“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman
The essential plea of author Nick Lovegrove: Forget about the corporate ladder and approach your career as an adventurer might, with intellect, aspiration and open mind. In the half-philosophical, half-practical career guide The Mosaic Principle: The Six Dimensions of a Successful Life & Career, Lovegrove argues against businesses’ demands for greater specialism, which tend to limit people into working lives of narrow and small experiences.
Lovegrove engages his readers in an extended exploration of what the potentialities are in six dimensions of a remarkable life and career. As he explains, we all have a choice: increase the breadth or increase the depth of our lives. “In today’s world, there are intensifying pressures on us to choose depth, because the world is increasingly obsessed with the power of narrow specialist expertise.” Lovegrove acknowledges that we can’t always resist this trend towards greater specialization. But, he argues, “If at least sometimes we move in the direction of breadth, and diversity, and life outside the comfort zone, then we open up all sorts of possibilities.”
Greater specialization is not only bad for the soul. In companies, it can lead to a dearth of perspectives available to solve complex problems. A narrow expertise turns us into one-trick ponies. It makes us feel less special and leads to a lack of transferable skills to succeed in a complex and diverse world.
Explore your intellectual interests throughout a wide-ranging career
As our working lives lengthen, so does our opportunity to explore various departments, job functions and sometimes even industries, leading to greater knowledge and a more fulfilled life. This is the mosaic of skills and experience that Lovegrove refers to. If, for example, you have an interest in income inequality, you might work for an NGO developing solutions to combat this societal problem, or at a credit union helping members deal with their financial situations.
Just to be clear, Lovegrove doesn’t praise the professional dilettante or for being a “jack-of-all-trades and master of none.” He believes a successful working person should be a hybrid with both breadth and depth. Lovegrove has developed his six dimensions based on interviews with 200 people who have achieved this tricky balance. The dimensions are: applying your moral compass; defining an intellectual thread; developing transferable skills; investing in contextual intelligence; building an extended network; and having a prepared mind. These six dimensions ensure that professional success and personal fulfillment are not and should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. Development of each involves a process, one of rigorous preparation and bold exploration.