05: Is Specializing Right For You?#

I write this book as an advocate for specialization, and as an advisor who has at times given some bad advice about specialization, costing some people real time, money, and opportunity. My main advisory errors were underestimating the cost of building access to a new vertical market, underestimating the risk of so-called category creation, and overestimating some of my clients’ risk tolerance.

I remain an advocate for specialization, but a chastened, more conservative advisor who wants to give better advice about whether you should specialize your business.

@TODO: Why specialize? Is it right for you? (This might be guidance about where specializing is a particularly good/useful/high-leverage move)

  • Back to that earlier notion about “having seen it all”. Some folks would react, “ewww, boring!”, but most experts, once they’ve started “seeing it all”, don’t have less interesting work lives. Rather, their diet of challenges remains intellectually nourishing because they have a smaller percentage of trivial cases and a larger percentage of more gnarly challenges that require they master the context surrounding the core challenge. In a way, as specialists go deep, they re-generalize, but in a focused way: their specialization is a maypole with ribbons of relevant context around it.

  • So: maybe not across the entire lifecycle of a specialized career, but at many points along it, you don’t miss the thrill of learning that you might associate with being a generalist. Rather, your learning is organized around the mission of making your specialized expertise more impactful in the real world, which requires the aforementioned ability to incorporate context into your problemsolving.

  • Thus, I think a big part of deciding whether to pursue a specialization is deciding whether you want to operate in the way described above. It requires more discipline @TODO hmm… I’m not sure this section and the argument I’m setting up is going where I wanted/thought it would. But maybe it’s going somewhere good and I just need to follow it. :)