I have a variety of interests and hobbies, many non-business related, and it’s often hard for me to coherently justify the time I spend on these pursuits to outsiders who are "focused" on their professional life. I’ve always believed, however, that "being a mile wide" — that is, knowing (ok, pretending to know) a little about a lot of things — is a competitive advantage.
Being a mile wide also produces an "expert effect," another concept Auren has taught me. To be an expert to somebody you simply need to know more than them. I’m no expert on publishing, but since I now know a little about the publishing world with my forthcoming book, I have become an "expert" to many of my friends who are thinking about writing.
As Fabrice Grinda says on his blog on the benefits of intellectual curiosity:
To some extent, this is counter-intuitive – you might expect to perform best by putting 100% of our efforts into a single pursuit. However, recent evidence suggests that is not the case. Your behavior shapes your brain and the benefits of practicing one skill are not limited to that skill alone, they can be transferred, and the more things you know something about the more there is to transfer. As Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School says: “If you practice multiple things you actually get better at any one of those things.”