A Specialists’ World?

I’ve often pondered the fate of the generalist in a world that seems ever more geared toward the specialist.  Specialization is, of course, beneficial in many ways to humankind as a whole.  Arguably, by having individuals focus narrowly on a single career or calling, they become better at it than they otherwise could be.  If your newborn needed heart surgery, you’d probably rather take her to a pediatric surgeon than to your general practitioner.  (In fact, you’d probably have no choice.)

What I had taken as a presumption, however, was that specialization was not so good for the individual, that the generalist way of life was a happier one, because it was “well-rounded,” because it exposed the spirit to so much of what life has to offer, this great potpourri.  If you only did one thing, you’d miss out on so much.  How much heart and spirit can the best, most dedicated specialist have left to invest in art or nature or love or family or friendship or athletics or travel or charity, etc.?

The dedicated specialist must no doubt sacrifice other things, but lately I’ve questioned whether this was any less likely to lead to happiness.  I wonder if the best path to fulfillment or happiness or both is to pick your one thing and throw your whole being at it, the rest of the medley of life be damned.  (Remember Curly, from City Slickers?)

I guess I’m still holding out for the generalists, but I’m a little less certain these days.  Maybe it’s a personal thing, each of us a fisherman with a choice between casting a wide net or a deep line in our search for our own truth.

5 Responses to “A Specialists’ World?”

  1. A Specialist's World? « Massless Particles | HappyTipsDaily Says:

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  2. Roberta Says:

    The path of happiness is not the same for all. To be a generalist, nor a specialist, will not ensure happiness. You can only know your own path, not that of others.

  3. charlie Says:

    “…and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isn’t just an epigram — life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.”

    -F. Scott Fitzgerald

    p.s. I happen to disagree with him.

  4. tb Says:

    love it, my friends

  5. Dugga Says:

    Some specialties are by nature generalist. Plastic surgeons, for example, are proud to say that their specialty entails “surgery of the skin and its contents.” Pediatric surgeons develop a skill set to perform a number of highly specialized techniques, yet also operate all over the body. They also deal with the overall well-being of patients, including ethical boundaries of life-and-death decisions and social aspects such as the impact of their actions on whole families.

    At the same time, to specialize one must also forfeit a certain degree of “well-roundedness” for a usually finite, intense period of time, after which other aspects of life can be more realistically entertained. But I agree with Roberta; everyone has their own path to happiness.

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