Here are some thoughts that have gone through my head recently as I’ve tried deciding whether to specialize on something, or to generalize in web development:
I remember my 6th grade science teacher Mr. Justak telling the class that there were two kinds of people in the world, people who knew a little about a lot, and people who knew a lot about a little. He said there was nothing wrong with being a specialist, but he said that the people who made it really far in life were generalists.
One of my bosses once told me that it is very rare for someone who specializes in airplane seating to propose a radical change in the way that airplane seating is laid out. They will be good at marginally moving the seats closer, or giving a bit more flexibility in the seat backs. The true innovations will come from people approaching it from an entirely different specialty, like spaceship engineering or medical equipment.
My professor, on the last day of probability class, was describing the work of the biologist and mathematician Fischer. He said that Fischer was very rare in that he made significant contributions to both fields. He said that was back when you could be more general and still be successful. These days, he said, every field was so intense that it took a lifetime of specialization to make a significant contribution to anything.
Generalize or Specialize
I’m very frustrated that there has not been some sort of resounding theme to emerge from the daily blog. But I think it’s alright. Maybe the reason that I have not been able to decide on which path to follow is that I haven’t actually tried following any of them. Or maybe I just haven’t found the right path yet. I’m not sure at all how to make these choices.
I was asked by a close friend last night if I could jump to five minutes in the future, with no consequences, if I would. She then asked if I could jump to the end of whatever it was I was doing, if I would. So I asked myself, if I could jump to the point of my life where I have figured out my career path, would I do it? I would have all the memories of getting there, I just wouldn’t have lived it. And I think I would rather be here, right now, in the midst of learning things and wrestling with indecision. I want to taste the joy of learning new things, I don’t just want to know things. I guess that’s the most important thing to remember through all of this.