Generalists vs. Specialists
This week I read an article about Leonardo da Vinci (he died 500 years ago) who is often described as the archetype of a “Universal Genius”. He is described as the father of architecture and paleontology and had a wide-ranging interest from music over mathematics to engineering and astronomy. Today he is mostly known as one of the greatest painters of all time, but he equally gets credit for inventing the helicopter and parachute. Also he was gay and a vegetarian in medieval times. Retrospectively, we tend to idealize people. We want to forget all the shortcomings to know that people exist who live lives not as mundane and burdensome as ours often are. And so it is the case with da Vinci: Truth is that he has started 120 books and none of them were finished. He agreed to do many paintings for other people and didn’t finish them. Even the Mona Lisa was never finished and never given to the person who commissioned her. His technological ideas were unrealistic. Da Vinci was a master in starting but never finishing — in being constantly distracted by the endless possibilities of the world.
We are all constantly distracted by new things. The Internet made it a lot worse. Everything we want to know (mostly at the surface level) is in our pockets. Our social media is organized in timelines. But true knowledge is much deeper. True knowledge is essentially about connecting, not only collecting, the dots.
The dots that need to be collected might lie in the distant past, say 500 years ago, not in the last 24 hours.
What does this say about being a generalist vs. a specialist? Being a true generalist is very difficult. You constantly have to face the taste gap
(you have good taste but no good skills). The taste gap gets you to quit and you have to start all over. An easier way to make change in this world is to be specific — choose your niche and be happy with it. It’s just a bit boring and you are a less interesting conversation partner.
Creation over consumption
We all feel the need to consume all the time. Without it, we feel disconnected from our environment. What we often forget: We also need to create all the time. Creating things is difficult and needs focus. We get judged on the result. But I believe it is a very important balance in life. Create something big this year!
Fasting is the shit
Last weekend, I did a three-day fast with juice, tea and vegetable broth. I think it is the best thing I’ve done for my health in a while. My body was very happy not to process food for some time. Things are working better now. One tip: Don’t forget to take electrolytes while doing a fast and don’t eat a lot of carbs one or two days prior to starting.