It seems more and more that people are moving away from strict specialization in favor of focusing on varied interests. We take a closer look at Max Salk, an investment analyst and landscape photographer (among other things), to gain some insight into his open mindset, and how it can help you achieve your goals.
Reading through any old newspaper, one can find countless articles depicting retirement celebrations of individuals who have dedicated their careers not only a particular field, but a singular company. Many of these former professionals have spent their entire professional trajectory rising the ranks of one company, and their resumes would include one lengthy entry under the “experience” section. Conversely, today’s average professional is estimated to hold roughly 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 to 48.
Similarly, in the realm of personal entertainment and hobbies, various shifts have occurred, based on factors of time management, lifestyle changes, values and responsibilities, and other meaningful changes. Whereas individuals traditionally held a small handful of hobbies, and spent many years honing those limited skills, many young professionals seek various personal endeavors within today’s swiftly moving culture.
More frequently than in the past, it appears as though individuals are choosing to move away from strict specialization, in favor of focusing on multiple varied interests, in terms of both professional, and personal endeavors. Through technological advancements of the Golden Age of Technology, the internet has allowed for individuals from all walks of life to garner resources needed to successfully learn new skills, hone various tasks, and gain knowledge about particular endeavors. This globalization has led to the emergence of various interest groups, allowing people to trade ideas, collaborate on projects, and immerse themselves in activities in a wholly interactive manner. In turn, these advancements have also inspired people, whose interests have been piqued, to pursue a myriad of activities, professions, and goals.
In seeking to learn how to crochet a blanket traditionally, people had to rely on being taught by another nearby person, or by garnering an instructional book. This first step could have taken days, based on varying circumstances. Now, in order to learn the same technique, an aesthetically beautiful tutorial is a mere few clicks away. Goals that seemed like particularly impossible endeavors in the past, now feel more like inspired challenges, with the vast assistance of multimedia resources, groups, and dissemination of information.
In today’s modern realm, young professionals are seeking fulfillment from their jobs, and are recognizing the need to take educated risks for the purpose of advancing their opportunities. With vast self-insight, many young professionals weigh their outlooks, and take a vastly proactive approach to their future, developing the plans needed to achieve their professional goals. In the same approach, millennials are also choosing to learn, create, explore, and delve into passion projects at an incredibly high rate, recognizing the various benefits of pursuing varied interests, and learning about themselves in the future. We take a closer look at Max Salk, an Investment Analyst with The Blackstone Group, and amateur landscape photographer, to gain valued insight into his open mindset, and how it can help others with varied interests to achieve goals in today’s world.
Within the past few years, in the midst of evolving millennial culture, a case has been made for (and against) The Generalist, who is often described as “a person competent in several different fields or activities.” In examining the recent cultural shifts among young professionals, the emergence of this conversation is undoubtable. In the newest iteration of current culture, more individuals are opting out of participating within the traditional college experience, and instead, are choosing to pursue various careers on their own terms. Additionally, the vast prevalence of the internet is providing exposure, opportunity, and success to those who had not had it previously. Finally, in a natural response to every generation prior, millennials are choosing to do things differently than the generation immediately prior to their movement into adulthood, resulting in a cultural shift that is now changing the ways in which the aforementioned generation is choosing to live.
Though well-considered cases can be made for the pros of not sticking to a predetermined mold within today’s society, not everyone is particularly sold on the notion. Though progress has been made in various professional arenas, we still live in a world where specialization is imperative to succeed. Within the medical field, specialization amounts to confidence needed in an individual that has the capacity to change the trajectory of a patient’s life. Thus, specialization is paramount. In many fields that require specialized training and certification, such as architecture, the concept of specialization still reigns supreme.
However, a multi-dimensional approach does not necessarily mean having superficial knowledge on a myriad of topics, or reacting to things without further insight. Contrary to this notion, Generalists can be well versed in many topics, and have a very solid grasp within multiple disciplines. In his newest tome, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, author David Epstein describes the ways in which Generalists can often excel, even within specialized contexts. He argues that “in most fields – especially those that are complex and unpredictable – Generalists, not Specialists, are primed to excel.”
