I’m 34 now.
For the last decade of my life I’ve been a bit of a generalist = I pursued a broad range of knowledge.
For the last year I’ve been realizing that if you want to do something, you can’t do everything.
Diversity of knowledge is good for conversation. Depth of knowledge is required for transformation.
Reading this morning from “The Life of Wesley” by Robert Southey, I was encouraged to see that John Wesley had the same experience!
In his younger years he developed the following “study schedule” which reflected his tendency towards “generalist”:
- Monday and Tuesday = study of the classics
- Wednesday – study of ethics and logic
- Thursday = study of Hebrew and Arabic
- Friday = study of metaphysics and natural philosophy
- Saturday = study of oratory and poetry and the writing of speeches and poems
- Sunday = the study of divinity
- AND, according to his diary he also “gave great attention to mathematics.”
At some point though, Wesley realized that it was impossible to engage all of these pursuits equally and simultaneously and still make an impact as a leader.
[Wesley] had come to that conclusion, at which, sooner or later, every studious man must arrive, that life is not long enough for the attainment of general knowledge, and that there are many things of which the learned must content themselves to be ignorant.
Wesley confirmed this thinking in a letter to his mother in which he wrote,
I am perfectly come over to your opinion, that there are many truths it is not worth while to know. Curiosity, indeed, might be a sufficient plea for our laying out some time upon them, if we had half-a-dozen centuries of life to come; but methinks it is great ill husbandry to spend a considerable part of the small pittance now allowed us, in what makes neither a quick nor a sure return.
Acquiring information today is ridiculously easy, and it is just as easy to do nothing of significance with it. With blogs, instant access to news, thoughts, etc. through Twitter, etc. it doesn’t take effort to know… in fact the exact opposite is true… it takes effort NOT to know, and it is in NOT KNOWING that we may discover our greatest impact!
Impact is the result of focus. Wesley focused and changed the world. He became a specialist and began movement!
Remember this: “Reading a newspaper [blog, twitter, etc.] precludes our reading a book, and reading one particular book precludes our reading hundreds of others” (Dr. Steven Sample).
OK, it’s your turn. Have you had a similar experience where your realized you were a generalist? How did you address this? What is YOUR specialty?