling Me To Focus On One Thing

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

It use to be…

You go to high school.

You graduate.

You go to college.

You graduate.

You get a job.

You specialize.

You maybe get another job.

You still specialize.

And You live happily ever after.

Times have changed.

Reason being? We are moving from a specialist-first society back into one where generalists not only are having significant amounts of success, but many are surpassing the specialists. There are 3 core reasons behind why this is happening.


1. Talent Stacking.


Talent Stacking is simply being pretty darn good (but not necessarily great) at quite a few things. Enough where it adds up. They are your “Talent Stack”.

If you check out Author and “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams brilliant book “Win Bigly: Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don’t Matter” you’ll read about the Term Talent Stacking.

He writes:

Now consider president-elect Trump. He doesn’t have one talent that is best-in-the-world, but he does have one of the best talent stacks I have ever seen. Consider all the ways in which Trump is better than average, but not best-in-the-world.

He lists off Public Speaking, Humor, Intelligence, Knowledge of Politics, Branding, Hiring and Firing, Strategy, Social Media, Persuasion, and Risk management.

Trump is pretty good at quite a few things without being great at any one thing.

That’s right Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule while it does hold much credibility, very few of us have the time or patience in today’s world to do something for 10,000 hours. Maybe that’s sad. Maybe it ruins the hard work story. Do we even want the hard work story?

Why does focus have to be on one thing to be the “hard work” story?

Actually, often it isn’t. It’s often several things people have worked at which is why the “Cinderella Story” is an easier sell. The curtain hides it better.

Which now begs the question, does having a wide talent stack in a variety of fields give one a heightened chance for success?

In my opinion, absolutely.

Not only that but often people with immense talent stacks cross from one field into another. They are journeymen and technology brokers.

I wrote about this curious Technology Brokers term in my previous column “The Future Doesn’t Come with Instructions”

Others who have a wide talent stack:

Tom Ford, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, The Rock, Angelina Jolie, Michael Moore, Stephen A. Smith, Dr. Phil McGraw, and Arianna Huffington…just to name a few.

“If you know too much, you start seeing why things won’t work. That’s why it’s important to change your field to collect more ignorance.’’

~ Sydney Brenner, Nobel Prize-winning biologist

Ignorance in a new area can be and often times is an advantage. Despite the belief of focusing on ONE THING people preach (and can be effective for many), I believe it actually really is ok to be pretty good at a handful of things.

Scott Adams does too.

What’s your talent stack?


2. Ready. Fire! Aim.


Ex Peace Corps Volunteer and author Michael Masterson used the term in his wonderful book “Ready, Fire. Aim: Zero to $100 million in no time flat.”

Ready. Fire. Aim. also just so happens to be my life motto. It simply means get out there and do. If you wait for perfect conditions you’ll never get anything done. Success is messy. Fail. Fail better.


Just do and fail and get up and fail again. Stop spending years preparing for one thing with no guarantees. Life is about trial and error. It’s a numbers game.

Get around the game you want to play in. Dance in the rain and make a mess of it. I’ve always been an actor. My entire life. I got the lead in the first play I ever auditioned for. I was 7 years old. I was Binky in “Binky Rudich and The Two Speed Clock”.

Me rocking out as Pierre in “Really Rose” at age 10

I’ve been a Stand-In, Photo Double, Stunt Double, and Background Guy on sets for several years. Why are people ashamed of these things? I will tell anyone who asks. If it comes up, I’ll happily say it. I’ll even write it on my blog and say it in youtube videos. Don’t care. It pays the bills, gets me health insurance, and it beats working at any coffee shop.

I must say anyone with a seed of wisdom these days will tell you that success comes from failure. You only get better at something through your failures. People who have had large amounts of success in their lives talk about it all the time.

Success comes from doing. Generalists DO. They don’t sit around and plan. While yes practice makes perfect, we only learn by experimenting, failing, falling down, and then Getting. Back. Up. Any boxer will tell you this. Floyd Mayweather is one of the best in the world simply because he can outlast his opponents because he has colossal amounts of STAMINA.

There’s this thing called LIFE-STAMINA. People who are out there doing things rather than planning for years develop larger amounts of it because they out there doing.

And guess what?

They’re failing at doing. But through all of these failures, they’re improving. They’re gaining life stamina.

  1. If you watch Mayweather box he’s a great metaphor for life stamina. Life is a war of attrition. Attrition is gained by developing a wide stack of talent through doing something, doing it again, and then again and again. Failing. Trying something new. Failing. And onward. But at the end of the day, you’re doi

You are Ready. You are firing (doing). Then you’re aiming.

But end of the day, you’re doing.

Watch Mayweather’s amount of stamina in the ring. It’s a great metaphor for gaining life stamina.

Get that LIFE STAMINA and you’re golden.


3. Consistency is King. Content is Queen. Marketing is the palace they live in.


Brilliant Entrepreneur, author, and businessman Gary Vaynerchuk wisely stated:

“Content is King. But Marketing is Queen, and runs the household.”

I have a slight edit / addition which brings me to my third ideal.

Consistency is King. Content is Queen. Marketing is the palace they live in.

This is similar to “Ready. Fire. Aim.” except it’s put in the frame of just producing a product. You only learn what you’re good at, what people respond to, and what brings you joy by DOING things.

Be an experiment architect. Try everything at the dessert table.

You don’t win if you don’t try. Get out of the prep-lab. Create and do it consistently. Worry about the marketing later.

Also…Woody Allen once said “80% of Success is just showing up.”

I would agree but I’d say 100% is CONSISTENTLY showing up.

On a quote role this morning so lets keep going…Actor Jim Carrey once said you can’t just say you’re going to be successful and then go have a sandwich.

Well, you can’t just show up once and then never again either. These days this may be more common than not showing up at all!

Show up as often as you can. But don’t kill yourself doing it. Just be consistent. You do this over a long period of time and pretty soon the bricks you are assembling daily turn into a wall.

“Repetition can be boring or tedious — which is why so few people ever master anything.” ~ Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning

End of the day it’s what you’re DOING that counts. It’s about content and taking action. CONSISTENTLY.

I’m not discounting preparation. I am not discounting focus either. I am merely looking at the other side of the equation. I’m saying that we discount doing, action, and failures too often while taking photographs of the 10,000 hour mountain.

Many people have been very successful through being pretty darn good at multiple skill-sets and crossing through career barriers.

What is your talent stack?

Are you living by Ready. Fire. Aim. ?

Are you consistent? Are you producing content? How are your marketing skills?

See you soon.


By Geoff Pilkington

You can connect with me at: www.geoffreypilkington.com

Originally published at medium.com

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