I was recently in Russia speaking to new young leaders at the 100+ year-old Bacardi brand about increasing the impact of their work. What I’ve learned over the years is that the truly remarkable people are not just masters of their craft, but a combination of craft + many other things that elevate their work. In fact, the best photographers I know, the best creatives, teachers, accountants, or –insert profession here–, are also entrepreneurs/intra-preneurs, authors, speakers, marketers, and more. We’re ALL hyphens. Just as I started as a photographer, then learned skills to become a director, then a software developer, an entrepreneur, and and and… SO SHOULD YOU.
The key point being this: your most remarkable work won’t simply be your craft. I promise you. When you’re at the end of your career looking back, I’d bet all the money in my bank account that it’ll be all the stuff at the fringe of your craft that makes your favorite projects feel whole…feel different…feel interesting and unique to you.
A simple analogy is that of an oak tree. The trunk is the primary feature of the oak tree. It is your core skill or craft that allows you to make a living…BUT the branches – there are many of those branches…those are your passions, strengths, intuitions, and your unique point of view. When you lean into these things all together, you will start exploring, mixing, and remixing the things that are uniquely you with your core craft. Over time, the fruit of this labor will sprout new seeds of opportunity — NOT FROM THE CORE, BUT FROM THE BRANCHES — which will lead to the thing that only you are uniquely qualified to do.
The funny thing about trees, is that it takes YEARS (e.g 10+) of growing before that trunk is sturdy enough and those branches numerous enough that they bare real fruit. The same is with your career. To operate at the highest levels, you need mastery and once you are there don’t stop. That’s just when the getting starts getting good and the world gets the most from you and your skills and you get the next level of richness out of your personal experience. Explore the fringe.