Specialize or Generalize? Do This Instead!

Shama Hyder :

Being able to communicate in general is a great skill. Anytime you can take a course in speech and communication, take it. I don’t care if you’re thinking, well, I’m going to be an engineer and I really liked sitting behind your desk. Whatever it is, communicating your value to the world, communicating what you have to offer is absolutely key.

Shama Hyder :

One of the things that I feel like a lot of millennials and Gen Z really struggle with is a good balance between advocacy, like advocating for themselves, and coming off as overly entitled. I think a big part of that is a communication problem; not realizing when and how to speak up for yourself without making someone else feel like you’re running all over.

Shama Hyder :

Hey everyone, this is Shama Hyder here and today I want to talk to you about a topic that I get asked a lot about which is, should I specialize or should I generalize? Now I get this question from entrepreneurs who’ve been well established. I get this question from college students, really across the board, the question often is, should I generalize or should I specialize?

Shama Hyder :

Here is my answer. My answer is do both. Generalize and specialize and I’ll tell you exactly how to do this and be super successful at it and by super successful, I mean, to be the top 1% in your field, to really be the absolute standout. So there are certain things that I think where generalizing makes a lot of sense and that you should have a great general knowledge or a very strong general sense and here’s what I mean.

Shama Hyder :

So being really good at communication, being able to connect with people to a wide variety of platforms, writing, podcasting, audio, video, whatever it is, so that is a core skill that regardless of what you do, being able to communicate well is so key.

Shama Hyder :

In fact, I often tell students in college and high school that you should take communication courses. One of the things that I feel like a lot of millennials and Gen Z really struggle with is a good balance between advocacy, like advocating for themselves, and coming off as overly entitled and I think a big part of that is a communication problem, not realizing when and how to speak up for yourself without making someone else feel like you’re running all over them or you’re running over them.

Shama Hyder :

So, being able to communicate in general is a great skill. Understanding models, mental models, how to problem solve is a wonderful skill. So having a good sense of general knowledge of a basic, a baseline of skill sets that you can apply across the board, I think this is very important. So before you even get into, do I generalize or do I specialize, very important to embrace this idea that you have to have a baseline of knowledge and implementation and execution to be good at it.

Shama Hyder :

So you want to be an entrepreneur. You want to be an entrepreneur, it’s very important to understand how business models work, what your market wants. A basic understanding of marketing. Doesn’t mean that you have to be amazing at all these things but understanding how entrepreneurship works, customer service works, how you make customers feel special, how you communicate with your team. This is the baseline. So it’s important in this general way, to be good at certain things.

Shama Hyder :

For example, in school, I always felt like I’m not a math person. I’m not great with numbers but running my own business for the past 12 years or so, I’ve had to figure out I need to get to a baseline where I do feel good with math. I do feel good with numbers. Now, I’m not someone you want solving your algebra equation for you, but I have a good enough sense of numbers to be able to run my company, to be able to look at a spreadsheet, to take a look at what my accountant puts in front of me and make sense of it; understanding profit and loss, understanding gross margins, so I have a general sense.

Shama Hyder :

Now, should you be a specialist? This is really interesting. See, I don’t think the world belongs to generalists or specialists. I think the world belongs to cross pollinators, people who can take two sometimes very different areas and combine them to do amazing work and this is where I think you said, I see some people who exceed and excel in their chosen fields. So think about it this way. Someone who is a great writer. Great, there’s lots of great writers. Now, what if they had a background in criminal psychology? Now you’re combining criminal psychology with great writing and you elevate, right? Whatever they’re writing about, criminal fiction, crime fiction, now their books, their writing is going to stand head and shoulders above someone who might just be a good writer but doesn’t have that background, can’t pull from that.

Shama Hyder :

So many other ways you see this. Think about people who are good chefs or what’s the difference between a good chef and a great chef. A great chef might actually study art. They might have a background in art history where they pull from art and they merge that with their cooking or cooking in molecular chemistry. Wow. Very different things, but in many ways similar, right? How do you create a new, authentic, amazing taste? Well, a good start would be to understand, well chemistry and how certain things go together, certain flavor profiles might go together. For me, starting Zen Media, starting my company, I’ve always known my strengths, which were communication and my passion technology. What I do today combines the best of those worlds. So when we help would get their messages out there, it’s not just because I have a masters in communications. It’s because I was able to use that master’s in communication and merge it with the world of technology. I was talking about social media before social media was a thing.

Shama Hyder :

What I wrote the Zen of Social Media Marketing, grab it for you right here. Here it is. So you have it on my desk. So when I wrote the Zen of Social Media Marketing, it was one of the first books on the topic. There really weren’t any and now you can see it’s in its fourth edition. It’s used as a textbook in a lot of colleges and college classes and so forth.

Shama Hyder :

My second book, Momentum, also handy enough right here. Part of the reason why I’ve had the success I’ve had as an entrepreneur and why I love sharing this is because I think I’ve been able to cross pollinate really well. Even when I started my company, a lot of people said, “Well, you should pick one industry and just stick to it.” But I didn’t want to do that because I felt like we got our best work, where we did our best work, was finding an industry that was doing really well creative stuff and then applying that to our client in a different industry, and then seeing how that success steamrolled, because no one else was doing that in that industry.

Shama Hyder :

So that’s what I mean by, should you be a generalist or specialist? Be both. Be a generalist in the sense that you have a really good baseline of things that you’re good at, that you should be good at. You should be a good communicator. We live in a world today where that’s not an option. It’s not optional to be a good communicator. Now, there’s excellent communicators but being a good communicator, there’s definitely a baseline. Know the basics of business. Know the basics of a good mental model that you can use to problem solve and if you’re not familiar with mental models, look them up. There’s so much amazing work. I really like Farnam Street as a blog and a podcast. They have tons of information on how you can use various mental models to problem solve.

Shama Hyder :

So there’s certain skillsets, which I think are amazing and super helpful, no matter what field you’re going to be in. Then, rather than just specialize in one area, think about how you can specialize perhaps in two very different areas that you have a passion for, or that you’re good at and when you can merge those two things, that’s the secret sauce. Really the secret sauce to success is being able to find two very disparate things that at first look people would say, “I can’t believe you would combine those things.” Or, “Wow.” But when you really think about it, it makes all the sense in the world.

Shama Hyder :

Be sure to check out more videos, guys. Tons more videos this way, check it out. Be sure to subscribe and leave a comment. Let me know what you’d like to see me cover more. Until next time.