Have you heard the idea that we should learn with the goal of being t-shaped?

There’s a metaphor I think aligns better with how I want to live life. I’m striving to be a line of dripping paint.

Being T-shaped something that I’ve written about in the past. In a small section of  post on should software developers learning more than one language.

Being t-shaped implies that you attempt to master one skill and dabble in other related areas. The deep skill is the leg of the t and the shallow skills is the arm that crosses it.

For example, you could have a deep skill within Software Development. While having decent skills in some other areas. Writing, painting, public speaking, or dancing . Just to name a few.

A limitation with the t-shaped metaphor

Being t-shaped means you only go deep on one subject. Nothing wrong with that but I have to many interest to want to focus on one area.

I’m the kid in high school who was in marching / jazz band, ROTC, three sport teams, and played drums at church. All while building computers, creating dungeon and dragon campaigns, and rapping on the weekends.

Which brings me to dripping paint. The idea was something I read about in the transcripts of the eCommerce Fuel podcast. The interview was on the art of reaching your full potential.

Imagine dragging a paintbrush across the top of a wall while drips of paint start to fall down. Sometimes the drip just goes down a little bit maybe an inch. Sometimes it goes down a foot. Other times it’s down three feet.

What happens is this band across the top represents skills you’re competent at. You don’t have to be world-class at them. You just need the basics.

The drips of paint down the wall represent skills that you’ve gained more knowledge in. You can collect any number of skills at varying degrees of competence.

This metaphor is more flexible. You could be a software developer with a 5 foot drip and still have many other skill sets with 3 feet drips.

Don’t worry about how someone else’s line of paint is dripping down the wall. Your unique combination of drip lengths (skills) is what makes each of us stand out.

The t-shaped is still useful. They’re just different strokes for different folks. Choose the metaphor that works best for you.

Are you striving to be t-shaped or a line of dripping paint?