Are you feeling pressure to nail down that ONE THING you’re supposed to be good at? Maybe you’re meant to follow the path of a horizontal master instead.
This episode’s Inspire Me quote comes from master of multiple disciplines, Thomas Edison:
“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would astound ourselves.”
If you look at Thomas Edison’s achievements, it’s astounding. Even more so, examine his to-do list and you’ll find such unrelated items as inventing a cotton picker, electrical piano, artificial cable and a “snow compressor.” Edison was a true horizontal master.
Leary and Armin describe horizontal masters as those who embrace their multiple talents and interests and find ways to manage them as a portfolio of engagements. While vertical masters deepen their expertise in a given area over time, horizontal masters are more integrative of multiple disciplines. You might think of a horizontal master to be a generalist and a vertical master to be a specialist; or, in the nomenclature of career coach Barbara Sher, a “scanner” or “diver.”
How do you know if you should be on one path or another? You’re likely meant to be a horizontal master if:
- You have many seemingly unrelated interests.
- You lose interest quickly or become anxious if pressed to go deep in an area.
- You routinely feel scattered, disorganized, or lacking purpose.
- You feel out of place and defective.
There are steps you can take to get down the road of horizontal mastery:
- Embrace your design. You’re not any more defective than a specialist.
- Find the commonalities and connections between your various interests. Leary talks about bumblebees and nuclear power plants.
- Act on something. Often, multitalented people shut down their opportunities because they are afraid that to act means to choose something permanently.
- Maintain margin. Build in times to assess and adjust your portfolio. Leary discusses his portfolio tool listed below.
- Relax. Everything you do doesn’t need to find a nice, neat fit in your occupation.
The Challenge Me for this episode is to download Leary’s Personal Venturing template from the resource section below and complete that for your own ventures.
Resources mentioned or related to this podcast that may be helpful to you:
- How to be a better beginner, Episode 6 of Reinventure Me.
- How to create your personal mission statement, Episode 15 of Reinventure Me.
- Is your mastery a mystery? Leary’s blog post on mastery and the idea of horizontal mastery.
- How to discover your own mastery, Leary’s blog post on ways to hone the discovery of your mastery.
- I Can Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, Barbara Sher, Helpful categorizations and questions to ask yourself depending on your specific situation. Read Leary’s review of this book.
- Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher, Her follow-up book for “scanners”
- Personal Venturing Template, This is the tool that Leary uses to assess his portfolio of activities every year.