John Saddington is a self described Partner, educator, Aspie, hacker, writer, entrepreneur, engineer, and future venture capitalist. He has an insatiable curiosity for online technology, digital publishing (obsessed), and many forms of entertainment. He has worked as an engineer and executive in the Fortune 50 as well as started (and exited) a handful of bootstrapped and VC-funded startups. Every year is wildly-different than the last (take a look at his 2012 Year in Review or the 2013 YIR for example). He is currently a Partner @ The Iron Yard and chief hacker on a small iOS app Pressgram. A blogger since 2001, he loves spending time with his amazing wife and two daughters (his most important startup!).
One idea that has fundamentally changed my life is when I realized that I didn’t have to be good at everything. Now, it seems like such a simple truth and appears on the surface level as something very obvious.
But you begin to notice when you meet with others, especially as you work into your vocation and your job, that although many people might agree, they don’t actually live this out or practice it in any way, shape or form.
There exists this pressure to do everything with excellence, to do everything well. And if you don’t, then you are a failure – you’re not good. We operate with a societal pressure that everything you attempt, you should be pretty good at.
We are taught this perspective at a very young age, as we work through our academic environment, we’re told that we have to be good at everything.
We have to be good at social studies, math, the sciences, history, and languages. Without A’s in all those classes, you cannot get into a very good college, or be accepted at a top tier University.
And on top of that, we must have extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and four years at the varsity level on one of the sports teams.
So we’re taught at a very young age that we have to be good at everything.
But it was only after many years of doing that, and even working into my career post college, that I realized very slowly, that I did not have to be as good at everything – and there are only a few things that I was actually very good at.
Even now, it feels like every year I refine that approach. I pare it down even more.
As a result, the amount of things that I am even remotely decent at becomes very, very small.
What happens when this perspective has arisen in you, is that it releases you of the pressure of so much.
It releases you of the pressure to try and be the best at everything.
It gives you the freedom to really execute in the ways that are most natural, in the things that you are really good with.
It gives you the opportunity to invest strategically in those things. Which means you get better, and become really good at those few things.
In the world is in desperate need of these types of people. The world does not need more generalists, it needs more specialists. In other words: people with a very unique skill set, not more people who are mediocre at many things.
So I decided, that I wanted to become a person of exception, instead of a person of average ability in all things. And that changed my life.
It helped me focus on the few things that I do well, and as a result it helped accelerate my career. It’s continued to guide my decision making when it comes to career decisions. And the people I meet with, and relate with, and who I do business with. It helps isolate the projects and products that I build and work on.
It also minimizes the amount of noise that I experience in life. Even on a personal level, it helps me sleep better at night, knowing that I am not responsible for everything, but only a few tasks – both professionally and personally.
And as a result, I feel more fulfilled when I do them, which creates an outpouring of joy.
Learning that I don’t need to be good at everything, as trite as it may sound, has been fundamental, and I’m so glad that I have been able to learn it as early as I did. I wish I had learned it earlier, but I’m not sure I would have taken it anyway.