|09-07-2007, 01:16 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Eclectic person facing a Specializing world
This is my first topic here. Although I initially thought that it might fit in the "Character & Contribution" sub-forum, I expect that content-wise I'm looking for more short-term, practical answers (probably organizing and time management related), which is why I'm posting it here.
I already browsed a bit on other topics of the forum and noticed that many members are in my same age range (early twenties), so it's possible that my questions have crossed other minds as well.
The post is very long, so for those who don't want to read the whole story, I will summarize the central question:
"What are the practical and self-organizational behaviors required to specialize very well at something, and at the same time be able to train your other talents to a professionally relevant level (and not just hobbies)?"
I would obviously be most grateful if someone could give advice that is specific to my situation and my specific goals, but I welcome and appreciate your time for any answer.
Some quick facts: I'm 20, starting my second year at undergraduate university studies, have mixed origins and [maybe due to that: different countries, different schools, constant change to different international systems] had an unusual education, growth and coming of age - which might have contributed to the fact that I feel a great sense of both passion and connection to so many different fields in life. (It's just my opinion. I'm not a psychologist nor a geneticist, but I try to complete my picture of why I'm somewhat different from many of the people I have met in my life...)
When I was finishing my secondary education two years ago - a period during which I was already deeply exploring all possible options about my future career, studies, etc. - I was probably in one of the worst periods of my life because I felt confident about choosing virtually any degree or future profession (including artistic and music ones). I had a great deal of counseling in which all kinds of people opened my eyes about how it's difficult to succeed in today's world without specializing in one and only one area.
(I further understood how true this is as soon as I started my first year at university and learned more about how professional regulation works...)
I'm not inherently a careerist, but I want to develop myself and my talents in order to be most useful as possible to the world.
So the first thing I did before choosing my university degree (in case you don't know, in most European universities, you must state your "major" right at the beginning) was to sort my spontaneous interests from the talents at which I already had some relevant experience - and also fields at which I thought that I had a "competitive advantage" over other people.
My intention was to find a career path (or paths) in which my different talents would be useful at the same time, thus would also force me to keep learning and working at them, beyond the scope of my primary profession.
You might find this weird, but as a child I dreamed of having a different job for each day of the week. And my work experiences as a high school student somehow gave me the impression that I could realize that dream and become a professional jack-of-all-trades!
Just a few examples...
As I'm of different origins, I am naturally multilingual in several languages... and contacts allowed me to work as an interpreter and tour guide several times of the year.
But under normal circumstances, interpreters need professional training in translating methods prior to work experience + certificates, state exams, etc.
So for instance I pursued a degree in Astrophysics and applied for a job as an interpreter at the U.N. I obviously cannot expect the same kindness and luck that I had with my contacts :P
There was a time in which I also had a knack for web design, and - again through contacts and word of mouth - I earned quite a lot by creating websites. I thought that web design might have been a road to safe money even if I chose a degree unrelated to computers or art, but even this field is seeing a surge of specialization (5 years ago there were no "B.Sc. Web Design" courses at university...) in addition to an increased slope of technological innovation (post-Ajax, Web 3.0?).
Same applies for many other fields that I once perceived to be "transferable skills", yet they are also caught up by new standards and professional regulations.
To add a few more: I worked in audio technology, tourism B2B, and public relations - and I enjoyed all of them.
Plus there are other fields in which I was deeply involved but that doesn't really count as work experience (acting for several troupes, acting+singing+dancing at musicals, "voluntary work" - yeah I know it's a paradox, but that's what students write in their CVs to impress future employers :P).
So, I finally chose to major in Economics & Management (BTW a subject which keeps reminding me of "specialization"), my goal being to do something useful for countries in development or even enter some field of international diplomacy, or business (using my main skill of multilinguism) - and at the same time try to develop my other skills.
The first year was disastrous. I always had good marks at school, despite the constant changes, but I think that this was a bit too challenging for my time and organizational skills.
I think that I was focusing more on the "other skills" rather than on what I was supposed to study at university. I was commissioned to compose a soundtrack for a local documentaries, did B2B partnerships for a company abroad, had to manage two websites, helped foreign workers adapt themselves to this country, and started attending a course for a new dance style... in addition to the work in a few student representative bodies at the university itself.
