To Be Successful, Be an Expert

Recently I read an Etsy Quit Your Day Job article about a woman who decided not to return to her costuming job after maternity leave, first working as a child care provider and eventually finding herself on Etsy where a sewing hobby turned into a successful creative business. One sentence stood out to me: “On the job, she honed her sewing skills and knowledge of fashion history.”

It does take determination, deliberation, guts, motivation, whatever you want to call it, to create a successful business. But what we talk less about is that it takes knowledge and expertise, and to a greater depth than I think most people realize.

The clearest example is in fiction writing. A fiction writer needs to not only be good with words, have a large vocabulary, etc., but also needs to be at least conversant in whatever subject, place, or time period they write about. At the very least they should read up on Wikipedia about horses, at most they have done enough research to write a thesis on peasant life in medieval England. The finished work is an intersection of knowledge, where parts combine to create a greater whole.

Another example was in a film I watched about smart business practices. In trying to design a new medical bandage, a team was assembled with various backgrounds – not just the doctors who needed the new bandage, not just the industry leaders whose businesses created similar bandages, but also the less-obvious choices such as a makeup artist who was experimenting with new forms of applying latex to create face prosthetics. The completely different background but same kind of goal gave a completely fresh perspective to the product idea and led to some interesting possibilities.

That’s where we polyentrepreneurs are ahead of the pack. By refusing to settle down to any one industry, medium, hobby, or interest, we have the potential to combine knowledge and expertise across disciplines to produce products no one else could dream of.

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