It's hard for me to relate to Cristiano Ronaldo. Same with Lionel Messi. Or Neymar. Or Mohamed Sala. Their skills are otherworldly. They regularly do things on the soccer field I can't imagine doing.

But I can relate to Heimir Hallgrimsson, the coach of the Iceland national soccer team.

With a population of approximately 330,000, Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify for a World Cup. (As if a team drawn from the residents of Santa Ana qualified for the World Cup -- something countries like Italy and the United States failed to do this time around.) 

Two years ago Iceland beat England to make the quarterfinals of the European Championship; Roy Hodgson, England's coach, resigned his position before the players made it into the locker room.

Last week Iceland managed to tie Argentina, the 5th-ranked team in the world -- Messi's team -- in the first round.

I can't relate to those levels of achievement.

In 2013, Heimir wanted to build a fan culture, one that would make fans feel they were part of the team -- and make players feel they were also part of something bigger. So he invited fans to meet him at a pub before the next match.

Only ten or twelve people showed up.

That was okay. Heimir knew he had to start somewhere. He told the handful of fans which players would be in the starting lineup (even before he released that info to the media.) He assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the team's opponents. He showed fans the same motivational video he had used to help inspire the team's players. 

He stayed with it, and now hundreds of people come to his pre-match meetings.

And as for building a fan culture? Last week's game against Argentina was watched by 99.6 percent of the people watching TV in Iceland and 60 percent of the country's total population. Yep: 3 out of 5 people in Iceland were watching the game.

And keep in mind twenty percent of the population requested tickets to actual games; they couldn't watch TV because they were in Russia, where the games are held. 

Nor can I relate to building that level of fan engagement.

But I can relate to this.

Heimir, the man who helped build a soccer powerhouse, who helped build a rabid fan base?

He's a dentist.

Serving as the national team coach is, in effect, a side hustle.

Heimir went to college to be a software engineer, didn't like the coursework, and then struggled to figure out a major to switch to. "My friend was doing dentistry," he says, "and I thought I would just sign up with him and change later. And I never did."

That makes Heimir a serial achiever. While many people assume the path to success lies in focusing on just one thing, some embrace multiple goals.

In  fact, nearly every highly successful person I interviewed for my book, The Motivation Myth, sees themselves as a serial achiever.

Kirk Hammett, the Metallica guitarist, is a horror film fan festival producer and co-founded a guitar pedal company. Dany Garcia, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's partner in 7 Bucks Productions, is a top agent, manager, producer, and bodybuilder. Venus Williams is... well, Venus is the perfect example of a serial achiever.

To most people, "specialization" indicates accomplishment and success, when in fact the opposite is true: You, me, all of us... we're too good to specialize.

Just like Heimir.

The pursuit of perfection is often the enemy, especially on a professional level. The current professional landscape values generalists over specialists -- change occurs quickly, and skills valued today are obsolete tomorrow.

When specific knowledge is more and more a commodity--as is increasingly the case as information grows ever more widely available--the people who can synthesize and blend and apply a broad base of skills to a variety of functions and problems are the people who are most valued.

That's why you should never be just one "thing."

We can all possess a number of new skills--if we just take a chance on ourselves and work to develop those skills.

You may not be a dentist and a national team coach. 

But you can be what you are now... and then be a whole lot more.

And have a lot more fun in the process.

Published on: Jun 22, 2018
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