...mastering one craft

Today, we often turn to someone else for help; whether we need a doctor’s diagnosis, a lawyer’s assistance, or an architect’s expertise. To satisfy our needs we search for the best ones. We are very picky when it’s something related to our health, family, or money.

Imagine that you need to find an architect who would plan your new house. You have to choose between the following professionals:

  • An architect who, besides planning and designing your house from a functional point of view, can also build your house, and decorate the inside.
  • An architect whose expertise allows for just planning and designing your house from a functional point of view.

In the beginning, it looks like the first one has a lot to offer, but in reality does he? Let’s take a look at one more example. Imagine that you need to find a pediatrician for your kids. Would you rather go to one who specializes just in this field or someone who is also a plastic surgeon, a cardiologist, and an endocrinologist? Do you think that this person would be very good at all these areas? Probably not.

In reality, we choose professionals who are masters in one field. We rely on them. We trust them more. We assume that this person is very detail-focused and an expert in his field.

I’ve noticed the same tendency in the UX design field. A lot of companies are looking for someone who, besides UX expertise, should also be:

  • A master of pixel-perfect designs
  • An expert in Adobe
  • Fluent with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, etc.

This job hunt made me think about the kind of UX designer I want to be, and developing the kind of skills I want to focus on.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers”, says it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Mastery means to challenge yourself, move forward, and practice a new skill in your field. Mastery doesn’t mean to repeat the same skill over and over again, because there is no improvement over all.

Split your field into a lot of small pieces, and then start to practice them one at a time until you achieve mastery in each skill. It takes time, a lot of time, but it’s definitely worth it.

Graphic design, web design, and UX design are already big fields on their own. To become a master in all of these fields, we are going to need to spend many and many years practicing. We can also choose to have a decent amount of knowledge in all of these fields, but not master any of them.

I’ve been asking myself if it’s something that I want to be – a master in everything. Even though I think it’s very important to develop myself constantly and learn new skills, I don’t think my goal is to become an amazing graphic designer along with UX. The reason is because I want to become an expert in UX. I want to develop myself in this field. Stay focused and challenged. Make mistakes and learn from them. Master one skill at a time.

Mastery is not becoming well rounded, but practicing and becoming better at your craft, over and over again.

There are a lot of people who know a little bit about everything, but not a lot who are true masters of their narrow field. I believe that we need more people who are experts of their craft. Because we choose them. In the long run we trust them more. They will win.

There is a very clear difference between someone who can do everything decently and someone who is focused on one field, developing himself in this field, and finally becoming an expert of his craft. Who would you prefer?

Be smart. Think in the long term.