Cartoonist and former ad copywriter Hugh MacLeod sent out an excellent newsletter about being good at two things. In it, he spells out the reasons why we should be knowledgeable in two areas in order to maximize our unique career potential.
When you’re very good at “n”, there are probably thousands of people who are also good at “n”. But if you are good at “n + 1”, that number is far smaller.
A good example is this Irish dude I knew in London, back in the day.
He started off as an aspiring journalist, who studied English at a prestigious British University, just like thousands and thousands of other clever, would-be British journo types.
But before he went job hunting in the newspaper business, he spent four years working in on North Sea oil rigs as a roustabout. That experience gave him a tough, inside, visceral knowledge of the oil industry, which he could eventually bring to a top job as an energy correspondent for the Financial Times, the prestigious European newspaper.
“Be good at two things”: Oil-plus-journalism. Exactly.
The post reiterates what fellow cartoonist Scott Adams implores in his life advice about “becoming very good (top 25%) at two or more things.” He writes about his own success:
The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.
Do what makes you unique, is the saying. What they didn’t explain is that it takes the synthesis of two skills to be good enough that they can’t ignore you.