Your #1 Career Mistake: Being Too Capable

Can being too good at your job actually be a career mistake?  Yes, according to career expert and author Greg Mckeown, who sees success as a catalyst for failure – short of any upward momentum, that is.

McKeown’s goal? To encourage overly-capable lateral careerists to stop being the ‘go-to’ people again and again and instead strive for upward trajectory in order to reach for their highest point of contribution. But is wearing many hats truly a bad thing? McKeown concedes that being many things in many jobs is immensely relevant in today’s marketplace. However, it can also cause professionals to become unfocused in their career growth.

In his book The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he encourages highly capable individuals away from adding ‘additional poles of the same height to their career tents’ starting with one simple thing: career clarity. He breaks the process down into four phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.


McKeown’s platform is made to empower high performers who consistently deliver results but remain unnoticed in the workplace. As McKeown points out, this dynamic says more about management, exposing those that are out-of-touch, enmeshed in their own work and nearsighted when it comes to the skills their employees old. However, McKeown doesn’t let his cross-functional rockstars off the hook altogether.

In a subsequent LinkedIn article, McKeown points out that if you don’t design your career, someone else will. He states, “When you become so consumed by your career – you can’t give any thought to your career.”  And McKeown knows all too well about undertaking this process first-hand. In what McKeown describes as the single most important career decision of his life, he quit law school, left England for America with dreams of launching a career as an author and a teacher.

McKeown points out that his simplistic antidote to careerists’ undisciplined pursuits in no way encourages his audience to haphazardly flip a switch and begin saying “no” to everything. Rather, the goal is for professionals to distinguish where they will say no.

McKeown’s message can help unlock the doors to a consistent, deliberate and strategic elimination of life’s nonessentials – but learning to say ‘no’ to a great opportunity just may take a little practice.

Career, job