One of my Lessons

One Trick Ponies Are Half Ass Failures

3 min read

Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.

This one’s deceptively simple. I can sum it up in one word: focus.

But people completely misinterpret the word and use focus as an excuse for being lazy.

See, they think it means just one skill, one specialty, one trick. They’re wrong. It simply means specialization. Because as far as creatives are concerned, we can’t just be creative.

To truly understand this, you need to know the difference between a skill and a specialty.



Well-Rounded or Pointy

The founder of ZipRecruiter, Ian Siegel, has said, “I don’t want well-rounded candidates, I want pointy ones.” Siegel’s pointing out that in today’s fast-moving culture, the general handyman is obsolete.

You can half-ass a bunch of things or full-ass one.

In the programming world, they have something called a “10x programmer.” These are people so good at what they do, that they can deliver 10 times the result of a normal programmer in the same amount of time.

However, they’re not just programmers. They don’t just take a task and do it. They’re creative. Problem solvers. Specialists. And their specialty is around a specific skill.

Notice I said that the specialty is around the skill. That’s the key.

Non-Creative Jobs

Getting a job as a creative can be hard, early on. So, it’s common to find jobs outside of being a “creative,” because you gotta pay the bills. I’ve been asked if that hurts your career.

Yep, it does. But it doesn’t have to.

You can and should use your experience outside of being a creative to support your skills as a creative.

I call this your “Skill Hub.” Stay with me...

The Skill Hub

You’re a creative. Maybe you’re a copywriter or an art director or a designer. Whatever it is, that’s your main skill.

But around that skill, like spokes on a wheel, should be your other interests and passions that build off that skill.

Make your passions support your skill.

Take me, for example...I’m an art director. I can create visual stories and form ideas like nobody’s business.

But I have a passion for technology. And writing. And entrepreneurship. All those passions give me a specialization around being a creative.

But I didn’t gain those specialties from being a creative. Nope, I taught myself to code when I was younger. I learned to write from being on my college speech team. I found a love for entrepreneurship in my many side projects.

And did they divert me from my creative career? Yeah, sometimes. Like, joining the speech team was a four-year detour from focusing on my design degree. However, what I learned from becoming a national speech champion has made me a better creative.



Keep Your Focus

Now, the difference is, that entire time, I knew my end goal. I knew what I was focused on. I wanted to be a creative, but I didn’t know if I’d ever be the best creative.

But I’d be the best creative that could master technology, be entrepreneurial enough to bring ideas to life, and speak about it in a way that anyone can understand.

I had a focus as a creative, and each one of those supporting passions sharpened that skill.

What Should You Do?

So, what’s your skill? Now what else do you love doing? How can you make each of those passions make you better, more valuable at that core skill? How can your passions help sharpen your skill?

Don’t be well-rounded. Be pointy. Be focused.

And always full-ass it.

Thanks for reading!

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