Playing Favorites By Marshall Goldsmith There’s a reason I devote...
I didn’t have my career strategy mapped out. I needed time to appreciate that (a) the issues CEOs face are more consequential than those of the average executive and are therefore more engaging, and (b) the fees are better at the top.
When that happens, the world beats a path to your door. That dramatically improves your odds of living a life in which fulfillment overwhelms regret. You’ve created a virtuous circle in which you’re doing what you were meant to do, you’re good at it, people recognize you for it and seek you out, and you’re constantly improving. It’s an enviable position to attain, the essence of an earned achievement. You’ve become what I like to call a “one-trick genius.”
In this sense, a genius is anyone whose dedication to being excellent in a narrow area of expertise is immediately apparent to friends and strangers alike.
For example, I was visiting New York and chipped a tooth before a breakfast meeting. I was in pain throughout the meeting, urgently in need of a dentist. My host, seeing my anguish, insisted that I see his dentist in Rockefeller Center that day—and set up an appointment for me while we were at the table. “He’ll take care of you,” the host assured me. “He’s a genius.”
I’d heard hyperbolic recommendations like this before. Everyone thinks their doctor, nanny, plumber, or massage therapist is the world-class wizard who can solve your problem.
In this case, my host was right. From the moment I stepped into the office, where the receptionist greeted me by name before I said a word, to the hygienist who cleaned my teeth, to the state-of-the-art equipment the dentist used to treat me, and his solicitous manner in making sure he didn’t add to my pain, I knew I was in the hands of a master healer who took pride in his expertise.
If you’ve grown up in a community where Main Street has more than three traffic lights, you know people like that dentist. They’re the local craftsmen and attorneys and teachers and doc- tors and coaches who immediately impress you with their hypercompetence in their chosen field. I regard all of them as one-trick geniuses (or OTG for short).
They’re the kind of people that the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and teacher Richard Feynman had in mind when he advised his students: “Fall in love with some activity, and do it!”
Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but about what you want to do.
And keep up some kind of a minimum with other things, so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.