The husband and I have always enjoyed many varied interests. While gaming seems to get the most attention the truth is that we are both creative types at heart. He loves music, photography, and all manner of woodworking. I like to make characters out of different mediums and dabble in drawing. We keep busy and up until now I’ve never seen a downside to having multiple talents to draw from. Until I learned about flugelhorning.
Context; I was talking to a co-worker the other day. She was a bit distraught that she was being passed from department to department since she was capable of helping in multiple places, while other people who only had one particular skill set got to stay put and focus on their primary job. She told me it reminded her of being in band and volunteering to learn the flugelhorn. She said that she basically got stuck always doing the flugelhorn parts since everyone else had the good sense to just stick to the trumpet.
This story set off flashing lights in my brain, a sure sign that I was about to have an epiphany of sorts (“epiphany” “epilepsy”, you get the idea). See, until now I had always considered my ability to take on multiple tasks to be an asset. In all the jobs I’ve had I’d always though it useful to know, not only my duties, but also how to perform the tasks of others so I could always be counted on to jump in and help out in a pinch. Now I realized that I had flugelhorned myself.
Now, the linguists in the audience are probably throwing up their hands in frustration by what they incorrectly perceive as me trying to make unnecessary words a part of the common vernacular. Why not just use “shoehorned”? Doesn’t that mean relatively the same as what I’m trying to say? Not at all, and here’s why;
shoe·horn (sho̅o̅′hôrn′) – To squeeze into or as if into an insufficient space,to force into a limited or tight space.
When you shoehorn something you force it into someplace where it doesn’t quite fit. In a work place example this would be like taking the company accountant and putting him in charge of counting widgets because he’s good at math. Great, your widget count is going to be spot on for the next inventory, but that guy is going to notice at some point that he could be doing real math elsewhere. Nobody aspires to be a widget counter.
Conversely, flugelhorning someone is just as limiting, but far more deceptive. Let’s take our accountant and put him back in charge of accounts receivable and payable or whatever the hell it is accountants do with their fancy adding machines. Okay, good he’s doing accounting and he’s content. You know what? I bet he’d be good at doing the ordering for the company too, since he’s so good with the numbers and all. Excellent, now if only we had someone who could make sales calls. Hey, why not the accountant, he already knows what supplies we have in stock since he’s doing the ordering. How difficult would it be to have him selling as well? Eventually this poor bastard is doing the work of seven different people.
Perhaps his company isn’t run by total jerks and they give him a little additional monetary incentive to now throw himself off a bridge. They are still saving loads of money on all the employees they don’t have to hire to help out. Meanwhile, our jack of all trades feels like he’s starting to get somewhere in the company since he’s wearing all the hats that have been flung his way. Eventually he works up the nerve to ask for a promotion, only to be told that that isn’t possible at the moment because they’d need to find 2-3 new employees to pick up the slack if he were to move to another position. Here he thought he was making himself more useful only to find out that he had flugelhorned himself into doing everything for relatively the same amount of pay as if he’d just done ‘only’ his job really well from the get-go.
So now that you are aware of the flugelhorning epidemic, how do you make yourself immune? By specializing your talents. Here’s the thing, people who do one very specific thing extremely well are rare and usually well paid. Anybody can have passable photoshop abilities, but someone who is actually talented at the program can charge a premium for their skills. In the same vein, doctors might expect to make some cash, but not as much as specialists in a particular medical field. This is why a neurosurgeon makes more than a general practitioner, specialization.
The more specialized and unique your skill set the more you can charge for it. If you can build scale replicas of famous cities that is awesome, if you can do it using grains of rice and unicorn tears, well guess which one is more valuable? The trick is to figure out what it is that you want to be most excellent at and focus on that like a man possessed. Then find the tiniest subset of that category and cater exclusively to that niche.
To be honest I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to follow my own advice here. I can absolutely get behind the idea that being flugelhorned is a real thing and if anyone would like to go ahead and send word to the Webster’s people about this, it would be most appreciated. Trouble is, the reason I have many hobbies and skills is because I like doing lots of different things. Still, at least insofar as my future career prospects are concerned, it might be time to figure out where my best abilities lie and throw everything I have behind them in the smallest niche possible.