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Immediately Jump on the Obscure and Fleeting, but Don't Forget the Low Hanging Fruit

When you come across some era of history you've never heard before that might be fascinating, or an obscure but highly recommended book on conflict management, or you come across some primary source papers that are largely unread any more about an important event - jump on it right away.

You'll never really be motivated to read Baldissare Castiglione by Julia Cartwright. It's an obscure-ish book, cited not particularly often, about the 17th most interesting guy in the Renaissance. He hung out with da Vinci, and Borgia, and met all the Popes of his lifetime, but you'd have to either really love the Renaissance, or come across Il Cortegiano in research to read him.

Baldis-who? If you don't look him up now, it likely won't come up later.

A lot of good strategy and being a successful generalist is about picking up obscure skills. Steve Jobs talked in his famous Stanford address about how the class he took on calligraphy in his late teens became one of the drivers behind the Mac being the first computer with beautiful typeface.

There's plenty of calligraphers in the world, but how many calligrapher-entrepreneur-designers? A good mix and synergy of skills gives you the ability to make a contribution. A good mix and synergy that includes something obscure can help you make an original contribution.

Comment: "over time, I think the wide array of skillsets [of a generalist] will actually lead to higher quality than a specialist"

There were a lot of excellent comments and discussion on "What Separates a Generalist and a Dabbler?"

I'd recommend you check them all out - lots of good insights - and I thought this one by Phaedrus ought to have its own top level post -

Mmmm excellent post! A very good question, and an intriguing style too.

I think Soham hit on an excellent point, which you touched on as well. A generalist may not have a theme for all of his generalities, but he usually does have a purpose for them. The end result of this purpose manifests in shipping, yes. But it also manifests in a consistency of various actions over time.

I’m going to pick two examples from my own life that straddle the line…

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