Do at least one thing extremely well: specialize. Be better than average. Be better at a particular skill than anyone else, if you can.
An old joke is that a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less. That is true. But something else, equally true, is that others notice and admire then man who is truly a master at his craft.
Build On Existing Abilities
Don’t try to do many things well – it’s unlikely you will be able to. Don’t waste your efforts in doing many things half-way, or in a mediocre fashion. As Peter Drucker’s writings all emphasize, “build on strengths” – not weaknesses. Here are two of his quotes:
“…identify your strengths. Then go to work on improving your strengths. Identify and eliminate bad habits that hinder the full development of your strengths. Figure out what you should do and do it. Finally, decide what you should not do.”
“It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.”
Stated differently: find out what you are already “ok” at, then practice it by doing just that one thing – over and over. Eventually you will do it extremely well. This is how you build up a strength and end up being a specialist. It starts from a foundation of existing knowledge and ability.
Have a Narrow Focus
Don’t aim to be a jack-of-all-trades. Some people can do this, but most cannot. For most of us, versatility equals compromise. Like a Swiss Army Knife, “it’s good for some and great for none,” as a friend once said.
“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.”
– Billionaire W. Clement Stone, founder of Combined Insurance
Knowing how to do many things competently is an achievable goal. But it may not be the best goal for you. In order to be a specialist – and authority – in your field, you need to narrowly focus on one thing.
Hone Your Predominant Skill
Once you’ve identified, build upon, and focused on that “one thing”, you need to hone it. It begins with mastering all the basics. Then it involves practice. Then comes experimentation. This is see in every area of skill – from a woodworker, to a chef, to the masterful guitar player who “breaks all the rules” with improvised guitar solos. Yet even the guitar player had to learn the basics of musical scales when he first began playing.
When you specialize in doing one thing extremely well, you gain a reputation as an expert. Thus, you wield authority. This is a position you should be in as a complete man. The path of manhood should include mastery of at least one thing in your life.