In order to garner this statement, Epstein studied many successful people throughout many different fields, within differing life situations. Through his studies, he concluded that individuals who juggled several interests, in lieu of a singular interest, generally made connections, or creative decisions that their Specialist counterparts often overlooked. In this sense, the Generalists’ lack of specialization affords them the open-minded nature that is key to problem solving, innovation, and a positive result. In some respects, Specialists can sometimes have “blinders”, or rigid ideas that don’t allow them to seek answers outside of a predetermined set of potential solutions, creating limitations in situations that call for added fluidity.
With such a strong case made for Generalists, we examine the case of Max Salk, who parlays various skills to find interdisciplinary successes within the realms of finance, and his passion project of landscape photography. Throughout his formal education, Salk remained interested in the financial sector, regularly following market trends and financial news to gain further understanding of the financial industry and global markets. Throughout his professional career, he has devoted himself to furthering his expertise as an Investment Analyst, and has developed a skillset within the complicated world of the financial sector. In essence, he has garnered the same confidence and skillset in his field as any traditional Specialist. In a thoroughly modern twist, though, Salk didn’t stop there.
Inspired by a semester abroad in the Netherlands, and a particularly foggy morning by the docks, Salk snapped a particularly moving photograph that expertly relayed the feelings of that morning to onlookers who have never laid eyes on the Netherlands previously. As a result, this initial photograph has served as a reminder for his ongoing passion project, and acts as the cover photograph for his portfolio website, maxsalkphotography.com. From there, his interest in photography grew, and Salk knew he had to follow his intrigue. Through time and effort, he garnered the technical skills needed to hone in on the craft, and become proficient in capturing a desired effect. Importantly, Salk did not allow his passion project to take away from his career within the financial sector. Instead, he excelled within both worlds, and even managed to find the time to indulge in other interests, including music, history, extensive travel, and spending time outdoors.
Who is Max Salk?
As previously mentioned, Max Salk is an Investment Analyst, and budding landscape photographer based in New York City. Originally from Illinois, Max studied at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. As an undergraduate student, during his fateful trip abroad to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, he unearthed this desire to pursue photography as a hobby. Simultaneously, he recognized the importance of excelling within his undergraduate studies, and went above and beyond to pursue excellence within the financial sector, pursuing independent study opportunities at every turn.
Post-matriculation, Salk’s first foray into the world of finance professionally came via a stint at Chicago’s Morningstar, followed by three years with investment management firm PPM America. Thereafter, Salk relocated to New York City to join The Blackstone Group, a global investment firm with over 2,500 employees across 24 offices, As a Vice President and U.S. Credit Research Analyst, Salk leverages his professional skillset to research, analyze, and recommend both primary and secondary fixed income investments on behalf of clients.
In addition to his position at Blackstone, Salk continues to pursue photography as a hobby and passion project, documenting his travels visually via his photographs, and building his portfolio in the process. Throughout his travels, Salk seeks to find life within otherwise stark landscapes, capturing the essence of movement, color, and emotion that could otherwise be missed. During a trip to Alaska, Salk framed various photographs with the majestic nature of mountains overlooking the entire landscape. Throughout a trip out West to Utah and Arizona, Salk showcased the never-ending stretches of road, overlooking the bountiful reds, oranges, and burnt yellows of the desert landscape. During each trip, Salk documents the process of capturing various scenes, the meaning behind each photo, and, in addition to creating aesthetically beautiful content, works to increase his technical shooting skills.
So…How Did He Do It?
