Consider Specialization: The Benefits (and drawbacks) of Specialization

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2024-07-07 17:30:14

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.

The above quote is from Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love. It’s sometimes quoted un-ironically as an argument against specialization. On the other hand, there is the quote, “A jack of all trades is a master of none”. Often, specialization is contrasted with being a well-rounded person, so there is often a social component. My take is, specialization is still underrated. If the goal is results, not how you appear to others, specialization is probably the way to go.

Contrary to what you see online, the vast majority of people who are successful on paper and who have good careers and decent-sized nest eggs, do not have profound insights into society, or are especially worldly or erudite people. When you read the post histories of high-net-worth people on social media, like on Reddit, nothing about these individuals stands out as these being exceptionally smart or having other other-worldly attributes. Instead, they specialized at something and became good enough to become wealthy at it.

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