“The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal.”
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
“Dr. Watson’s summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:
Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
Plays the violin well.
Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”
Arthur Conan Doyle <A Study in Scarlet>
I am not sure if it is that I am of an age where my experiences have become varied enough that I chafe on being slotted in some form of ‘what you do’ or if I am of an age where many of the people I know get frustrated that they are demanded to define themselves, careerwise, in some simplistic way.
All that said.
I found myself in an odd alternative universe writing a core “here is why I have created this site and initiative” for someone I respect … and it was written for him but easily expressed my own situation.
After I sent him what I had scribbled I went back and I replaced his field with mine and … well … I found I was writing about my frustrations were which his … as well as a number of people I know:
This site is borne of my frustration with explaining I am more than an advertising guy.
This site is borne of a belief that there is a community of advertising guys/gals who not only know they are more than advertising people but they also know they would like to use the skills they have in a business world which they see as needing what they have to offer.
This site is borne of what I know to be true – many of us are not simply advertising people, we are tinkers, tailors, soldiers & spies … all in one.
For some of us it gets frustrating to explain just because I have my MBA and am an experienced advertising guy that I am more than just that.
I get frustrated when my degree defines me.
I get frustrated when my industry experience label defines what my skills are.
I get frustrated that what I do, or have tangibly done, defines what I am capable of.
I get frustrated because I know how to ask the hard questions which often offer the hardest answers – the right things to do <which I believe businesses are desperate for this skill>.
I get frustrated because I know that “the truth is” is rarely the truth and I know that truths are often misty and multiple, like ghosts.
I get frustrated because I know all that I just wrote is a reflection of a thinking skill, a problem solving skill, a business skill and not just an advertising skill.
I get frustrated because I am more than an advertising guy and I know many people are frustrated by being slotted so simplistically.
To me, the world is too quick to define people and their skills in a simplistic way — simplistically by what they do <on the surface> and what specific skills they have acquired. People are often more complex than the labels they carry along with them and skills are often more translatable, with surprisingly positive outcomes, than many people are willing to think about.
It is our own fault because we have bludgeoned it into everyone’s head that everyone has to be a specialist or have some specific skill and, therefore, if you cannot simply define your specialty or skill you are … well … of less worth than someone who can.
That is, frankly, silly if not ludicrous.
Here is what I know.
I am more than an advertising guy. I am a tinker, tailor soldier and spy.
And I am building a community of likeminded people with a desire to go beyond simply being defined by the degree they earned and what labels people put on them to reach out into a business world, which may not know they need our skills at the moment, and show them there is a group of overlooked people who have skills to offer which businesses can benefit from.
noun: tinker; plural noun: tinkers
(especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living.
a person who makes minor mechanical repairs, especially on a variety of appliances and apparatuses, usually for a living.
an act of attempting to repair something.
noun: tailor; plural noun: tailors
a person whose occupation is making fitted clothes such as suits, pants, and jackets to fit individual customers.
A soldier is one who fights as part of an organised, land based, sea based and air based armed force.
noun: spy; plural noun: spies
a person who secretly collects and reports information on the activities, movements, and plans of an enemy or competitor.
I am fairly sure I am not in the majority in that the bulk of the world tends to acquire specific skills but I do believe the majority of generalists get unfairly squeezed into some incredibly uncomfortable boxes simply because the world just doesn’t seem to believe a generalist has the same value as a specialist.
It is frustrating.
To be clear … a qualified generalist doesn’t claim to be able to do everything.
I am not qualified to be a CFO <although I understand what CFOs do and what they say>.
I am not qualified to be some social media strategist <although I understand what they do and what they say>.
I am not qualified to … well … you get the point.
But from a generalist perspective I am qualified to talk about effective marketing, advertising and communications in any industry <even if I have never worked specifically in that industry>.
But from a generalist perspective I am qualified to talk about effective company vision, objectives, strategies and how to grow sales & retention in any industry <even if I have never worked specifically in that industry>.
But from a generalist perspective I am qualified to talk about positioning products & services, behavioral economics and making the hard business decisions which guide businesses toward success in any industry <even if I have never worked specifically in that industry>.
But from a generalist perspective I am qualified to dabble in almost any topic in any industry on any issue and use that ‘dabbling’ to make some relevant points based on some seemingly disparate type knowledge.
“You know about fixing cars, you’re athletic, and you know when to shut up.”
“That last one isn’t a skill.”
“Honey, trust me. It’s a skill.”
Tinker tailor soldier spy.
I like that title.