I attended a conference a few months ago where several big Virginia colleges talked about what they want to see in their applicants. The University of Virginia is one of the most competitive universities and probably the most desired by Virginia students and parents alike.
As a school counselor I can’t tell you how many times my office seat has been occupied by some eager parent wanting the know the “secret” of how to get their kid in. I once received a call from a pregnant woman asking what neighborhood she should move in to so that her unborn child would attend the best elementary school to make sure he was on the track for UVA. True story!
Anyhow, during said conference they were talking about the secret that the over-thinking-it pregnant mom wanted to know. The secret they said has changed. It used to be that universities wanted their students to be well-rounded. They wanted them to have a top class rank, play instruments, play sports, participate in numerous clubs and hold leadership positions in those clubs, but that is changing. My daughter is one of those well-rounded people. She is also a graduate of the aforementioned University of Virginia and I honestly wasn’t a big fan until she actually stepped foot on campus because I thought it was silly for everyone to want that so much when there were several great Virginia colleges. Okay, maybe I just wanted to keep her a little closer to home, but I digress.
The point of their secret session was to let us know that now universities see the value in Pointy People over the Well Rounded ones we have been told we have to be. While these pointy people might not be so diverse in their experiences, they have a laser like focus in one particular area to the point of mastery. We now know that those people are not only important but tend to be super successful too.
Listening to that speech got me to thinking about my own life and how sometimes I can spread myself thin by wanting to do so many different things.
In a previous post I talk about my Year of No where I had to start saying no to obligations because it was wrecking havoc on my life and my health. I actually got so sick in graduate school that they thought I had an autoimmune disorder. Stress does crazy things to your body and I was very stressed. My classes weren’t technically the issue but I was doing an unpaid full-time internship, working my paying full time job in the evening, and still trying to keep up with my single mom duties. When I was finally able to slow down and protect my time it went away. My doctor said it would surely come back but its been nearly a decade and nary a symptom.
I also mention in my book Single Mom Chic how at one point my social calendar was out of control and I was acting like an overaged homecoming queen trying to be everywhere for everyone. I talked about how freeing it was when I finally learned to say no. But, my social life wasn’t the only area I needed to learn to use that powerful little word. I tend to be a very goal driven person. I have so many things I am passionate about. I know I am not the only one. Who doesn’t want to have a great career, run their own business, become a certified yoga teacher, write books, have a successful blog, open a cycling/yoga studio, get a Ph.D, take Art Therapy classes and design handbags….wait, is it just me?
Steve Jobs, who is one of my business role models said not to do too many things but do one thing well. Although, I remind myself of him saying that often it certainly isn’t revolutionary. The “jack of all trades, master of none” saying rings a bell here too. I had to figure out exactly what my mission was. I actually wrote out a mission statement and I am learning to say no to things that don’t align with my mission.
So, in my pursuit of pointyness I had to remind myself that successful people don’t run around doing a million things. They do one thing really well and after achieving success in that one area then and only then, (when they have the resources time, money, perhaps even a staff) they diversify. Serena Williams didn’t start out playing tennis while getting her nail tech license. She mastered the game of tennis first and now she is in a position to do nails too. I still find that one a little odd, but… to each their own. I’d love to have her do my gel manicure!
I encourage you to really think about what you love and figure out how to do that so well that you can make a living out of it. This isn’t to be confused with having outlets or hobbies, you should have those experiences too. Just don’t waste time, energy and money trying to be great at everything, be pointy and focus your greatness on that one thing that is really important to you. Otherwise.. whats the point?
Until Next Post,