I enjoyed it in the beginning but once I saw how my grades were declining...
I quit almost everything, except for university.
So this is why I'm here, a few weeks before starting the second year at university, looking for some realistic advice on what I could do with my jack-of-all-trades attitude without compromising anything.
I told myself that at least for these two years I'll try focusing only on university studies. And maybe later try to sequentially catch up with the other skills (i.e. one thing at a time).
What do you think?
Sorry for the bloggy-ness of this post, but I needed to say everything.
If you know any, could you suggest me some non-stereotypical books or links that address my specific issue?
|09-07-2007, 02:04 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Nov 2006
A book: The Renaissance Soul
A website, by the same aurthor
Renaissance Soul Life Design
A group at Yahoo.com:
|09-07-2007, 02:17 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Nov 2006
The first question I have to ask is why are you attending university now? It sounds to me as if you already have a very well-rounded education, in spite of not being a 'specialist'. I would ignore what the 'councilors' said about generalists, and concentrate on what you are good at. After all, Leonardo DaVinci was not a specialist by any means. If you truly are a 'Renaissance Man', then perhaps you should concentrate on your diverse talents outisde of the university, or perhaps as some form of 'independant study' for credit. After all, you are still young and will have plenty of time to get a degree later on, in a field that you have discovered that you have a true passion for.
|09-07-2007, 05:49 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thank you for your swift replies.
geekchic9, I will check out what you suggested as soon as possible
WanderingOak, that's a good question and also a good answer to pause my thoughts on. At this moment I can say that I am at university because I started the course, so it would be a waste of money and time not to complete it :P
Had I been a bit more flexible prior to university, I would have done more to afford to study in the USA where colleges allow to take any course in the first years and select the major only later on.
But rest assured that I enjoy what I am learning right now, and I do feel that I've been enhanced under many aspects; I've used many things I learned in practical life as well.
I must admit though that before university, I felt more independent with regards to my actions and initiative (such as engaging in volunteering and activism without being a PhD in Peace Sciences ), whereas now I often tend to hear "follow the options opened by this degree", "do volunteering, this and that internship, those Model United Nations, and those other business case competitions so that you can get a brilliant CV". I have nothing against that, but I perceive it a bit as a boxed, over-structured life.
To speak in concrete terms I would like to finish my current degree quite well, and somehow find a way to get professional accreditation in the skills I mentioned. (I know that "certificates say nothing about you as a person", but you know: the older we get and the more we are absorbed into our primary profession, the easier we forget everything else. I want to stick to all my passions - or at least the most important of them - no matter what profession[s] I choose.)
I'm trying to consider where to start. Whether I should pursue some accreditation while I'm still studying Economics, or whether I should do that afterwards i.e. after I've established a safe career.
The main problem is that while I try to plan ahead all the above mentioned things, I kind of block the spontaneous flow of curiousity within my current focus of study.
(remembering that famous quote that "life is what happens when you're planning it")
Last edited by DeathStorm; 09-07-2007 at 05:53 PM.
|09-07-2007, 11:16 PM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Other resources in addition to what's already mentioned: Barbara Sher's Refuse to Choose and her bulletin board for scanners. You are incredibly talented and learning to put your life together when you're very young. Good for you.
|09-07-2007, 11:58 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2007
I've met people like you, they run business consulting firms and business to business firms who do things for companies that the management of the companies don't know how to do for themselves.
Big money in that if you can get it going.
|09-08-2007, 12:25 AM||#7 (permalink)|
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Berlin, Germany
Take Einstein, he had influence in politics, philosophy and physics.
There are living people like Jeff Hawkins, Jack Diamond and Dr. Nakamats (not well known outside of Japan) that play in different fields at the top level.
I think this article should be interesting for you.
Then there is also the approach of seeking your personal purpose in live and using that to allin your goals. Jeff Hawkins from the above list of multiple disciplinery people recommands that for example.
|09-08-2007, 09:48 AM||#8 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
That was a funny and interesting one, helga
I will read one book at a time for now, though the board seemed to give me a good preview.
silicon_toad2000, very encouraging words... yet I wouldn't like to confine myself to a sole role or "title". Obviously, "business" is a very general word. I did B2B in networking travel agencies with other key people, airlines, ticketers, etc.
