The information age has made it possible for anyone to learn almost anything over the internet. While that can create more opportunities for people in general, it also lowers the barrier to entry in many domains and increases overall competition. Often, we feel that the only way to distinguish ourselves is through ever-increasing specialization. However, devoting your time and effort to learning new skills is an alternative approach you may wish to consider.
Increasing personal value
In the world of business, leaders are rewarded for focus on sharpening their competitive edge instead of getting better at what everyone else is already doing. Yet diversity in an individual’s skill set can make someone more useful and give them a personal unique value proposition. Consider the situations when you’d hire an electrician, for example. Usually, they are called upon for emergency repairs or brand-new construction. But if they are also skilled in the domain of interior design, that combination can make them your go-to consultant for lighting a home or venue for special events.
Picking up a new skill will not only make you more useful at work but also in your personal life. You can become more interesting and get introduced to people not just based on your job title and description but also on the range of things you’re capable of doing.
Broadening career streams
For a lot of people, planning for their career growth and advancement typically involves becoming ever more specialized. Advocates of this approach may cite the famous 10,000-hour rule as evidence that you only get to be among the best in your field by investing a lot of deliberate, focused practice. However, in the book Range, author David Epstein offers a refutation of this model. Outside of a few procedure-oriented domains, most people find success through a breadth of training. Deliberate practice is a vital tool to achieve progress, but instead of sticking to one course, it’s better to dabble in a lot of skills constantly. This way, you’ll be able to broaden your selection of career streams, and eventually, find the one where your match quality is the highest. Thus, even if it happens later in life, you can find the ideal career path which will make you happy and realize your full potential.
Staying healthy and fulfilled
Learning new skills can prove useful on many levels, from immediate applications to more long-term benefits. Ultimately, however, the process of acquiring a new skill also challenges and stimulates your brain, and thus provides its most far-reaching benefit: active aging.
When you try to master a new skill, you step out of your comfort zone. Typically, you have to engage in complex lines of reasoning and problem-solving. Thus, your mind has to utilize its array of cognitive processes, which keeps you mentally active and slows down the aging process, similar to how physical exercise will help you stay healthy well into old age. No one looks forward to a retirement hampered by poor health. If you take steps to become a continuous learner now, you can stay sharp and better enjoy your golden years.
Specialization has many rewards to offer in the modern world, but diversification and continuous learning can offer potentially better paths to unique, long-term success. Explore your options, and you may find that a new skill is what leads you to happiness and fulfillment.