If you knew my uncle, you know that he was a Jeff of All Trades and the Master of Most of ‘Em. Professionally he was a talented sound engineer, graphic designer, and web site guru. He brewed phenomenal beer under the “FatBoy” label. He built his own telescope. He understood bread baking on a nearly spiritual level. He grew prize winning Dahlias. He was an amazing photographer. He even used to build custom made electronic blinking jewelry.
Jeff taught me that it was OK to be interested in everything – labels and presuppositions don’t matter. It is OK to pursue something, to learn a skill, just because it is interesting. I don’t need to worry about whether or not it “makes sense for a guy like me” to know it or be known for it. It is OK to just want to know.
And while you are at it, it only makes sense to pursue that new idea or skill or hobby until you become an expert. You don’t have to become a Jedi Master, an authority on the subject, or the best of the elite. Just put in the time to really know and understand the thing; don’t quit at amateur like so many do. Put in the extra hours. Read the extra books. Get good enough that “normal folks” want to know what you think or how you would do it. It takes a lot less effort to get there than you think, and it is always worth it.
Really, the lesson is all about courage. Finding the courage to take the chance to be ridiculed, judged, or ignored for giving a slice of your life to something. Personally, I can attribute my own interests in cooking, web design, and photography to following Jeff’s lead. I know my wife has had a similar experience with photography and gardening. This month, I’m not necessarily learning a new skill but undertaking two new projects because I don’t want to forget this.
Don’t be afraid. Be the expert.