So I asked, then, what do Jobs and Jefferson and da Vinci have in common?
And then one of my favorite quotes hits me.
"Real artists ship."—Steve Jobs
Could it be that the difference between a generalist and a dabbler is just saying "this is as done as it's going to be" and shipping the work?
I think maybe yes.
If you look at a Jefferson, da Vinci, Jobs—they shipped. A lot. I think the dabbler moves on when he's 95% complete, so he never gets the completion, satisfaction, and feedback from completing a work. Also, by completing a work in a field, you gain some renown and prestige, which makes it easier to get in touch with other successful people, which speeds your learning curve.
The dabbler moves on when things get tough. The generalist keeps going until he puts enough work out that he feels complete in a particular field, and then, and only then, is he on to the next thing.
Both of these outcomes only emerged from action—I had this vague thought that maybe I wanted to be a painter, but I was never really excited about it until I did it, and then I saw a couple sparks of inspiration and passion starting to grow.
Do you know what I think the difference is between a generalist and a dabbler?
Completing and delivering things.
There was only 40-some subscribers the first edition that went out, but it's grown steadily since then up to 219 now. Also, only two unsubscribes total across the whole time—I think that's pretty phenomenal, less than 1% of the people who signed up canceled … so that's going well.
The key thing that ties everything all together is to produce and ship things while you have a current interest.
If you get into a new kind of music, write up your thoughts and first impressions on it—either on a blog, or even just Amazon reviews. The mindset shift from being a consumer to being a producer is huge, even if what you produce doesn't see all that much use at first.
But more and more, I'm looking to build/produce/ship things when I have a passing interest.
But if you have a sincere interest, then why not try to write an analysis or critique or user guide or quick-start manual or observations or … something? Producing, shipping … it's cool. I think it's basically the way for people whose interests jump around to achieve lots of good stuff in the world."
Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall