Growing up, I was always taught to focus on and invest my time in what would look good on my resume. Whether that be college or job resumes, the advice was still offered. Join an academic club? Check. Join a sport? Check. Sign up for community service hours? Check. Join another club to show I’m well-rounded? Check. Ace all of my Advanced Placement courses? Check.
This was my life and I know that this is true for many people in my generation. We are taught to be good at as many different things as possible to set us apart from the crowd, but I think it is simply unnecessary.
Being a well-rounded individual is not a bad thing, but on the contrary, I think being an individual who’s a master at a few unique skills is more sustainable and worthwhile.
It’s like that quote about being a “jack of all trades, but a master at none.” Exerting all of our energy to attain a lengthy and diverse list of qualifications is a waste of time if you are not passionate or innately good at most of those things. Instead of putting an emphasis on quantity, we should strive for quality.
The majority of our time should be spent honing in on the skills that we are actually good at — the skills we are naturally born with or naturally gravitate towards — and work to perfect them. In this way, no one can deny your ability to execute on tasks surrounding that particular skill set.
At a conference, entrepreneur and motivational speaker GaryVee said “… 99% of our society spends way too much time trying to be better at the things they’re not … execute on who you are. I probably do 99% of the world’s deeds poorly; there are about four to six things I do well and all I ever do is really focus on that… if you know what you’re naturally good at, execute harder against that. That is no question in my mind your biggest advantage in being successful.” I propose this perspective should be taught to us as a society.
This is not to say we should discourage people from exploring different lanes and avenues when it comes to hobbies and skills. If the purpose is for outside validation instead of the intent to experiment to learn about what you like and don’t like then you’re doing yourself a disservice. At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be ridiculously good at a few skills instead of average at many different ones?
This article isn’t intended to shame anyone who has been taught to focus on being a “well-rounded” individual like I was. However, I want to encourage people to begin to simplify and focus on the things that you decide are worthwhile — not your peers or parents.
Change your mindset and perfect those few natural skills. You may very well surprise yourself with how much of an expert you can become.
Aaliyah Alexander is a sophomore studying journalism and international studies. Follow her on Twitter @aaliyahdanyell.