The Folly of Being Well-Rounded

Growing up I was privileged in the fact that my parents strived to expose me to just about anything and everything.  As a child, my short attention span would have me painting a picture in the morning, exploring nature by the afternoon, and spending plenty of time with my toys and games in between and this behavior was encouraged and supported. 

Too Many Parts to the Whole

Fast forward to college where I exposed myself to a multitude of diverse intellectual challenges spanning from art history, to economics, to wine tasting.  This well-rounded upbringing exposed me to so many interesting things and allowed me to fully explore the world in front of me.

It also screwed my chances of truly becoming a one-of-a-kind individual on this planet. 

Savants, throughout history, seem to have something in common, a one-track mind.  Picasso was only interested in art, Bill Gates in computer science, Tiger Woods in golf and the list goes on and on.  You don’t hear stories of Picasso getting involved in other facets of life during his most productive years for the simple truth that it didn’t interest him, and he remained focused on his singular artistic ambitions.

Knowing how to select a red wine from France, speaking intelligently about economics, all while being a respectable golfer is fine, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty darn good at all three of these examples.  But the real question lies in the desire to be great.  In order to stand out from the crowd, one must have the ability to block distraction and maintain a committed focus and work ethic towards their goals.

The kick in the face of course is the ultimate reflection point.  Would your life be better if you were one-track minded to the point of being unique, and “great” in a certain field if it meant sacrificing your ability to circumnavigate other areas of life?  Would you be happy if you were nearly as successful an artist as Picasso if it meant that you had no clue what economics was, drank boxed wine, and were an intellectual infant in any non-artistic aspect of life?

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