Be an expert in at least two areas

I’ve always enjoyed Thomas Huxley’s comment, “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Here’s a post I wrote on this subject.

Recently, I have tweaked the thought to read, “Try to learn something about everything and everything about at least two areas.”  Here’s why.

There’s plenty of time to master more than one area. 

Years ago, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success suggested that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any field. About three hours a day for 3,333 days—a little over nine years. Scientists have debunked the 10,000-hour rule (suggesting that in many instances it doesn’t take that long to master a field) but for now, let’s assume that the rule is correct: it takes nine years to master a skill. 

Life expectancy in the U.S. is currently around 79 years. So, starting at age 20, according to the 10k-hour rule, someone could master 6.5 areas (59 years divided by 9 years) in a lifetime. That’s overly ambitious, but you get my point—in an average lifetime we have plenty of time to master more than one area.

Mastering more than one area is beneficial.

Mastering multiple areas creates the possibility of synergy

A good (though imprecise) explanation of synergy is: when two or more elements work together and complement each other such that their combined force is more powerful than the sum of their individual forces. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts, such that 2+2 = 5.

When you master multiple disciplines, synergy can occur. 

My son-in-law is a board certified emergency room physician. He’s really good at what he does. He’s currently finishing an MBA so he’s “mastering” business and leadership. Recently he was chosen to be chief medical director of a startup company out of Oxford. He was hired because he’s a master of two fields.

Imagine how beneficial it would be to:

    • Earn an MBA degree and master the Chinese language.
    • Be a good engineer and a great writer.
    • Be a good teacher and a master mechanic.  

Mastering multiple areas will give you greater job security.

The job market is very volatile and will continue to be. Positions are being replaced by AI; companies are downsizing. If you’re only competent in one area you’re more vulnerable than if you have multiple skills. 

Likewise, it’s wise to have two sources of income. Work a full-time job but also have a part-time job. For instance, my friend John is a master organist and he also builds, repairs, and tunes organs. My friend Linda teaches public school and is a wedding photographer.

Master several areas. I can’t think of any downside to doing so. 

12 Replies to “Be an expert in at least two areas”

  1. … ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be a Pastor of a fellowship that “runs by Congregational rule…” ?

    1. Being multi-skilled does, indeed, provide for job security. Thanks, Don, for taking the time to write.

  2. Interesting thoughts! Thanks!
    Coincidentally, I just read a book entitled “Make Today Count” by John Maxwell.
    In the book, Earl Nightingale was quoted as saying “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.”
    Conversely, I believe that the “10,000 hour theory’ is referenced in the book “Talent Is Overrated”.
    Thanks, Don

    1. Thanks, Dick, for sharing your thoughts. I enjoy “Talent is Overrated”; it has a lot to say. Take care, Don.

  3. (1) It took many years for me to make peace with the fact that I am a generalist with some specialties as opposed to a true specialist in the pure sense like several friends of mine. Why? Perhaps it was my uber-gifted cousin Daniel. He played the violin so well that his last 26 years on earth were spent as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. However, violin was his life from childhood on.
    (2) Pastoral work in a congregational setting is the doggondest general practice profession left in the modern world, greatly to be praised when done well, yet many pastors I know long to be specialists which is why D.Min. programs exist. (that and longing to be called “Doctor”).

    1. All followers of Jesus should be expert in two things: Forgiveness and Love. Specifically:

      > they should understand God’s forgiveness of us, the basic “Gospel “ message, the “Good News” and how to explain it to others.

      > they should understand that they are required to forgive everyone who’s ever hurt them, no exceptions (Matthew’s 6:14-15) and be able to facilitate forgiveness in others.

      > they should understand how to love God as He prefers to be loved, by following His commands out of sheer love for God (John 14, Acts 5:32, etc.) and thereby receiving the Holy Spirit within them.

      > they should understand how to follow Jesus’ new command to love other people. Don’s book “Love One Another: 20 Practical Lessons“ is one of the best on the planet to help you get started loving other people as God intends you to love them.

      Two key things you must become expert in if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus: forgiveness and love. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Patrick, for responding. I have heard and read different opinions about your second bullet point (we are required to forgive everyone who has hurt us), but everything else I embrace. Don

        1. Matthew 6:14-15 (the only idea from the Lord’s Prayer that’s reiterated) should be convincing. It’s Jesus speaking, so it has authority: if you forgive others, God will forgive you, if you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you.
          If that’s not convincing, read and ponder Jesus’s clear instruction in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18), consider the Relevant Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). Also ponder Paul’s encouragement to forgive in Ephesians 4:32.
          Jewish teaching says you should forgive only if someone asks. But Jesus didn’t come to reiterate Jewish teaching (or replace it), Jesus came to raise the bar: you must forgive, even if they don’t ask. You must love your enemies and those who persecute you. Radical and revolutionary commands to His followers indeed. A narrow path, but the yoke is easy and the burden is light! If you have unforgiveness in your heart, you’re the one being harmed! Forgiving others releases a burden on you! Unforgiveness is like drinking deadly poison and expecting the other person to be harmed! What a burden removed by deciding to forgive! You can’t experience the deep sense of peace of Jesus if you’ve been hurt and haven’t forgiven. Decide to forgive. If you need help forgiving, find a pastor or counselor. If you can’t find someone contact me at 303-598-3428 (mobile with text) and I will share with you what I’ve learned and facilitate your forgiveness of all those who’ve hurt you.

  4. I disagree with the article: followers of Jesus must forgive, that’s clear, even as we are also called to repent and grow over time. *****

    Jesus and Stephen forgave as they were being murdered. It’s a narrow path, and many that consider themselves Christian don’t know Jesus either out of ignorance of His teaching or an unwillingness to put His teaching into practice. I don’t believe you will experience the deep peace of Jesus or experience God’s Presence within you, the Holy Spirit, if you’re harboring unforgiveness inside you. They’re mutually exclusive. *****
    If you believe the other person who’s hurt you needs to repent before you’re obligated by God to forgive, you’re aligned with Jewish teaching of 2000 years ago and today, not the teachings of Jesus. Jesus didn’t eliminate the Law, He raised the bar: forgive everyone, love God by following God’s commands out of love, love others, don’t get angry, love and pray for YOUR ENEMIES! You can’t love someone you haven’t forgiven 🙂


    If you want to follow Jesus, you must forgive everyone who’s hurt you. That’s so fundamental, it’s the first thing to work on once you understand your need for God’s forgiveness and accepted the gift from God. Don’t work on anything else spiritually until you’ve forgiven everyone. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t forgive or if you do make some sort of progress, it will be a huge hindrance in your future development. *****

    As you brought up the article, is there anyone who’s hurt you that you haven’t forgiven Don?
    ***** Anyone else out there reading this that hasn’t forgiven someone and holds themselves out as Christian and doesn’t think forgiving everyone who’s hurt them is a requirement? (Obviously take prudent steps to protect yourself from future hurt as needed) *****

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