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You Should Take A Liberal Arts Approach to Your Life


There are generally two schools of thought.

You should learn everything and build yourself up across the board as a well-rounded person. And, you should focus on your strengths, because that's where you're going to be able to do best.

These are competing ideologies, right? What if I told you these two made a beautiful marriage? Well, that's exactly what I'm telling you, so listen up.

Everything you learn and do in one area helps you in other areas. When you study one subject, it provides insight, perspective, and knowledge that will come into play in other areas, if only as an example of a process or potential mistake.

As you continually learn more about more subjects, you continually grow your breadth of knowledge and abilities, with each sector aiding the next.

Per the research, this is what enables liberal arts students to contribute more, and to be more successful in their respective communities. But there's another piece to this, right? There's the single track to success approach.

Studies also show, and basic common sense would attest to, that those who focus solely on one expertise - like playing the guitar or cold call selling - are able to grow faster in that one vein and quickly find success in their niche. There are whole books written on this!

Spending more time in a single place leads to faster results, and over time those faster results become high, sustainable growth and success.

The only problem is that there's very rarely an instance where a person will spend their entire life in one single vein or niche. You simply need more skills to do more. Here's where the two ideologies overlap.

If you're going to be working on something or in some niche, you need to work on only that and get really good at it, but continue learning about other areas on the side! 

Spend 10 hours a day practicing scales and exercises on the guitar, but learn about the history of musical theatre on the side to broaden your scope, and therefore your abilities.

Focus your career specifically around your natural sales abilities, but read about psychoneurology in your spare time to grasp a better understanding of how and why the mind works the way it does.

Be a lifestyle blogger and social media influencer all day, but study, say, dermatology on the side so you can provide more value and be able to work with more products and brands.

In high school and college, I studied music. Music became the theme for my award-winning psychology research (shout out to Kay-Ren). I majored in experimental psychology, which has helped me in, well, everything. Though it's played direct roles in my sales gig, marketing, content writing, and my marriage.

Sales has helped me in marketing. Freelancing is helping me in marketing and content. Every book I read helps me somewhere else, and adds perspective to the ever-changing complexities of what's going on in our world.

Maybe I can apply Richard Branson's thoughts to help me better understand customer engagement. Various articles and books by Malcolm Gladwell offer information that I reference regularly. Other books become talking points that foster relationships or give me a writing prompt.

I've been growing intentionally and steadily, and I've been doing that through this marriage of broad learning and niche work. I focus on one thing for years (like music or business content), and so much of what I learn outside of that niche plays directly into my work in that niche. Who would recommend studying incarceration statistics to further a freelance business writing career? But it helps. It's amazing!

I'm just one case study. Poll as many successful people as you want, they'll more or less each tell you the same thing.

They spent an immense amount of time focusing solely on their craft - writing, building a startup, music, corporate law, whatever - but they draw on all these other various, seemingly random pieces of information, which build and create a catalyst for exponential growth.

Even if it seems illogical, things have a strange habit of finding ways to connect.

Like most answers worth their salt, it isn't a matter of learning everything everywhere that you can versus focusing on one niche. It's both. It's taking all of that information from everywhere and figuring out how to use that knowledge specifically to boost you toward your specific goals.

That's the whole point of the liberal arts, that by seeing a larger image, you can have a bigger impact where you choose. Who doesn't want that for their life?