Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.


Posted at — Mar 19, 2020

Our society, or at least what I’ve witnessed in North American culture, prefers specialization in skill. Whether it’s pursuing further education in a specific field, or levelling up in the trades, our society has the tendency to categorize an individual by this primary skill creating a box, or label for them.

For instance, we refer to people as software engineers, teachers, plumbers, managers – you get the idea.

While this has existed for quite some time, it’s only had an effect on me since I departed from high school.

In the secondary school system in Canada, students are encouraged, and in some ways forced to take courses in most disciples. As a student, I genuinely enjoyed all courses, and had a strong interest or curiosity in all of them. In this way, I never felt boxed into a particular field of study. I enjoyed being a generalist and getting the opportunity to learn all fields.

Similarly, my interests draw a strong parallel to this desire to have decent depth in an array of fields. For instance, I’ve tried my hand in wood working, magic, piano, guitar, a bunch of sports, most of the common sciences, literature, animation, drawing, film-making, music production all with moderate depth.

I like to consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, acknowledging that I don’t have substantial depth or expertise in these topics.

I can quickly see why specialization is preferred in societies. It relies on the merit of deep understanding, which is known to be exponentially more valuable. With depth comes a compounding understanding of the field. If we could assign units to depth in a field, then to have 1 depth in a particular topic is good, but having 10 depth is 10 times more useful, I’d argue.

The problem, then, is my proposition that humans have an innate desire to do multiple things.

I don’t think the proposition is far-fetched, and in fact suggest evolutionary history supports the claim. For hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve been conditioned to fend for ourselves, hunting and gathering our own food, making our own shelter, and possessing all the skills required for survival. We’d function in societies no more than a few hundred.

In our current society, we’ve created dependence on one another, so much so, that we would not be able to survive without the specialization and expertise of others. There’s pros and cons to this, of course, but from a psychological drive position, I believe we still have a desire to want to, and furthermore, capability to do, more than just one or two specific things.

I enjoy studying computer science. I enjoy the new found depth of the field, and appreciate the understanding I have, and also understanding there’s so much more I don’t know.

I do also recognize by studying one thing, I’ve subsequently felt boxed, and internally started to adopt this label.

I was starting to create a barrier for myself, not feeling like I was able to also do design work, or creative animation, because that’s not who I was.

I used to do these things as a kid because that’s where my interests lay. Now that I’ve adopted a box that I myself introduced, I’ve subconsciously prevented myself from doing these things, as it wouldn’t be on the path of achieving depth or mastery in the field I also have a passion for.

I’m still not certain on my opinions on specialization versus generalization, and mastery versus breadth. I’m not sure they need to be entirely mutually exclusive, however I do know that I identified some aspect of me, that was limiting myself.

I wanted to write this post as a way to free myself of that, and perhaps I’ll develop a more clear understanding of what it all means in the future.

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