The Competence Trap

You would think that being good at a lot of things, to a standard better than average, would be a good thing and you would be right, in the main.  It’s very useful to be competent at a lot of things.  However, having skills in many areas does carry just one down side.  It can make it difficult for you to focus on the one thing that really makes your eyes light up, in which, if you put in the work, you could be truly outstanding.

When you are good at a lot of things, seeing which thing is the one that you can shine most brightly in can be more difficult.  You are obligated to pursue things you might be great at, but not outstanding.  You could spend years of your life earning a decent living, through your above average skills and competence in the field, but neglect spending any time (or enough time) in the one field of endeavour where your particular contribution could be unique and spectacular.

It gets harder, the longer you leave it.  By having lots of strings to your bow and earning a living from some of them, it makes it far more difficult to have faith in one of your less developed talents and to spend time and focused energy on the things you love doing most.  There is risk involved.  There is the potential loss of income and the disappointment it will bring to dependents.  You might feel you have a special talent in a particular area, but it’s an unproven proposition and you could be wrong.  What if it turns out you can only ever be a journeyman in the thing you love most?

So be careful of pursuing too many things at once.  They can dilute you.  You might wind up perfectly adept at everything you turn your hand to, but the price might be the failure to be unquestionably remarkable at just one of these things.  It takes work and time to be excellent at anything.  Spread yourself too thinly and the time and effort just won’t be there.

Find that thing that you love most and dedicate yourself to it.  Do the other things you enjoy doing as recreation, but make your life’s work your finest achievement.  Turn off the distractions, focus and put the work in.  One day, if you have a little luck on your side, your favourite talent will prove to be your most distinctive and will be instantly recognised as such, everywhere.

Have faith.


About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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