Chase Jarvis is the CEO of CreativeLive and a highly decorated photographer who emphasises on dynamic shots and sports. While Chase is undoubtedly a creative, I find his ideas quite interesting.
a) Going premium on day one.
I am very familiar, and quite sympathetic to the systematic abuse of design and creative professionals in Singapore having worked ( and paid on time ) with book cover designers and web page UX experts. Our local SMEs still adopt the mindset that creative professionals or artists can be paid with "exposure".
One defence, which I hope to teach my kids (which includes my artistically inclined daughter) against this is to simply not to become a creative professional. You can pursue artistic interests as a hobby.
Another approach is to simply go premium from day 1. Be good enough so that you don't need to work for exposure. I guess the trick is to skip the stingy SMEs and start working for the MNCs and big companies immediately.
Same goes for real life. You've got to have some standards.
Don't date or associate with people flagged by your craydar.
b) Different, not just better
I am not surprised that this is the rallying cry for creatives everywhere. Being better is not enough, you need to be different so that people will notice you. Its hard to disagree with this.
Strangely the business world is in agreement with the creatives. Management strategists talk about product differentiation. Marketers talk about Unique Selling Proposition. There is even a business book on this theory called The Blue Ocean Strategy which puts in detail how to be different.
The funny thing is that this idea itself, fails the "Different, not just better" test.
c) Specialisation is for insects
Robert A Heinlein was the original author of this statement. His opinion is somewhat romantic. As a human being you must be able to do many things, butcher a hog, plan an invasion, build a wall. Specialisation is for insects.
It's really easy to come up with pithy statements which people will buy into. The problem is that these statement can come with dire consequences.
While I certainly aspire to have multiple skill-sets myself, I would like to remind the reader that your time and capabilities are not infinite. You can be a generalist and go for broad based skills but they will never be as deep as a trained specialist. Scott Adams mentioned in a previous article actually proposed a powerful strategy which works for ordinary people - be top 25% in two fields.
In a changing economy, generalist skills may allow you to adapt better, but it is the specialist skills of the future which bring in the bacon and give you your financial security.
As such, I propose that the generalists-specialist divide is a false dichotomy.
To survive we will often need to be both.