Yesterday I finished reading “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. The subtitle says everything about the topic of the book. It shows that even in the time of increasing hyperspecialization, generalists, those individuals with diverse interests, can be useful and outperform specialists.
There were always two forces inside me fighting each other. By nature, I am a person with different interests - I want to know so many things. I live by Plato's words: “Nothing is more beautiful than to know everything”. Astrobiology, computer science, physics, artificial intelligence, biology, especially evolutionary biology - these are only a part of topics that I am interested in, and regularly read about. This is one force in my inner self which we’ll call for the sake of brevity “polymath I”.
The other inner part of mine thinks that what I am doing, how I study and learn is completely wrong. I try to do too many things which is not the proper way of doing things to achieve extraordinary results in my life and career. This force makes me think of narrowing my interests because to accomplish more you have to do less, it claims. As the Russian proverb says, if you chase two rabbits, you cannot catch either one. I read “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller which states that to achieve exceptional results you should be focused on one thing. Not a few things, but ONE thing.
I read both books to determine for myself which worldview I appreciate most. And my decision was immediate and outright: I love to be a polymath, a person having interests in various topics. Such am I, and always will be. I am sure there are many people for whom “The ONE Thing” worked and will work. But I am not one of them. Long live generalists!