When asked to provide insight regarding what led to their immense successes, often, the resounding answer can be satisfying, or otherwise completely unsatisfying. Often, the answer is: “I just did it.” In Salk’s case, this answer isn’t meant to detract from the interviewer’s question, but rather, serves as a testament to the notion of “just going for it.” Much like other successful young professionals, Salk reflected on whether or not he doubted his endeavors would pan out for him in the beginning. He mused, “I think it is natural for anyone to doubt him or herself at times, and I am no different.” He went on to state, “I am genuinely interested in and enjoy what I do. I think this goes a long way in any career. If you don’t like what you’re doing, or you’re not that interested in it, it is difficult to motivate yourself to go the extra mile. When you enjoy and are interested in what you are doing, it doesn’t feel like work.”
We’ve all heard the old adage before; “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” However, in the case of Salk’s pursuit of two wildly differing endeavors, passion reigns supreme as the motivation to keep moving forward. With an incredibly busy lifestyle, it would be difficult for Salk to thoroughly pursue any ventures outside of his direct profession, rendering him a Specialist. However, through passion for mastering the art of photography, in addition to a myriad of other hobbies, Salk has been able to devote time, energy, and resources into succeeding in these activities.
In addition to whole-heartedly pursuing his finance-based professional trajectory, and his burgeoning landscape photography, Salk is also an avid sports fan, and a huge fan of classic rock. Attending concerts with friends at every opportunity, and following his Chicago sports teams with other loyal fans, Salk has parlayed his love of music and sports with the need to garner meaningful interpersonal interactions. By combining endeavors, he is able to garner the benefits of pursuing his interests, with the positive aspects of bonding with his circle of friends.
How To Make It All Work
Within the Golden Age of Technology, mobile tech has allowed individuals from all over the world to remain constantly connected to each other, to social media, and to the 24-hour news cycle. This globalization has created a new international culture, with a curated spot for every individual’s interests to be recognized, and a DIY spirit that allows interested parties to learn about creating whatever product they may seek. With so much information readily available, the concept of creating artful expression seems more readily available than ever, and more accessible to every individual. At the same time, this overabundance of information may lead to individuals feeling pulled in various directions, or uncertain of where one’s strengths and passions may even lie. With so many interesting ventures that seem within reach, it may sometimes feel difficult to hone in on a handful of ventures worthy of one’s time.
Max’s advice is to look inward instead of outward to find one’s passion. As a young professional who has many insights regarding topics pertinent to the modern lifestyle, Salk has lent wisdom via interviews. When asked what advice he would give his younger self, Salk responded by stating, “the world is full of opportunities, and there is no one path to success
or satisfaction in almost anything in life. Find something you love doing, and pursue it relentlessly. If it doesn’t work out, try something else. You’re young.” In essence, Salk values the act of introspection, and self-awareness as guiding tools for what topics intrigue an individual, and what passions may be worth pursuing. While utilizing various guides, advice, and books may be helpful in garnering excitement about a particular venture, it may not always be the almighty answer that fits every situation. Thus, it is crucial to utilize self-awareness to determine the right path for each individual, rather than attempting to fit a certain preconceived notion.
In the end, it appears as though the only requirements for maintaining a successful Generalist status are to juggle a variety of interests, and to remain open to opportunities, possibilities, and new things that come your way. It may be easier said than done, but it’s also easier done than one may expect. In the case of Max Salk, for example, he followed his interests throughout his education, and entered the realm of finance in a positive position. Leveraging his skillset, he continued to climb the corporate ladder, taking on more responsibilities along the way. Simultaneously, he also proactively pursued his passion for landscape photography, delving into the hobby with fervor, passion, and determination for success. He placed great effort in gaining technical skills, and proactively amassed opportunities for creating artful imagery via various travel excursions, never leaving home without his trusted camera in hand.
Salk followed his professional interests, along with his personal passions, and didn’t have to give up one for the other. With an open outlook, he welcomed every opportunity for self-betterment, and remained open to learning experiences, garnering pertinent experience throughout the process. Salk continues to pursue a multitude of passions intently, purposefully, and without labels. In today’s modern world, where individuals can embrace various multi-dimensional aspects of their being, the opportunity to explore various interests is not only enjoyable, but vital to overall well-being, fulfillment, and development of self.