I read a blog post by Jon Morrow the other day that really got me thinking. It was called “How to Be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers” (I’ll give you the link to read it at the bottom).
The post impacted me because in my career, I’ve firmly tried to be a “jack of all trades” with respect to technology. Web? I know a lot. Mobile? I know quite a bit. Social Media? Some. Networking? A good amount. Web design? A bit. Databases? Even less. Programming? No. You know what you didn’t see in there? A specialization. An area where I can say “this is what I do better than anyone else”. My reasoning was to allow for flexibility. But in the long run, I wonder if that hurts more than it helps.
Part of that comes from the fast pace in this environment. If I poured my heart and soul into a particular specialization, and the need for that specialization dried up – where would I be? Having flexibility has enabled me to fit into a different variety of roles over the past 15 years, and quickly adapt to new circumstances and times. But lately I’ve been wondering – is that the best way?
I think becoming an “expert” in an area is more valuable than anything else, as long as you keep an eye on the trends and have a back-up “expert” area. I started to do this once – with Adobe Flash.
In 2009, I took an introductory class at the local community college on Flash, which is a tool for creating animation, video, and interactive websites. I even started to read a book called “Flash Cheating”, which had some fascinating first few pages and promised to turn you into an ActionScript master (to do advanced work in Flash). I was very interested in creation, and amazing possibilities around seemed to exist around Flash. But around that time, Apple announced that they had no intention of supporting Flash on their mobile devices. This worried me – why learn something that wasn’t going to be supported? I lost interest. Where would I be had I decided to become a Flash expert in 2009? I can’t answer that question, but it’s time to pick a niche.
In the next 12 months, I’m going to be a recognized expert in something. I will have self-published a book, and book speaking engagements to talk about my ideas. Currently, no one is asking me to do speaking engagements, so it’s time to change.
In the article Jon wrote, he said some great things about these smart bloggers who people pay to listen to. He said:
1. They know damn near everything about their topic. And if they don’t know it, it’s in their reading pile.
2. They can take enormously complex ideas and compress them into simple language anyone can understand.
3. At least some of what they say is truly original. You’ve never heard it anywhere before. Ever.
4. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in their topic, they find a way to captivate you and make you interested. It’s spooky.
5. You find yourself thinking about something they wrote or said weeks or even years into the future.
If there were ever things I’d want said about me, it would be those things. I used to describe myself using almost the exact wording in the second bullet, actually. And through the public speaking skills I’ve developed, I’d like to think some of that applies to me.
I think picking a niche and focusing it makes your life simpler in my ways – instead of thinking of what the entire industry is doing, I can just look at one particular area, preferably a need that isn’t being met currently. Jon described it this way:
“It’s about deciding who you want to be and then making yourself into that person.”
I want to be the person that uses technology to help companies and people become recognized experts in their own fields. How do you take someone who’s more knowledgeable than many others in their field or can speak to the lay-person, and get them to start a blog, publish a book, and eventually receive speaking engagements? Social media is certainly part of that – everyone recognizes that they need a social media presence. However, the amount of people who I see using social media incorrectly, or using the wrong metrics and measurements to judge success is staggering.
However, if I’m going to focus on one particular thing, then I need to do just that – focus. I see two ways to accomplish this:
1. I’d need to pick one particular person who I think has a great shot at becoming a recognized expert, and get them through the process. Then repeat with someone else
2. I’d have to start with me. I’d make mistakes, but I’d learn firsthand what’s most important to succeeding in this area, and then could move on to helping others become recognized experts.
Both of these ideas excite me. I’m not intimidated by the technological tools required to accomplish these results. What I am intimidated by is just getting started. But as Jon said in his post, when you start this road, you’ll eventually reach a point when you’re worthy of this level of results.
Then, I’d be someone worth listening to.
(Here’s the link to read Jon’s post).