Is it okay to be good at lots of things but not excel at one? Throughout my childhood and into my adult years this was a question I frequently asked myself. I was the girl who was ok at most things, but never really shone in one area. My spare time has seen a comprehensive career of just about every hobby known to mankind.
Kind of ok
I’m occasionally sporty. I played an unremarkable season or two of soccer many years ago in high school and won the blue ribbon in long jump In grade three. I’m kind ofarty. Give me enough time and I can do a fairly decent copy of a Pinterest watercolour (just don’t ask me to do anything original).I learnt to play the piano through hours of practice (and my mother’s sheer determination), but I’ll never be a naturally gifted musician.I’ve dabbled in embroidery, baking, design and sewing.Let’s just say I am not the next MaryBerry.
Cricket and car engines
It’s possible that my recreational restlessness comes from my Dad. When I was young we lived in a semi-rural area just outside the city. While it wasn’t really that remote, it did mean that it took at least half an hour in the car to get anywhere. If it was just Dad and I, he would spend the trip teaching me about something.I don’t think it was intentional (if it was, props to you Dad), it was just what happened. I vividly remember learning the rules of cricket, the theory of how a car engine worked and what the exposure triangle is. One subject per car ride of course. Most of the time he talked and I listened, which suited us both just fine.
Dabbling vs investing
My Dad is a man of many talents. He’s the kind of guy that will fix your car and then come in and advise you on your superannuation fund investments over dinner. But the main difference between me and my father is that while we both have many varied interests (and occasionally, small attention spans – Dad’s forays into gardening are usually short lived), he will actually take the time and effort to get really good at what he’s interested in. Where I dabble, he invests.
I’ve always been a bit in awe of people like him. People who can hone interests and inclinations into truly remarkable talent. Professionals who can single-mindedly study and learn and specialise until they reach the top of their field.
When self-doubt wanders in
In light of this, I’ve always seen my lack of a niche as a disadvantage.How could I decide what to study or what career to take up when I didn’t feel like my natural talents were leading me anywhere? My study choices always felt random rather than an obvious conclusion. I can’t count the number of moments of self-doubt I’ve had, times when I’ve wondered what I bring to the table.
I’m regularly humbled when I see where I want to be, and in my striving,am forced to appreciate the talent, perseverance and time that it takes to get really good at something.
Finding value in not being niche
It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never be someone who changes an industry or is known for their life’s achievements. I’m ok with that!
While specialisation is important, there is also great value in versatility.Usnon-niche people are usually very good at learning quickly and we’re generally excellent at teaching ourselves. Just because I’m not an instant prodigy doesn’t mean that I don’t value constant learning and improvement.
Not only this, but each skill that I have is something that I can offer to others. It’s ‘added value’ if you like. A broad skillset gives me insight into the roles of the people around me and gives me flexibility in my work.
Having varied interests is a also a great way to become a more well-rounded person. It’s super helpful in making small talk or networking. You can usually find a shared interest with anyone and it makes for some great stories.
Impact in the everyday
Additionally, and possibly more importantly, impact isn’t always about doing something excellently. Of coursewe should all aim to do our best, to improve and to seek excellence. But there’s many other ways to succeed that don’t have much to do with traditional success.
As much as I admire the people in my life for their intelligence and accomplishments, I admire them much more for their character. The loveand practical help that people quietly givedaily to me and the people around them has value that can’t be measured.
If I can impact the people around me in this way while doing the things I love (unexceptionally or excellently) I’ll be well satisfied.
Anna hails from Australia but lives and works in south east asia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with and learn from awesome people from around the world.
Anna Waite hails from Brisbane, Australia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world!