I'm also in the process of creating a small firm that specializes in providing music soundtracks for films or videogames that are set in Fantasy environments.
The beauty of all this is that I'm involved in completely different areas... yet, there's a lot of risk. My subconscious fear is that I might focus my effort on too many different things at the same time and thereby loose competitive edge in everything.
But do you think that this is only a self-organization problem that can be easily overcome by adopting more time-management strategies?
When is it going to be "too much"?
Thank you for the interesting link on the Dilbert blog.
I acknowledge that once you're specialized in a field, you can have great influence over other fields, over other minds and even inspire others to make great things.
But until you've reached that level of specialization... you're an apprentice in that one field, or (what I wouldn't like to become) a dabbler in many fields.
I'm trying to overcome that latter hurdle.
What I do for the world is important. I'm trying to say that with the extra accreditation I'm even more "in the field" in the other areas, as well.
i.e. I want to really switch between the different careers. Even if they have no immediate connection with my intention to help the world, I think that the diverse experience will help me find the central inspiration in the long run.
To give you an example:
I did so much acting, singing and dancing at musicals and theater in my teens because I had an intrinsic interest in acting and dancing. I didn't act and dance for the sake of "becoming a good comedian, public speaker and night pub entertainer", although I noticed that such traits - which I start noticing and appreciating as I get older - have been greatly influenced by my performances as a teenager.
Similarly, I think that there are so many other fields that will show their "secondary utility" only once you're very good at them. But I don't like to pursue something just for the sake of achieving the secondary utility.
Which is why I want to be directly involved in the field I have a spontaneous interest for.
And what I was trying to say before is that in order to be directly involved - nowadays - often requires some form of accreditation, beyond mere word of mouth and connections.
One of the worst things I have seen are all those kids who want to become Investment Bankers, who start engaging in voluntary and charity work in their university years. Although I think that some of them do so out of spontaneous interest, I doubt that most of them aren't conscious of thereby embellishing their CVs...
I've noticed in myself, too, that when I try to "align my goals" purposely, as Jeff Hawkins suggests, there is a stronger pressure and a lack of spontaneity - especially if I'm still a dabbler.
I must first become acquainted with the fields, after which the alignment comes almost spontaneously.
I think this spontaneous kind of alignment already occured to me to some extent, although I was still a secondary school student and couldn't be called an "expert" in the different fields I drew inspiration from:
My decision for Economics/Management had an incubation period of at least 3 years. My main long run purpose stemmed from the alignment of several of interests I was deeply involved with at that time, the most important of which was biology (Well, it's complicated to explain each trail of my thoughts on a forum, since I would have to introduce many other topics.)
To sum up what I just said:
I do have a purpose in the long run, but I want to allow my spontaneity to be in free flow in the short run, exploring each other aspect of the world without always putting it in the context of reaching my final goals.
I can expect that doing regular sports will reduce my risk of getting heart-related problems when I'm older, but I want to choose a sport I'm naturally inclined towards - and not just for the sake of preventing heart disease. I want to enjoy the sport, too! That's probably more important when you start.
Last edited by DeathStorm; 09-08-2007 at 09:53 AM.
|09-15-2007, 01:08 AM||#11 (permalink)|
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Berlin, Germany
Another one of the people I consider as some sort of personal ideal, Seth Godin also considers "specializing" in multiple fields as beneficial.
I will map out my own path a bit.
I will start studying bioinformatics next month, which means that I take classes in Biology/Chemistry/Informatics and mathematics.
I was the best at physics at the school last year among over 100 people who finished that year, and got a certificate for it.
I had a history teacher, 2/3 of the class hated him for being to demanding, who told me at our last day that he seldom had a student from whom he could learn something about history, but he could from me.
A have a basic framework of marketing from internet reading. A friend of mine who studies marketing showed me some flyer about his new business and after my commands he said, hey you could study marketing.
A have a basic understanding of modern philosophy.
As far as the self-help fields goes, I am at the moment a moderator in this forum.
