As you hand the keys to your baby (also known as your precious car) over to the immaculate mechanic, your heart sinks. You recoil as you see the starched white shirt, the manicured hands, and the neatly pressed pants. While he's a poster-child for effective grooming habits, you worry if he really possesses the hands-on experience needed to restore your valued vehicle.
In contrast, the same exchange with a weathered pro has a decidedly different vibe. You notice his scuffed hands and the grease permanently lodged in his fingernails. The oil-stained shirt perfectly compliments shop pants with over-worn knees from kneeling to perform his craft. The distinctive smell of antifreeze reassures you that this person means business.
In other business pursuits - from financial planning to cyber security - we want our experts to posses the same proverbial 'grease under the nails.' We crave experts in their fields, with deep knowledge and experience getting their hands dirty in their respective crafts. The jack-of-all-trades days of the past have given way to a new model for success: the deeply experienced and maniacally focused expert. The one who is so immersed in her field, that she thinks about the work while driving to the airport. The one who reads trade journals, is on the forefront of new approaches, and views her job as calling.
A cursory understanding of one's field just no longer gets the job done. Instead, let's commit to getting under the hood in a hands-on manner that develops a true level of expertise. Committing to learning the intricacies and nuances, the grime and dirt become a badge of honor as our value to our customers expands geometrically.
If we push ourselves to become the Picasso of our industry, the DaVinci of our field, the competitive pressures melt away. Mastery drives customer value, which in turn drives the growth and success we seek. And if you burn yourself on the hot engine once or twice, it's all in the name of progress.
So get a little dirty. Pursue hands-on mastery, and both your customers and your bottom line will smile with delight.