#5 Niche? No thanks

Riches are in the niches? maybe.

I went on a mini-crusade earlier this month throwing stones at experts and specialists. I made an article that is made up of two emails I sent two days in a row, along with a few great questions that come in as replies and responses. The whole thing can be found here.

Below is the excerpt specifically about niching and why I prefer not to niche down, even if it appears to be a faster path to cash:


If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: “The riches are in the niches”. And while it’s not wrong, it’s incomplete and often misleading. 

Coaches and consultants want you to niche down because you will likely find success much faster if you do. And, if you remember the “teacher” problem, they want you to have quick wins because they get credit for being good coaches. Here’s what they don’t tell you (mostly because they don’t know better):

Niching down early is also the biggest handicap to long-term success.

Why? Because when people niche down they think in terms of the domain instead of causal structure and core concepts. For example, let’s look at some real-world phenomena:

  • The act of sweating

  • the steps necessary for neurotransmission (the brain sending signals)

  • Melting polar ice caps

  • Economic bubbles

  • Actions of the federal reserve

  • Increased gas prices leading to an increase in grocery prices

  • Etc, etc

There is extensive research that less effective problem solvers will group them by domain/niche like this:

Biology Problems:

  • The act of sweating

  • The steps necessary for neurotransmission (the brain sending signals)

Economic Problems:

  • Actions of the federal reserve

  • Economic bubbles

  • Increased gas prices led to an increase in grocery prices

This is “niched down” thinking; the byproduct of labeling real-world phenomena by superficial overtly labeled features like the domain or niche context. 

MORE effective problem solvers do NOT solve problems or categorize by domain or niche but instead core concepts and causal structure like this:

Positive Feedback Loops:

  • Melting polar ice caps (when ice caps melt they reflect less sunlight back into space, which warms the planet and causes more ice to melt)

  • Economic Bubbles (investors buy more believing the value will increase and as a result the value increases which leads to more buying)

Negative Feedback Loops:

  • The act of sweating (Sweating cools the body so that sweating is no longer necessary)

  • Actions of the federal reserve (the Fed lowers interest rates to stimulate economy, if the economy grows too quickly it raises rates to slow down growth)

Causal Chains: 

  • Gas prices leading to grocery price changes 

  • The steps necessary for effective neurotransmission

In one of the most cited studies of effective problem-solving conducted, an interdisciplinary team of scientists came to a pretty simple conclusion: successful problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure.

In other words:

Poor problem solvers are niched-down thinkers.

World-class problem solvers have a much broader understanding of many domains and, more importantly, the core concepts that drive them.

If you want to get ahead in the short term and fall behind later: niche down hard.

If you want to get ahead later and are willing to go a little slower now, do not niche down.

Again, you can see the whole email series and FAQ that followed here


PS. If you want to share, discuss or whatever, the link to the convo is here.