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If You Can Adapt, then You Can Survive

Sometimes, we run into people who seem like they can do just about anything. Maybe it’s someone who works in our company-someone who’s great at speaking, writing, working with numbers, and so on. Or, maybe it’s someone we know in our personal life–perhaps a “Mr. Fix It” type who knows everything from plumbing to carpentry to electrical work. We often call a person like this a “jack of all trades,” but it can sure seem like they’re a “master of all trades.”

While we often tend to admire people who can do everything, we also sometimes tend to scoff at them. Everyone should focus on his strengths and hone his core competencies, we argue. We should specialize in what we’re good at rather than spread ourselves too thinly. Of course, I think there are merits to both of these lines of reasoning. But, as the world becomes more complex and the market more volatile, perhaps there is some merit after all to becoming a “jack of all trades.”

As a leader, it can really pay off to be more versatile. Sure, you will be better at some things than you are at others, but it’s a great idea to be at least a little good at everything. Why? Because the speed of change is such that, if you aren’t versatile in your strengths, you won’t be able to adapt. What you are best at may no longer be relevant tomorrow. Will you have the versatility to pivot into something new when there’s a sudden change of scenery? If you can adapt, then you can survive.