Professions, like relationships, change over time.
Sometimes the changes are small, maybe a move to a different department within the same company, or moving up the corporate ladder from Junior Whatever to Senior Whatever. Sometimes they’re much larger, representing a fundamental shift in what you focus your attention on, and how your lifestyle and brain function.
I know this perhaps more than most people my age, as I’ve jumped between fields several times in my 26 years, moving on whenever I felt the need, or started to feel constrained by the tools I had at my disposal.
Not counting one-off, career-non-specific jobs (like waiting tables and working at a bookstore), I started my professional career as a journalist, writing articles and columns for my school and local newspaper between classes. From there I segued into design work, while on the side I sold a few paintings (a budding career that never quite blossomed).
My design work forked off into the diverse paths of illustration and web development, the latter leading me to learn HTML, CSS and PHP, and eventually to take a job where I learned all about broadcast design and production, while the former had me designing t-shirts for a few clothing companies.
The arsenal of skills I had built up (writing, design, illustration, development, and production), along with a penchant for sociology and psychology, led me to branding, which in turn rekindled a previous interest in entrepreneurship.
My writing skills were once again resurrected when I started blogging, and eventually led to the lifestyle that I live now, where I leverage those branding skills for my entrepreneurial endeavors, blog to build relationships and audiences, and write books based on my travels and what I’ve learned along the way.
This summation of my work history is meant to illustrate how various fields of study can lead to and support one another, should you choose to view them all as pieces of the same puzzle rather than radically different pursuits, completely removed from each other.
Many of the most interesting people I’ve met are folks who have made some kind of radical transition, leading them to bring ideas and lessons from their previous craft into their new one. Or people who are curious about everything, leading them to jump around from career path to career path willy-nilly, happily gobbling up whatever info and skills they can before moving on to something else.
We’re told that in order to be truly great at something, we must specialize in it. We must invest 10,000 hours of study into that craft, or go to school for four to twelve years in order to master it.
Which is generally true, of course, but what if we spent 5,000 hours each on video game development and horticulture?
Or went to school to dual-major in architecture and electrical engineering, with a minor in food science?
Imagine the revelations that could emerge from someone capable of seeing the world and solving problems from such diverse perspectives.
I, for one, feel like the meandering career path I’ve taken has given me an advantage in each and every field in which I’ve been involved.
I’m able to approach writing from the standpoint of an entrepreneur, coming up with new business models an author without such experience wouldn’t be as likely to develop. I’m able to approach entrepreneurship from the standpoint of a creative, building brands alongside business models for optimal compatibility.
At the moment, I’m teaching myself to develop in Python, and with every new bit of syntax and structure I learn, I can’t help but think, “Ah, I wonder how I’ll be able to use that in some unexpected way. Maybe this will help me publish, and that will help me manage brand resources…”
Consider doing the same. Or at least imagine what it would be like to leverage your current skills in another playground.
Think about a field that you’d like to learn more about and browse the web for tutorials or pick up a book on the subject.
Try it out and don’t be afraid to do things ‘the wrong way.’ It’s good to know the rules of a craft, but with your unique standpoint and ignorance of convention, you may be able to come up with an even righter way.
Update: February 14, 2017
Today I would probably sum this up by saying there are no divisions between bodies of knowledge, only perceived separations. The more we connect these ideas and practices, the more capable we are of developing new and useful ideas and perspectives.