I was thinking last night about knowledge. There are many old adages about knowledge. There is one that equates knowledge to power. There’s the old Chinese adage about giving a man a fish and/or teaching him to fish. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I ended up thinking about myself, mostly (surprise!). What knowledge do I truly have? Is there anything I am an expert at? I mean, is there any topic or subject that someone would immediately get on the phone and call me about if they had a question about something? I don’t think there is. I also don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Oh, there are times when I wish I was a true expert on something. For example, I know people who can fix things, build things, or construct positvely exquisite dishes or desserts. I’m not that guy. I can cook a pretty decent meal, but I can’t fix or build anything for shit and I’m ok with that, it’s simply not my forte. Yeah, I’m a little jealous of those people. They possess talents that are, for the most part, crucial to everyday life – food, shelter, etc. The things people would call me about are things like who sings a song, how to connect their home entertainment system, buy search advertising or how to start a website. You know, decent talents to have, but I can’t think of any one glaring subject where if someone was wondering about something, the light bulb would snap on inside their head to call Jeff right away for help or the answer.
Like I said, I’m ok with that. But the question I have today is this: would you rather be someone who knows a LOT about a little or a LITTLE about a lot? Last night as I was thinking about this, I remembered a conversation I had with a good friend and co-worker somewhere around 1995. She expressed her surprise that I knew a little bit about a LOT of topics. I took it as a compliment (as I would today) but I wasn’t totally sure she meant it as one. I’ll have to ask her that someday. I most certainly think I know a little about a lot and I consider it a handy asset. it is, perhaps, from doing a lot of reading, but I can’t say for sure why I fall on one side of the fence or the other.
As I thought about it more, I realized that people’s personalities are pretty evenly split along these divides. To generalize a little, the ones who know a lot about one thing are the ones that I found to be a little more awkward to carry a conversation with. Alas, they are also typically the ones who are very successful. The people who know a lot about a little are more free-flowing and socially comfortable. Again, this is a generalization but I think it’s pretty accurate.
What do you think? Which side of the path do you think you fall on? Think back in life and up to today about your leaders, your parents, your teachers, your mentors, your spouse. What about your boss or CEO, which of those two traits would you pick for your boss? Of all those people, are the ones who had the biggest effect on you ones who knew a little about a lot or vice versa? It’s very interesting to think about.