It begins way too early, in my opinion. Turn 16. Start to drive. Decide what you want to do for the next 50 years of your life. And no, you can’t change your mind. You have to decide before you go to college or else you’re wasting your money going to college, and you’re going to end up jobless with a useless degree.
That’s the painful message that many of us received in our high school days and the message many young people today are still hearing. But there’s a problem with that. The message is reductive. It’s cookie-cutter. It’s antiquated. It’s a 1975 message in the 21st Century.
Today’s workforce demands diverse, well-rounded learners who are able to do more than punch the clock while focusing only on their single task. In a global economy, each organization and individual is looking for an edge to get ahead. Companies use words like innovation, creativity, forward-thinking and cutting-edge to describe the way their organization is beating out the competition. But those are just words at the end of the day. How do you put those grandiose ideas into action? You hire people who can think outside the box and across the spectrum of what makes up a world-changing idea.
We look to hire people who come to the global table with new ideas that push the boundaries of what we already know, and the people well-suited to do that are the 1,000-Hour Pros. They’re the ones who can think about more than just one dimension of a project. They’re the ones that can round out a nugget of an idea into a full-fledged innovation. They’re the ones who know a little about a lot and can lead our teams into a modern, diverse, complex workplace.
There’s room for 10,000-hour experts, still. There’s room for those who focus on their exclusive set of skills. But more and more, they’re being passed up for the 1,000-Hour Pros who can execute in more than one specific area. The Pros have skills that can fill in anywhere on the team. They can go all the way from idea to product. They bring a new kind of worker to the table, giving an employer a fresh perspective in a single package that is much easier on the budget than a team of four, each with a single view and skill set.
The 1,000-Hour Pro is me. I’m the one that started to squirm when asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” The truthful answer was, “I have no idea. I hope not just one thing forever!” But I politely said that I was still weighing my options and trying to figure it out. A disappointed, “Good luck,” would follow, and I’d be on my way. I always felt like I had failed for some reason. I thought I had somehow missed the part of my life where I had an epiphany of what I wanted to do every single day until I turn 60.
But the more I learn about new things, the more I appreciate this as my path. I’m destined to be a 1,000-Hour Pro and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing. I bring a lot of value to any team I’m on because I have a unique perspective and a Swiss Army Knife-like skill set. I’ve been working for a relatively short time and have already been able to recognize the benefits of being a Pro.
And I’m not alone. I believe there are a lot of people out there struggling to commit to one major in college, one area of work, or one focused task who need to be told that it’s ok. If that’s you, not only is it ok to not commit to one thing, but you’re going to find success. Dedicate yourself to being a forever student of whatever interests you, and you’re going to be an indispensable member of any team. You’re going to be the unique perspective. You’re going to be the problem-solver and the go-to player. You’re going to shake off the expectation to focus in and find your niche. Before you know it, you’ll be a Pro that your team can’t live without.