Hyper-specialist vs multi-specialist: two paths to success

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If you read business advice for solopreneurs on social media or blogs, you will almost certainly see the infamous: “Niche down!”.

And it makes sense.

When you focus on one single specific topic and give it all your energy and time, you will soon become an expert.

You will be more prolific, publish more content and gain more authority.

And it works.

You see a lot of very successful people following this path.

They write or talk about the exact same thing all the time, across all channels.

You probably envy them for being able to be so focused for so long. And you surely WANT the same success.

But there is a problem.

It doesn’t work.

Oh, you have tried more than once.

And failed as many times.

There is surely something wrong with you!

You are probably lazy (that’s wrong).

You lack willpower (maybe but that’s not it).

You are not motivated enough (again, not the problem).

What if the problem doesn’t come from YOU.

I mean, yes it does in some sense, but no, you don’t really have a problem.

You are only trying to fit the wrong box and follow a path not designed for you.

Is there another way to succeed?

Yes, there is.

You can be a multi-specialist instead of trying to be a hyper-specialist.

I am a (very modest) example of this.

I have been a multi-specialist all my academic career. And I am not stopping. I am currently adding a bunch of new skills and working on a completely different topic for the last few months.

I am 48. I have been doing it from the start of my career more than 20 years ago without realizing it.

Am I successful?

Kind of.

Not the big dog, but I am doing stuff that excites me every single day (that’s what I would call having a successful life, don’t you?).

I have helped 100s of colleagues and students.

I have published 41 scientific peer-reviewed articles (slightly more challenging than publishing a blog post).

And I have worked on a broad range of topics from gravitational waves to neuroregenerative medicine, including cheese formation and cancer research.

I have developed a wide range of skills including molecular biology, engineering, coding (in many languages), and mathematical modeling.

On the other side, I have worked with a renowned scientist who spent all his life studying one single protein. I feel bored just mentioning it. I would die doing this.

I am not telling those things to brag.

I don’t feel any pride. I am curious and love to learn.

My point is to show that you can build a path outside of the glorious hyperspecialism.

If you want more famous examples (I can’t compare myself to those), I can cite Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin.

In the modern business world, I could mention Marie Foleo who coined the term “multipassionate”.

In summary, you can create your own unique skillset or curiosities.

This will be your “niche”.

Maybe that is the path you have to create to find success.

You are unique.

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