Specialization is the ability to be agile in an area of profession, talent, or gift. On the other hand, generalization is the practice of engaging in a number of activities in life without being proficient in any area, i.e. a jack of all trades and master of none.
A typical example of generalizing is your family doctor or general practitioner (GP) while specialization would be a surgeon, a specialist in surgery.
Another example of specialization and generalization is an auto mechanic and a Mercedes-Benz specialist. The general practitioner and the surgeon had the same basic medical training as with the auto mechanic and the Mercedes-Benz specialist, but the surgeon and Mercedes-Benz specialist went the extra mile to acquire expertise in a specific area of their fields thereby making them adroit in their field of endeavors.
The birth of the information age has transformed the playing field in all activities of human endeavor. The very fabric of the global culture has been greatly impacted; from the corporate world, politics, science and technology, religion to media amongst others. The world is rapidly and implicitly moving from an era that valued Capital goods (i.e., raw materials, tools, industrial machines, vehicles and factories) over human resources for what they produced, into an era that values knowledge and the application of knowledge that emanates from gifts, talents, creativity, resourcefulness, and new ideas. Thus, the world is shifting from the “micro-managing” to the “leadership” paradigm.
It is interestingly to know that “Jack of all trades” are rewarded financially according to the piece of work they do, while specialists are paid for their worth. In other words, the more you move from a generalist to a specialist, the more you add value to who you are in your target market. People schedule appointments for days, weeks, months and in some cases years just to consult with specialists but a “Jack of all trades” is always available for service. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing different things but you have to be distinct or dexterous in one of them; be well-known for something unique. In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill editorialized:
There are two kinds of knowledge. One is general, the other is specialized. General knowledge, no matter how great in quantity or variety it may be, is of but little use in the accumulation of money. The faculties of the great universities possess, in the aggregate, practically every form of general knowledge known to civilization. Most of the professors have but little or no money. They specialize on teaching knowledge, but they do not specialize on the organization, or the use of knowledge.
In this era, it is what you know and can contribute that counts; not necessarily your education, age, your geographical location, color of your skin, gender, social status, or even religious affiliations or belief. Professor and author of the best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Richards Covey writes, “There is no doubt a new era has begun. We are shifting from the Industrial Age to the Information/Knowledge Worker Age, and it is paramount that we understand the paradigms that drive this new era. What brought success in one economic age will not lead to it in the next?”
What brought success in the previous eras like acquiring good academics, working for a company and waiting to climb the corporate ladder, etc. are not adequate anymore? In this age, in conjunction with your academics; commitment and diligence to the company you work for, you need to learn how to hone and put to use your gifts; talents, specialized knowledge, and ideas.
It is sad to say, most people are stuck in the rut of tradition so much that it is virtually impossible to embrace the emerging change around the globe. Some people are so bogged down by religious traditions so much that they think being of great significance in this world through the maximization of one’s gift or talent is a debauchery. Hence, they bury their heads in the sand of religion, pretending to be waiting for their transition into Heaven. Pastor, author, and motivational speaker, Myles Munroe, opined that “The goal in life is not to enshrine the history of our lives but to create additional history… If you want to leave a mark on history, and not become lost in the machinery of tradition, you must initiate or maximize change.”
A 20 years old Harvard university student and his classmate specialized in the idea of refining his prep school student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” into a university photo directories where students would list attributes such as their class years, their proximities to friends, and their telephone numbers. This idea graduated into a dominant global social networking site and today, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg and his Facebook idea is a force to reckon with globally in virtually every facet of human endeavor.
When you find a need or an opportunity that you are passionate about which adds value to people and brings meaning to you, you will undoubtedly be on your way to greatness. Specialization is inevitably the staircase to personal fulfillment but sadly enough, majority of the people are held hostage in the “concentration camp” of generalization. The following are suggestive tips to assist you traffic from generalization to specialization:
•DREAM BIG – The number one reason why most people do not specialize in anything in life is the inability to see beyond the present world. The future belongs to those who can see tomorrow, its opportunities and challenges before it arrives, thereby positioning themselves for it. Specializing puts you ahead of the masses. Dream big!
•THINK DIFFERENTLY – Your ability to think differently from most people is the seed to specialization. Someone once said, “If all of us are thinking the same, someone is not thinking.” The fear and cost of being a maverick in the affairs of life is what causes people not to stand out in their calling or profession. Think creatively!
•DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY – It is the ability to defy the norms or status quo by doing things differently that sets you apart for greatness in life. Innovation is the hallmark of specialization because if you cannot do things differently, you cannot break away from the populace. Be Innovative!
Irrespective of what your calling, profession, or ability in life is, you can never have a lasting impact on civilization until you move from generalization to specialization. As a pastor, what is your specialization; teaching, healing, deliverance, etc.? As a fashion designer, what are you specializing in, what are you known for? As a student, are you taking courses or subjects just to get by or acquire the necessary grades?
As a business owner or an entrepreneur, what product or service are you specializing in that is giving you the edge over your competitors? As an employee, are you working towards specializing in an area of expertise in your field of profession? You were created to be distinct in carrying out your purpose on earth not to be a copy of someone’s assignment on earth. In order to be the head and always be at the top in life, you have to courageously choose to specialize in an activity.
American businessman and owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team, Alan Phillip Cohen held that “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
The world only stands aside for those who are passionate in life, have dexterity in what they do, and are willing to go the extra mile to add a special touch to their work. We still celebrate Wolfgang Mozart for his classical style of music and remember Michelangelo for his exquisite art. What would you to be remembered or celebrated for? Think about it!
As you resolve to evolve from a “Jack of all trades” to become a specialist, know that you are endowed with the spirit of greatness and it forbids you to be a mediocre, hence, decide today to be a specialist in what you love doing by determining to be the best in your calling, talent, specialized ability, or profession. Discover Your Greatness!