INS09 - Being A Generalist with Pat Flynn


Manage episode 189513033 series 1541960
By Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio streamed directly from their servers.

My guest today is Pat Flynn from Westchester Pennsylvania. Pat is an author, fitness minimalist, business coach, guitarist and podcaster. He helps people do more with less and this is what our conversation is all about, the power of being a generalist, not a specialist.

The world is obsessed with specialists:

We’re often taught to specialise. Don’t try and be a jack-of-all-trades, but as Pat explains it’s better to be Good-To-Great at many things. You’ll achieve more by being a generalist

For example, Jimmy Hendrix was a generalist, not a specialist. It was his breadth rather than depth of skill that made him so popular. He was a very good guitar player, but was not the best in the world. But Hendrix could also sing, write, perform and had amazing charisma. People loved him because he was a generalist.

There’s a huge difference between a musician and specialist guitar player.

Pat Flynn has never won a gold medal, or as he explained been the best at anything, but he’s good to great in many areas, such as fitness, writing, podcasting, guitar playing, advertising, copywriting, and business coaching.

It’s the rule of 80 Percent.

If you need to perform at 100% to be the best in the world, at anything, you only need to train, or learn for an hour a day to get 80% good at anything, but to get to 100% you need to train, or learn 8+ hours per day. It’s a much bigger commitment, and there’s still no guarantee you’ll be the best in the world, There’s many other factors that need to be taken into account.

You can be a master at many things, without being the best in the world, and you can often miss out on so much of life by trying to be a specialist.

The UFC is a perfect example. The current world champions in the UFC are good to great at many fighting techniques, because they have to be. They may start out as specialists, but they need to acquire other fighting skills to win.

Life is very much like being an all rounder in the UFC than simply being a professional boxer.

The reason humans are at the top of the food change is because we adapt, we’re generalists. We are not as strong as the gorilla, or as fast as a cheetah, but we are good to great in many areas of adaptation.

Anyone can get to 80% in anything if they really want to, but it’s not easy, you still must put in the work.

As kids growing up our parents told us we can be anything if we put your mind to it, but that’s not completely true, there are many other factors involved. But we can be good to great at anything if we really want to.

We obsess over specialisation:

Life is more accessible, successful and enjoyable when you’re OK with not being the best in the world.

Think of the most popular actors in the world, such as Tom Hanks, he’s not the best actor in the world, he is a generalists, but he’s probably also be a great networker, communicator, negotiator and business person.

Gene Simons and KISS were great showmen. Pink is another great example, and most people would say her shows are great; it’s not always about their singing. We only see the final product, not how good they are at all the behind the scene skills. Compared to a specialist violin player that doesn’t get the same crowds or recognition.

Specialisation is a snare because it’s easier to measure, however with generalism you have to get away from thinking about exact measurements.

Fitness should be there to improve your health, but with the pursuit of trying to specialise in one sport it can lead to imbalances and injuries. For example Power lifting and Cross Fit, if you do too much lit can lead to injury. A generalist can do activities in all areas and therefore have less injuries.

Short term specialization, is when you spend a short period of time specialising and focusing in one area/activity and then you switch. Once the skills are learnt you can move on and it can be maintained with only a minimal amount of effort, or touching back on it again at a later date. Just like learning to ride a bike.

To become a good to great generalist you need to be a short time specialist.

You don’t have the time to learn everything at once…learning to write a book, play the guitar, or being a better speaker can’t all be done at the same time. It’s okay to learn a skill and let it slide a little, because you can bring that skill back up quite quickly when you need to call upon it. You should keep adding new skills by doing short-term specilisation and become more of a broad generalist.

Business Applications: When you purchase new equipment or software, you must spend short-term specialisation to learn how it works and how it can best be used in your business. You learn it to 80%.

FACEBBOK Advertising: Pat became a short term specialist when it first came out, so he could use it and be better at it than most people. So he’s not the best at FACEBOOK ads, there’s people who are far better, but that’s all they do. They are specialists and therefore limited in their skill set.

FACBOOK LIVE: Being on camera is a skill you need to develop and being live is different to prerecorded video that can be edited later. FACEBOOK live is more like public speaking and learning the skill of thinking quick on your feet.

Think of the most successful people in the world and you’ll see that they are all generalists.

Even Michael Jordan went from a specialist to a generalist. He was a specialist scorer, but even then he never won a championship, but once he got better at leading his team, defense, supporting other team members, his team won the championship. As soon as he backed off a little from scoring…that’s what made the change.

Take an Audit of your life: Understand what your naturally good at and what your passions are, and then develop further skills you need.

Ask yourself, what skills do I need to learn to fill the gap towards my goals? You need to know your goals first. You need to know what you want, then go and learn the skills you need, using short-term specialisation.

Be honest with yourself. Your current skill set has only got you so far. Now what other skills do you need to develop, up to 80%, to give you a competitive advantage. When your skills are stacked upon each other you will develop a lot of breadth and be good to great at many things.

Skills you should develop: Networking, copywriting, advertising, writing, and public speaking, but you only need to go to 80%. Pat Flynn admits he’s not the perfect speaker, he still stumbles over his words, but who cares, his goal was to be good to great, not a specialist.

You can connect with Pat Flynn at or via his FACEBOOK page

Pat Flynn’s website: and

The Pat Flynn Show on iTunes:

I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you want to read more, or listen to other episodes please email me at or visit my website

My latest book It’s No Secret There’s Money In Small Business is now available on Amazon, Book Depository and other online book sellers. Book Depository does deliver freight FREE worldwide.

If you live in Australia you can also order my book from most local bookstores.

106 episodes available. A new episode about every 3 days averaging 24 mins duration .