An open letter to generalists
Do you remember when you realised you were different? Felt the twitch of “why doesn't my brain work like theirs?". Looked around to see your peers specialising, climbing the career ladder, celebrating 10 years in the same position. Maybe you were convinced that the grass was indeed greener on their side.
Your curiosity pulled you in many directions. Your ability to see the big picture was appreciated, but never truly valued. Maybe the pressure to ‘get serious’ and ‘niche down’ weighed heavy on your shoulders. Though it never felt right. It didn't felt authentic to specialise. What you bring to the table is hard to measure, though the impact you have is immeasurable. If you've ever felt like a round peg in a square hole, you are amongst kin.
I remember the first time I was realized I was embarrassed of who I was - a generalist. Someone had asked me what I do for work, and I visibly cringed. I was tired of trying to explain that I ‘do a bit of everything’. My title, as many of you know, was the Director of Misc. In the span of 10 years I'd been a wine tour founder, business development manager, tour guide, youth hostel owner, community builder, au pair, and a startup operator. I knew only breadth; I had really little interest in going deep. I was at my strongest and happiest when I was leaning into a skillset which I didn't even have a name for. I was growing into my generalist superpower, but this went against everything society said I “should” do.
If you're reading this today, there's a high chance that like me, you are a generalist. I want you to say that aloud. Because until recently, that's not been something to be loud and proud of. I'm here to tell you, with so much conviction, that the way your mind works is valued, important and very very needed.
As a society, we're facing some of the biggest challenges in our history. War, climate, inflation, inequality. The old saying goes that the definition of insanity is doing something again and again, and expecting different results. Yet we funnel hundreds of millions of workers through an economic system of identical business practises, all extremely specialised.
I spent my whole life believing if you don't fit into one of the prescribed, tidy boxes, there's something wrong with you.
Generalist World is the challenge to this narrative.
What could be possible if we, as a society, made room at the table for generalists? For diversity of thought? For different ways of approaching problems? For folks who are the glue that bind everything together.
What could be possible if in school, children who are enchanted by curiosity are encouraged to explore this? If university students believe that a squiggly path, rather than a linear one, can equal success too?
And for you personally - how much more meaning could you find in work and life if you were free to be who you truly are? Your squiggly, non-linear, less-traditional self?
This is my why. Since starting Generalist World ~6 months ago, my perception of what's possible has completely changed. I believe to my very core that we're onto something so important here. Something which has the ability to inspire innovation, solve enormous problems and fundamentally help folks live happier lives.
So, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for believing in what's possible. Thank you for choosing to invest in this community, and in this vision. It's a privilege to be heading up this community, and it's a responsibility I don't take lightly. Honestly, I can't promise to always get it right. But I do promise to lead with empathy, with transparency and with a ridiculous amount of passion for helping generalists find our place in the world. I hope in the short time we've known each other, you've seen this to be true.
At the end of 2023 with a sense of pride in who we are, confidence in how we approach the world, with gratitude for the support & genuine community we've found in each other.
If you haven't become a member of Generalist World yet, sign up here.
I'm consistently in awe of the folks that arrive in GW. So much talent, knowledge, skills and compassion. We're in for one heck of a ride together this year.
Let's do this 🎉