The Case Against Specialists (and Generalists)

2023-08-24 by Hisam Fahri

Dear readers,

It's sure quite a while since the last time you've heard (or read to be precise) some journals from me. I beg your apologies for that. A lot of works always keep my thoughts wondering around my mind and my physical notebooks.

But today, I'll assure you that we'll venture into a topic that's quite interesting one.

The Purpose

If I were to ask you, my dear reader, what's the purpose of your learnings? Is it for the future careers? Or might be for your curiosity? Or even simpler, you just learn something you and yourself need to understand or do at the present?

Whatever it might be, as long as you know the purpose and you are always eager to learn, you're good to go.

The Box

Now, since you've set the foundation (aka the grandeur purpose) for your learning, now you might be asking, what should you 'learn'?

Even though I am still considering myself pretty early in my careers (and life itself), I've already witnessed a lot of people that want to get something in their life (success, wealth, yada-yada), but have no single idea 'what' should they do (not even reach the 'how' they do it).

I always consider the knowledge, skills, and other supporting factors that directly or indirectly help us to get those goals are The Toolbox for Our Dreams.

And thus, if we are using the same analogy as stated above, which box would you choose?

  1. a) A box with little amount of tools. But, each tools does its primary job flawlessly. (The specialists box)
  2. b) A box with a lot amount of tools. Each of the tools does its primary job decently (or even considered poorly at some aspects). (The generalists box)

The Answer

Well, if you are reading up to this point and hoping to get an answer of those choices out of this journal, I'm very sorry my dear reader I don't have the answer for you.

But, hear me out. Even though I don't have the answer for you, I'm certainly do have the answer for myself: I choose both.

Why? Since the beginning the analogy is never (and will never be) fit to the whole story of our life. As life itself is complicated, fitting our mindframe into one single idea (whether it's to always become a specialist or a generalist) itself is like a small broken box. Limited in size, and doesn't have a chance to add more tools (and probably will not look that good too).

By having multiple boxes, we can position ourself depending on our circumstances. If you're in a position as a leader, it might be best for you to become a generalists so then you can help your subordinates to made decisions themselves and grow.

Or, if you're in a position as a student, you might want to have the box have nothing in it at all. So you can absorb new "tools" more efficiently.