Kick Your Ass Idea #138 – Specialize

If you really want a way to get your ass into gear and to keep it there, specialize. Choose a profession, hobby or pastime that’s very specific, then set out to do everything that can be done, to learn everything that can be learned, within that specialty. Year in and year out, you’ll find that narrowing your perspective not only helps you focus on what you’re doing, it can save you a lot of time by helping you avoid becoming a jack of all trades, and master of none, and can help keep you highly motivated.

Most successful people are known for their ability in a single area of pursuit. Steve Jobs built highly efficient, customer friendly computers. Michael Jordan played basketball really, really well. Warren Buffett understands how to evaluate companies and acquire them. It’s clear that they had to spend a lot of time learning what they do, and a lot of time developing their specialities over the years.

But what’s sometimes less clear is that specializing can be inherently motivating. Part of the reason for this is that the boundaries of your job (or your hobby) are more clear when you narrow down what you do, so you can see more clearly what you know and what you don’t know. Or what you have and don’t have. If you only collect stamps from Indonesia, you’ll know which one’s you’re missing in fairly short order, and setting aside the money for those stamps and locating them is a concrete task that’s easy to grasp.

If your specialty is an activity with a built in progressive learning path like martial arts, composing, or investing, all the better. As the years go by and you get more and more skilled at what you do, concepts and activities become available to you that you may not have been aware of when you started. Your very perception of the world changes over time, and it’s inherently motivating to be exposed to a whole new world view. If you continually do things that barely challenge you, you’re likely to get bored. If you try things that are slightly outside your comfort zone, you’re much more likely to stay energized and interested.

What’s your specialty?

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