To reach the top, choose your lane and have one clear focus.
There is a cost to being the jack of all trades. As I learn about experts in their respective fields, I continue to see how, and the intention of learning or becoming an expert in multiple things is not feasible. The time that I might spend becoming an expert in one field necessarily takes away from my time becoming an expert in the other.
You might think — well can’t I be an expert in two things? Can’t I spend my 10,000 hours in these two fields of study and become an expert in both? Because you don’t actually become an expert. You don’t actually become excellent. You don’t actually become the top in your field, the best of the best, when you split up your intentions in this way. You can’t serve two masters. To give an example, I was recently listening to a discussion from a gentleman who is an expert in Papyri. And he’s describing the nuances in a few characters, in a fragment of a text from the first century, of the second century, and explaining the significance of that subtle difference, explaining what that means by way of translation, and then explaining the consequences of that translation.
Listening to him describe his area of study I came to realize how faulty this idea that I’m going to be able to become an expert in classical studies while with it not being my vocation. I thought my profession can be one thing — I can continue on in software engineering, I can transition into quantitative finance, data science or something of the like, something of the sort. And then additionally, I can spend the rest of my time becoming this expert in classical languages or a classical language, such as Greek, Latin or Sanskrit.
And as I learn more, I’m seeing that that is far from the truth. It’s not the case that I can coast by and become this expert in programming. It needs to be what I eat, sleep and breathe in order for me to become that expert, for me to be able to learn the nuances, learn the depths of these frameworks and the underlying technologies that go into these languages. It takes a whole other level than what I’m currently doing.
So that’s what I thought about today — choosing that lane. Not getting distracted by the various things that tugged at my interests. I’m getting you to see more and more of the value of something that I believe Warren Buffett said.
He suggested to somebody to take their top 20 to 25 things that they wanted to accomplish in life, and said OK — write them down, 20 or 25. And after he made that list the person was told — now narrow it down to five. Now once you have that list narrowed down to five, focus on the top two. And the other three avoid at any cost because they will necessarily prevent you from achieving the first.