There is something I have not thought about in a while, but revising my notes made back in 2013, I came across a concept of high achievers vs. wide achievers. High achievers are essentially specialists - think of a brain surgeon, a nuclear scientist or an interpreter who devote their entire professional lives to one fairly narrow subject and derive rewards from the unrivalled depth of their expertise.
Looking at the specialist in a different light, it's a person whose job might be limited to just one aspect of the final product or service. Once upon a time I interviewed a talented pattern cutter who worked for a British high street retailer. She was very good at what she did, but felt frustrated that her skills in fashion design and understanding of textiles were ultimately wasted because in the fashion industry in Britain, all jobs were segmented into specialised fields. It's a good example of an unhappy "high achiever", which is actually pretty symptomatic of our age. From Adam Smith (the economist who advocated division of labour in the first place) to modern day specialists, who seek wider responsibilities, "high achiever" has lost its previously revered status.
A "wide achiever" is a person who is not afraid to pursue several interests at once. My friend Lily is head of technology at a media agency but she also makes citrus jams and sells them to her local delis. I doubt she does it for the money, but it'a a creative itch she simply had to scratch. Selling your own products (as opposed to just giving them away) is a neat way to receive validation for your work. Another example is the House star Hugh Laurie, who after a very successful career as an actor decided not to rest on his laurels. He wrote a book, recorded a couple of music albums and toured as a singer-songwriter, receiving critical and popular acclaim and proving himself to be a man of many talents.
What lurks behind the question of "high achiever vs. wide achiever" is the fear of failure. That's why many many get stuck behind labels and titles, which have faded a long time ago, but are somehow incredibly effective at deterring people from pursuing new interests. As someone who has a portfolio career of being a writer, a journalist and a corporate finance consultant, I now find it easy to say yes to such opportunities as teaching a workshop or interviewing authors at a book festival. It's about identifying yourself as a "wide achiever" or as a "serial achiever" (if you'd like to immerse yourself in a new thing) and giving things a go. Unless, you are, of course, a brain surgeon, in which case - stick to the knitting.