How does the dilettante compete with the expert? How do we turn our depth of experience into something that might provide a viable alternative to a highly specialized and focused expertise?
I suspect that in order to compete with the experts we need to find a way to turn our multifarious interests into a unified whole.
Suppose we consider our dilettante from yesterday, who had 1,000 hours of deliberate practice in each of math, dance, drawing, history, and meditation. If she tries to compete with say mathematicians on the same single axis who have maybe 5,000 to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, then she is going to have a tough time keeping up.
But if instead of competing with them directly, she combines her interest in math with her interest in drawing to help those other more specialized mathematicians in her department visualize their work, or turn their abstract concepts into a visual that lay people can understand, now she has a real value-added skill that bridges people who work in one domain with those who work in another.
She can use her interest in history to use examples from the past to deal with problems in the present, or use them as allegories that both technical and nontechnical people can relate to.
She could use her interest in dance to build the social capital of the groups with whom she works. I mean let’s face it geeks don’t often dance. But once they overcome their fear of dancing by someone teaching them how to dance in a safe place, not only will they find themselves having fun but will discover another avenue for relating with people. It builds teamwork.
If she shares her interest in meditation with her group, she could both increase their collective ability to concentrate and to deal with stress, making her team much more happy and productive.
Just look at all the value our dilettante has added to her place of work! And just by venturing out along each axis of her interests and finding ways to bring them into her work, she has taken leading roles in her company. By looking for ways to weave the threads of our interests into a desirable and useful whole, we can satisfy the needs of others as well as our own.