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  • Gunjan Syal

Defining Success As A X-Shaped Individual



I've been approached by many X-shaped people lately and these are my kind of people!


If you are someone who is passionate about multiple disciplines and stubborn enough not to make an exclusive commitment to ONE obvious career choice, you're an X-shaped person. Congratulations on being unique!


A lot of messages I've received are from those who are at 'cross-roads' in their careers and feeling the pressure to make a choice, especially as the pandemic situation evolves. So here are my thoughts, since they asked.


Traditional careers demanded you choose one specialization - technical, sales, program management etc. This worked well in past because of the time and focus it took to build economies of scale to learn something significantly new. You committed to one path or a topic and eventually, hopefully, made it to the top. This has changed a lot, especially during the pandemic. Now, we have access to a variety of low-cost productivity tools and a virtual world full of mentors, peers, friends at our fingertips. This global community is more open than ever before to share their unique perspectives and collaborate to solve some of the most complex problems we are facing today, like the climate change.


I am elated to see so many X-shaped people venture out of their shells during the pandemic. However, sustaining this lifestyle is easier said than done. There are so many hours in the day to sustain multiple lines of interests and work. Being a full-time X-shaped person means ninja-level commitment to efficiency and protecting your focus.


Time and focus are not the same currency.

Using productivity tools efficiently and creating a diverse ecosystem of partners for support will get you half way there - this brings you time. The other half is developing an ability to make impactful, timely and informed decisions - this brings you focus. I use my personal values to define my OKRs and review them frequently. This allows me to toss the objectives that no longer serve the purpose and make room for those that are of personal and professional value.


In summary - my two cents to the X-shaped people, define your core values and then challenge them everyday. They will enable good decisions and clarify objectives very soon.

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Here's a TED Talk on X-Shaped people:


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