What Breaking Bad Tells Us About the Power of Deep, Narrow Expertise…

OK kids, how many of you are familiar with the AMC series "Breaking Bad"?   It's a critically acclaimed show about an Science teacher with cancer who turns into a psycho Meth drug dealer to provide for his family after he's gone.  It's on my Netflix list to move through (5 seasons?) once I no longer have kids in the house, which is when I'll have time.  Click here for the full narrative on the series.

But I'm familiar enough with the story line that the following caught my attention - 5 Career Lessons from Breaking Bad by Kelly Gurnett (hat tip to Holland Dombeck, who puts together 5 things you need to know this week every Monday morning over at Fistful of Talent).  One of the five lessons hit home:

1. It all starts with quality Breaking-bad

There wouldn’t have been a show if Jesse and Walt’s early days in the RV had resulted in only mediocre product.

Would they have made some money? Sure. Would international drug cartels and super meth lords like Gus Fring be desperate to get their hands on that product (and its creator)? Nope.

Walt would have just been some middle-aged chemistry teacher cooking drugs in his skivvies in the middle of the desert. His rise to mythological levels of power and notoriety started off with the one thing all wannabe entrepreneurs have to have: a solid, high-quality product. Walt’s meth was the purest in the marketplace, and his customers (and competition) recognized that — and that’s what gave him the leverage to build an empire from nothing.

Would-be business mavens, take note: unless your product or service is top-notch, all the advertising strategies and killer branding in the world won’t take you very far. It all begins with offering something consumers or clients can’t get enough of.

The whole premise of the show is based on the fact that the former Science teacher (Walt) turns into a Meth dealer and gets market success because his Meth is far superior to that which exists in the marketplace.

Of course, the whole premise is repulsive, because Meth wrecks havoc on many, many communities.  But if you look closely, there's a talent lesson in what's written above.

The takeaway? In the digital age, where distribution has never been easier, a great career path is to develop expertise that's a mile deep and an inch wide.  It's why a science teacher can apply what he knows about chemistry and create a marketplace.  It's why a recruiter can go deep and long in recruiting the same type of scientists for reputable companies (and do those types of searches only).  And that type of career path is available to all of us in the digital age, without mixing up a vat of Meth like Walt.

Develop deep enough expertise in a single area, and the market will find you.  It's one way that people can actually get results with that age old cliche - chase your passion in what you do for a living.

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