I'm a member of a political party and understand how political decisions are made.
Then I have an interest in the theory of strategy. You can count myself playing the boardgame Go in that field.
Then I have also a few weakpoints like my lack of social skills (I joined Toastmaster this year to combat that point) and my lack of structure in nearly all parts of my life. As a result my general effectiveness is probably smaller than yours at the moment.
I know that I probably won't be world class in all those fields, but I can still have my fun and gain "secondary utility" in them.
Do you have any persons you consider as personal ideals?
|09-15-2007, 08:45 AM||#12 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thank you, Addict That link contains some important views I agree with to some extent. The author also mentions many real life examples...
The slightly different "twist" in my own ambition is that - yes - I would be honored to be a "general" - a "Steve Jobs" - who can see the interconnectedness between all fields
(funny, my friends always complain about how I try to put together things that are totally unrelated... like dance choreographies for Heavy Metal Music :P ), but I would also enjoy being the one who creates the final design of the iPod, designs and checks its safety and ergonomics features, programmes the hardware necessary to run it, films and projects its advertisement, etc.
In few words: I would like to be more "hands-on" in what I do (something that from what I have seen, managers or directors rarely do) - and not necessarily within the same company or industry.
I would like to be a passenger flight pilot for 6 months, a road cleaner for another 6 months, and a research scientist for another 6 months...
Given our standards of professional and health regulation, this would be crazy if not extremely dangerous to society.
|09-15-2007, 10:15 AM||#13 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thanks, again, Brutha
I read Seth Godin's interview. Seems an interesting guy.
And I especially appreciated his comments about business school, since I faced similar uncertainties in the first months at university
Let me tell you something.
I also recall many events during my school time in which teachers personally addressed me - and only me - with admiration and encouragement.
Sometimes I was sceptic about them, and sometimes I didn't like the idea of being like a "teacher's favorite pupil"; but I have often absorbed the encouragements, and used them to help my classmates as well.
I didn't get any awards unless in competitions I participated at on purpose
(literary, technological, poetical, musical, etc.).
Unlike most others who are actively involved in "real" music, I had never gone to extra music classes in my childhood, yet it was a music teacher who - one day when I was 13 or 14 - really pushed me to go into the field because I have a "very talented voice", [despite me being the one who was distracting and disturbing everyone in class... but that was a period of hormones, so it's irrelevant information :P]
Then there was a teacher who had actually never taught me but knew about me due to gossip. He taught biology in classes higher than mine and I sometimes went to those classes in my free time. We also often engaged in discussions about things that weren't part of the scope of school education and he was always "amazed and puzzled that someone my age is already devouring such topics".
Perhaps one of the compliments by a teacher I remember most is [during a period when I had a quite hard time in my life, in general],
"You may not have perfect grades, but you are a real adult man. I sincerely admire you both as my student and as a person, your constant effort to think out of the box, and your devotion towards the people around you."
(As a matter of fact, though, I did get 'perfect' grades shortly after :P)
But then came a period of growth during which I (and my "ideals") had to confront the clichés of the "adult world", "work life", etc. and I admit that I often tended towards the latter - probably due to social and family influence.
I did numerous extra things (practical, social, creative, technological, sportive etc.) but I think that I could have really followed more focused plans if I wasn't constantly bombarded with all notions on career and specialization.
Anyway, I would like to address another issue [but maybe not on this same page because it's a totally different discussion] on what is cliché-fully referred to as "social skills". To be brief: isn't this also an 'issue' that stems from the perception of a specializing world? From a lack of tolerance towards diversity in the standards of "social relations", and the myth that social life is found - for example - only in nightclubs, only by being a perfect social networker, only by being positive and smiling at everyone all the time, etc.?
(---> coming up in the Social & Relationships page of the forum)
We always keep inspiring each other in one way or another.
At a more idealistic level, I see a personal ideal in every person who has the guts and righteous spirit to go and directly help people in emergency situations, amidst warfare and other conflict (see Emergency, Médecins Sans Frontières) and to stand up for peace despite the selfish nature of humanity (which is also a notion that is being refuted by newer biological, evolutionary and neuroscientific discoveries... but do we always have to act according to "notions"?).
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