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Can You Get Beyond What Anyone Else Has Done?

There’s some really good advice that I’ve never followed.  And that good advice is to focus on something that you’re really good at, better than everybody else at, and really put lots of focus on it because the world tends to reward specialists.  The world tends not to reward as much people who are generalists or people who are trying to be a jack-of-all-trades.  

That said, I have always been interested in lots of things and I’ve not been able to help myself from being interested in lots of things.  In everything I do, I try to do to the best of my ability.  Now, for some things, the best of my ability isn’t very good.  So for those things, dabbling in them is more because I think it’s fun, because it’s interesting to me.  I’ve been fortunate that some of the things where I tried to do my best, my best is good enough that other people think it’s pretty good.  My cookbook is certainly a different cookbook than anybody else’s cookbook, and the research I do with dinosaurs or the photos I take, they may not be the best in the world, but they have something to offer because they’re a little bit different than what everybody else does.  

So even though I have lots of things I do, when I’m focused on one thing, I try to really get in-depth with it and learn everything I can, to get out to the frontier of knowledge and then say, "Okay now, can I go beyond that?  Can I push past that frontier?  Can I take it to the next stage?"  And I think that’s where it really gets interesting to me is when you’re trying to do something that is beyond what anyone else has done.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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