Going All In

jumper_smI usually try to “bloom where I am planted.” It seems like generally good advice for living – be content where you are, find opportunities to grow in any situation, give all of your effort to everything you do, and so on. I said “try,” but the truth is that I have to work hard to bloom where I’m planted. Too often, I am distracted by the new and shiny, or I want to indulge an underlying sense of wanderlust. I want to try something new, become good at it, then move on and tackle something else. That feels like growth to me.

Many folks, however, can really and truly bloom where they are planted. No matter where they are, they become essential lynchpins to their environment. They become the hubs in tribal relationships, always included in decisions and projects. When they need to develop new skills, they don’t just succeed. They excel. They make the effort needed to move from competency to mastery, rising head and shoulders above those who merely participate.

I have friends like that. They are deeply embedded in their tribes or occupations. They are immediately seen as authorities on a given subject or masters of a craft, even if they don’t see it for themselves. People seek them out for their thoughts and perspectives, and companies seek them out for their expertise. I have to admit that I envy them sometimes. I have a secret dream that someone will one day have an epiphany and shout “You know who we need for this? Jay Lynn!”

Anything is possible, and maybe one day I’ll get that call. But, the truth is that I am responsible for my own life. I could do a lot more to increase the odds of that kind of thing happening in my favor. Do you know why it’s less likely to happen? Do you know why those other people are so well regarded and sought after?

Because they go all in.

People seen as masters and leaders totally immerse themselves in a topic. If you want to be seen as an expert or essential resource in a certain field, or if you want to be certain that the tribe includes you in everything, you have to go all in. It doesn’t matter what that topic is. It can be lizard grooming or investment banking, but you have to live and breathe it if you want to be known as THE go-to-guy (or gal) in that field.

That means the real question is – how badly do you want it?

How passionate are you about your “stuff?” Are you willing to invest all of your creative energy into a specific area of interest? More, are you willing to put in the effort required to move beyond mere participation and on to mastery? If you want to be known as outstanding, that’s what you must be willing to do.

I’ve participated in several tribes over the years, with varying degrees of investment. I write fiction and non-fiction, but I don’t hang out with writers and participate in their professional dialogues. I do some coaching and consulting, but I don’t network relentlessly for my next client. I love geeky stuff, and I’ve done the geek convention circuit as both a vendor and an attendee, but I don’t Filk LARP, or Cosplay. I participate in professional Christian ministry, but I’m usually seen as a technology person with a religious background. I work hard at my job, but I don’t typically check job-related e-mail overnight and come into the office on the weekends. By indulging in a multitude of interests and passions in my own life, I limit my ability to be seen as outstanding in any of them.

If you want to be known as outstanding or noteworthy in an area, then you must commit to that identity wholeheartedly. Even if that identity doesn’t mesh with your day job or the things that you do on a daily basis, you must be able to clearly define yourself for others. Don’t expect a book deal from a publisher just because you wrote something. Don’t expect a job in the video game industry just because you play a lot of games. You cannot sit back and wait to be “discovered” by a tribe. You have to participate in group discussions, events, and activities. Volunteer to work for the tribe. Do something for others. Show up every time, participate, and then do even more. Provide consistent, long-term value to the tribe and you will be recognized accordingly.

What do you want to be known for?

How badly do you want it?

Are you willing to go all in?



2 thoughts on “Going All In

  • Abby

    You always write with such clarity about issues that have rolled around in the back of my brain but never come to the front burner to be properly wrestled! 🙂 Having worked with a number of true experts in my last job I would certainly agree they were “all in”! I often found myself bothered by (at least what I personally perceived) as the stiff cost they paid, however. To be “all in” in one area inevitably means you won’t have much time and energy for other areas, sometimes affecting family, friends, or even your own mental health! Beyond the hard work of the actual endeavour on which an expert is focused, I think he or she also does a fair bit of work to strike a balance with the rest of life! I don’t personally aspire to be an expert, having made my peace as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ – but I have a lot of respect for those who have that dedicated bent. They are invaluable to any organization, yet so am I. 🙂

  • jay

    Wow. I totally spaced on responding, Abby! This last week has been a circus. I apologize.

    It’s almost cliche’ to say that no one gets to their death bed and says “I wish I had worked harder at my job.” If you want to be seen as the top of your field, then your family better participate with you and share in your dream. Otherwise, you will sacrifice relationships for position. True wealth is measured by time and not dollars.

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