Wednesday, August 22, 2012



What’s your area of expertise?  Likely you have a job or a pursuit that you’ve spent a great deal of time honing. Most of us eventually focus on something in our lives that gives us a relatively high level of proficiency.  How many in the crowd regret not broadening their pursuits? Or, conversely, regret not having time to delve even deeper into one true interest, whatever it may be? To recognize that 100% expertise is always a bit beyond our grasp, and learning is without end. 

I think about specialization when I ponder our rat-race method of choosing a profession, taking it on, and spending years at it. When we divide our time into narrow chutes of performance, this allows us to reach a specific understanding of one part of complex issues. Such as:

  • a branch of medicine or other science
  • a wealth of literary knowledge 
  • the finer points of, say,  blacksmithing 
  • everything about 1957 Chevy automobiles, cars in general
  • the development of a steady hand, an artistic style (and a portfolio)
  • human development; raising a family
  • physical prowess at a sport
  • talent & expertise with a musical instrument

You name it, we can find so much detail in nearly any avocation or subject, enough to consume us and leave little time for other things. Devotees of one may argue their subject’s merit over anyone else’s subject, sure that theirs is the most difficult or worthy or interesting.  

Time is the driver of this tendency to specialize. Not having time enough. Individual interest draws one, where it leaves another cold. We wouldn’t follow each other into every possible pursuit even if we had time--our natures and drives vary in a wonderful way, making each of us unique.  We do seem to have strong suits, different talents, that are unevenly distributed. Makes for a more interesting village. 

Sequoiandendron Gigantea
But I suppose that many of us would be broader and expand more on our interests if we lived as long as a Sequoia tree. (2,000-3,000 years.) The ticking clock and the frailty to come instead can make us hunker down at something, and not much more. Yet, when we let our curiousity wander, aren’t most of us able to imagine many more things we would entertain? Things we’d make time for, if we had a second life to live?  Or perhaps we’d bring specialization to new heights, and become expert at one thing to an unheard-of degree. 

This ability to conceive of more speaks of hidden potential and of some unknown development that we aren’t able to achieve before time runs out. Leading us to be satisfied with less, or at least see that what we do accomplish is enough. Perhaps it’s better for our psyche to be topical or casual with many things, while being detailed and expert with a prime pursuit. 

Meanwhile, I seem to be prone to pursuing all trades, and being master of very few.