Specialization is Overrated

In our quest for efficiency and ever more efficient ways of living our lives and spending our time what has happened to the quality of our lives, the quality of our people?

As we move towards all people being cogs in machines (minimizing human error can often just mean minimizing human participation or mindful engagement) the question arises: “why not just use actual cogs?” Why do you need people anyways? Another problem is that to succeed and sometimes to even just make ends meet, people have to spend more and more of their time and lives being submersed in cog-dom, unable to express whatever spark of creative energy was placed in them to begin with. What if, after enough time is spent under the oppressive rule of our jobs and responsibilities we attempt to rise above the mundane facts and find that we have not the strength to escape, or even worse, do escape and find that there is nothing left?

It’s true that we cannot do everything, that he who seeks quantity sacrifices quality. But whatever happened to the hyphenated ones, the great human beings who rose above the rest because they were too big to be one thing.

Jesus the carpenter-king. David the warrior-poet. Solomon the philosopher-king. Ernest Hemmingway was a soldier and a writer (as were many of the greats), C.S. Lewis fought in the first World War was a prolific writer and apologist…

I guess all I’m really trying to say is that we are told that if we want to succeed in the world (which usually means: make lots of $$) we have to do one thing really well. But what if we’re not made to do/be one thing? What if we’re supposed to be two or even three things?! The only thing I can really be sure of is if that one thing is “Rich” that probably won’t be enough 😛

(And yes, this is all to justify me paying money to learn how to fight…)

Note: I think if you have a great passion or talent it’s cool to invest lots of time and energy into doing it, but I also think perspective is really important in general. And I actually don’t think it’s possible to be just one thing (I mean you’ll eventually become whether on purpose or accidentally a friend, enemy, father, mother, boss or whatever) but I would be nice if we made choices that allowed the certain areas of our lives to affect and give insight into others.


~ by justinhong on August 5, 2008.

5 Responses to “Specialization is Overrated”

  1. Some degree of job specialization’s necessary. On the other hand, you’re totally right that we need to know more than what society expects us to fulfil through our job: we are not the sum of what we do for money, nor of our material consumption. A spiritually and politically free society will not long survive the overspecialized generation that knows how to do only one kind of thing.

  2. Do you ever watch “House, MD”? The Fongs left some “House, MD” episode DVDs around, so I watched the first and second season.One showed this jazz musician who thought he was dying. He didn’t mind dying because he couldn’t do his thing, play his music, any more. He said that people have spouses, friends, families because they can’t do that one thing. If they can, they don’t bother with all that, they just do the one thing. He said that House was like that as well.I’ve wondered about that for myself. But actually I think I don’t have that one thing, because if I did I would be doing it. So maybe it doesn’t matter.On the other hand, someone has said that it takes about 5000 hours of sustained effort to become world-class at anything, assuming a reasonable aptitude for the thing. So perhaps I just haven’t “paid my dues”, put in the time to get there.

  3. you’re paying to learn to fight?! like, boxing? or, martial arts? why don’t you do something sensible like, baking or knitting?:)

  4. follow your dreams, i say! as long as your passion is purposeful. titles/jobs/roles by themselves are meaningless. what are we using them for and who are we serving in them?

  5. thanks for all your thoughts everyone. it seems like i didn’t really know what i was thinking/talking about. i agree that passions and singlemindedness often lead to greatness (after all the bible warns against being “double minded”) but yeah maybe i was just railing against society and capitalism hahamaybe the only thing i’m really against is getting caught up and being tricked by a false sense of security and success.

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