all american boy

The All-American Boy



admire keep up crumbs (2)
invent sculpture metallurgy
mining anatomy statesman
A+ linguist contemporary
attend volunteer scholarship
era date (3) spare time
elect congress scuba diving
uphold specialist bestseller
strive emulate accomplishment
key (2) breadth leave behind
expert field (2) boy scout
fee segment demand (2)
beg area (3) different story
respect versatile role model
cardiac oncology on the other hand
niche specific general practitioner
due to shortage cash-strapped
attain comply accreditation
EPA surgery regulation
focus confident assignment
rate flood (2) exponential
genius virtually manageable
haggle carve (2) stay current
hire ultimately manual (2)

David Greene


Many of the greatest and most admired individuals in history have been versatile geniuses: Leonardo Da Vinci (painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, anatomist, astronomist, geologist, geometrist); Alexander von Humboldt (botany, geography, mining, climatology, metallurgy); Thomas Jefferson (lawyer, architect, philosopher, statesman, agriculturist, inventor, writer, linguist).

The All-American Boy

And in contemporary culture, there’s the “All-American Boy”: he gets straight A’s in school … becomes the High School president … president of the chess club and computer club … Eagle Boy Scout … and the captain the football team — who dates the High School Queen.

The All American Boy then attends Harvard University on a football scholarship, studies engineering, goes on to law school, and gets an MBA. He marries a former Miss America, and has numerous successful careers, before being elected to the US Congress.

In his spare time, he enjoys skiing and biking in Colorado, scuba diving in Barbados, climbs mountains in Nepal. He writes several bestsellers, and even finds time to do volunteer work in his community.

Schools and society have upheld these individuals as role models, ones which we should all strive to emulate.

The Real World

For most of us however, it’s a different story. We could never come close to these great people in terms of the breadth of their accomplishments.

But all is not lost: in the real world, to have a successful profession, career or business, you don’t have to be good at a lot of things — you can succeed even if you are really good at only one thing.

In fact, for most people, being good at only one thing is the key to success.

The Secret

The best way to get more business is to become a specialist or expert in one specific area.

That is true of every field: specialists are more in demand — and command higher fees, thus make more money — than generalists.

Specialists don’t have to beg for work or haggle over fees. And they get more respect.

Generalists, on the other hand, live off the crumbs the specialists leave behind (due to a shortage of specialists or cash-strapped customers).

The Modern Era

Why is this?

The reason is simple: in the modern era, information and technology grows at an exponential rate. Today we are flooded with new knowledge.

Therefore, no single person can even begin to keep up in a single field — making it virtually impossible to succeed as a generalist in any field.

Medicine, Mechanics, Writing

In medicine, oncologists and cardiac surgeons earn more than general practitioners.

In the auto industry, service technicians who specialize in fixing Jaguars and Porsches charge much higher rates than general auto mechanics.

In corporate training, the consultant who teaches how to attain ISO 9002 accreditation or comply with EPA regulations commands daily fees two to five times higher than trainers who teach general subjects like stress management or leadership.

In any type of writing — copywriting, newspaper and magazine articles, book writing — writers that focus on niche markets are better paid than general assignment writers.

Learning and Expertise

By specializing in one or two niches, you carve out a manageable segment of human knowledge, and at least have a fighting chance of staying current without spending every waking minute reading manuals, magazines, books, and web sites in different areas.

And ultimately, clients and employers would rather hire a specialist than a generalist since they are confident you are an expert who can understand their problem or situation and accomplish the task.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. In school, teachers talk about great computer programmers, nurses, mechanics, plumbers and carpenters. True or false?

2. Describe the “All-American (or Brazilian, Chinese, Italian, Russian) Boy”

3. Society says we should be good at and accomplish many different things. Is this correct or incorrect? Is this possible for most people?

4. Is it better to be a generalist or specialist? Who earns more money? Who is more “successful”?

5. Why is being a specialist more practical than being a generalist? Give examples.

6. Has this changed over time?

7. Which is easier, being an expert specialist or an expert generalist? Who do customers and employers prefer?


A. Who are the celebrated people you have heard (at home, school, books, TV)?

B. Have you been told you should be good at many things or have many great accomplishments?

C. The number and variety of talents and accomplishments change throughout a person’s life. Yes or no?

D. What are you very good or what could you be very at?

E. I know people who are good at many things. Yes or no? Do you know anyone who is good at only one thing?

F. Do you completely agree with the writer?

G. What will happen in the future?

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