When shopping in old town Kyoto you find shop after shop where the artist lives about their store. They and their family live above the workshop and sell their wares from the storefront each day. Here you see a china shop filled on every available surface with imported dishes. Instead of diversifying what they carry, they chose to do one thing well. They offer dishes in every size, shape and in every color combination imaginable. Traditional patterns, bright colors, bowls and serving vessels align all over the shelves and surfaces. 

The streets of Kyoto are lined with these kinds of shops. Anything you can imagine is available, especially traditional Japanese crafts. Each shop features a different array. Each taking great pride in what they are able to create or sell. This area reminds me of what happens when people focus on doing one thing well and succeed. When we focus our efforts it is astonishing what can be accomplished. We are able to bring our passion, our ideas, our excellence to a topic and raise the bar. We set the standard and improvise to invent new, different, and completely unique levels.

In some areas of life being an expert is a good thing. It brings status and importance. It means we are a sought out resource on our topic. In some things being an expert in one thing is not enough anymore.  Specializing is too often seen as a limitation, so we spread our efforts across multiple activities to be well rounded. We want to have more to offer than just one thing, we do not want to limit ourselves. But when we spread our time and offers across multiple arenas, are we robbing ourselves the ability to be excellent. As the saying goes – Jack of all trades, expert in none. 

Which one are you – an expert or able in multiple trades? Do you have the patience and focus to become an expert, or do you feel pulled in multiple directions in order to be well rounded? Which one do you want to be? By doing one thing well you have the ability to exceed everyone’s expectations, but it takes time, energy and effort.  By being ‘well rounded’ you do a few things well, none of whic are you considered an expert. The excellence of the vendors in Kyoto reminded me of the benefits and beauty of doing one thing well.