Specialization is for Insects

From my mom this morning, words from sci-fi writer Robert Heinlen.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Sometimes I feel all over the map, and it seems like an insurmountable task to reconcile “what I like to do” and “what I want to work on,” when so often the answer to both is “Everything! Whatcha got? Let’s do it all!”

Now, there are definite perks to focus and specialization and being the go-to-guy/gal. Hopefully you’re narrowing in on the things that really turn your crank. Or if not, you’re at least narrowing in on the things that you do well and efficiently, and with a special flair and which people appreciate, driving them to eventually realize how great you could ALSO be at the things you love.

But if you want to and can successfully conn the ship and change the diaper and butcher a hog… well, perhaps the idea of a Renaissance Man isn’t so far off. Perhaps the point is, diversity in talent and learned skill is a good thing, and it should be a small point in our favor perhaps, if it’s tough to summarize our skills in a resume-ready 10-bullet list.


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