After more than 11 years of doing this all day every day I've learned just how broad and deep the field of audio truly is. The more I do this the more I realize how much I still have yet to learn. The question now is where to focus.
I was recording a local pro coach recently and he talked about the way that different coaches take different approaches to where to focus practices.
One tact is to identify the things that an athlete does very well and work on that as a primary focus. I'll call this "raising the ceiling." The idea is to hone that specific advantage to such a high level that no other competitor can outperform the athlete at that one facet. Then you gameplan to use that facet overtly. The net effect is to reduce flexibilty and rely on pure execution, but the side effect is that deficiencies are left unaddressed. Think of the tennis player with a devastating serve and no backhand.
The other tact is to identify the things that an athelete does poorly, and work on that instead. I'll call this "raising the floor." The idea here is to balance the athlete's abilities - leaving natural talent and interest to do the work at the top end of his game and practice and reps to work on the weaker aspects. The idea here is that a balanced anthlete is more flexible and has more options available at game time because he is at least competent at everything, but the side effect is that the athlete may not reach the pinnacle of his ability in the areas where he is most talented.
Obviously every athlete works on raising both the ceiling and the floor, but inevitably only one side or the other receives the majority of the reps, attention, and enthusiasm.
The audio analogy is pretty obv here, so I'll just lay out my own personal evaluation:
I think it takes 3 to 5 years of doing any complex and creative job to figure out basic competency (took me closer to 5). After that, it takes another 3 to 5 to figure out one's own unique talents and roadblocks within that competency (took me closer to 3).
Once you've figured out talent, you have to start making the decision of whether to spend your time raising the floor or raising the ceiling in the short time you have on this earth. I find my own strengths to be microphone based recording, sound selection, signal processing, and to a lesser degree mixing. My weaknesses are synthesis, musical integration, music programming, and to a lesser degree sonic arrangement.
With that said, I'm sure both that I'm not near the recordist I could be with 5 more years of focused execution, and I'm also not incompetent with regards to synthesis and musicality. Its just that I have to work much harder at those things to get them up to my standard.
I'll also state that I am not an island. I work with a team of very talented guys, one of whom has strengths and weaknesses that compliment mine almost exactly.
So where do you guys fall? raise the ceiling? raise the floor? try to do both? sell out to one or the other? does working in a team environment affect your decision?