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Being well rounded is a bad excuse September 28, 2006

Posted by sdpurtill in Advice, Flash, Rants, Technology.

For mediocrity.

I don’t believe in being well rounded anymore. I don’t believe in knowing a little bit about everything. I used to try to know a little bit about everything that was going on; what was happening in sports, technology, business, the blogosphere, etc… I don’t want to be like that anymore. It’s all a waste of my life. The only thing I should be doing is becoming great at what I love to do; flash developing. After reading The Fountainhead I came to this conclusion. And I’m not talking about trying to become good at something you suck at; find something that you’re naturally good at and become the best.

There is a long list of reasons why I have come to this belief; I will begin to list a few.

#1 – Love work, love life – How many people do you know that are miserable simply because they work jobs that they hate ? Last time I checked, nearly 87% of people don’t like the jobs that they work at. Sucks for you buddy, that’s 1/3 of your day that you get to spend trapped in a cage, realizing that you should be doing what you love. Oh the pain and agony!

#2 – The experts make all the money – True in nearly every industry (I have yet to find an industry that this is not true). Here are a few examples: professional sports – the best players get paid the most; freelancing – the best charge the most; colleges – the best educations cost the most (a bunch of bs – the best educations are free; from real life experiences… but whatever)

#3 – The more you charge, the less you have to work – I’m going to make up this next statistic, but you will understand I think: for every one polo shirt that Abercrombie sells, Old Navy has to sell 10 polo shirts to make the same profits. This is terrible for Old Navy; they have to be selling like crazy to stay in business. Rahul Sood said it best –“Growing market share by slashing prices is ultimately a losing proposition.”

#4 – Mediocrity is the bane of human existence – What an unfulfilling life. Great, you’re above average at everything you do. You’re going to get an above average paying job, an above average car, an above average house. How depressing! You’re in between greatness and average! I’d rather suck at everything else and just be the greatest flash developer in the world than being mediocre at everything my hands touch. I must admit, I have tried to be like this for the last few years and it has been completely unfulfilling

#5 – The greatest make all the money – I said it in number 2 and I’ll say it again. The world revolves around money; my blog revolves around money; everything in the universe revolves around money. However, I don’t want to come across as greedy; let me crush that impression right now. I am very ambitious, and want to be the world’s greatest at whatever I decide to do with my life. And money will come with it.

In a world of rapidly evolving technology and competition, becoming the best has never been so easy, and staying the best has never been so hard. Look at Terrel Owens; he was the best wide receiver in the NFL until Chad Johnson came. He couldn’t step it up to the next level though, which (my speculation) has led him to an attempted suicide. Life must suck if you can’t stay the greatest.

Once you get to the top, stay there.. And stay there for a long time… Do whatever it takes to stay the best, and never follow. Remember: second always tries harder.

Anyways. Don’t be well rounded. Be great. At one thing. And you will own the whole world.


1. Michael - September 28, 2006

If you define being well-rounded as simply being “above-average” at a lot of things, then I agree with you completely. But in my humble opinion, someone who is well-rounded doesn’t have to be above average at “everything,” he or she simply has to be really good at a handful of things. Striving to be the best at one thing is certainly a noble goal, but only one person can be the best, after all.

Getting to the point, being well-rounded isn’t necesarily about being good at a bunch of tangible things either, like knowing what’s going on in politics, tech, sports, etc. Being well-rounded can also mean having an advantageous balance between the tangible and the intangible. For example, being really smart (but not the smartest) and simultaneously being really athletic (but not the fastest runner, best free-throw shooter, best pitcher, etc.).

You have to think about how the different elements of “well-roundedness” act synergistically. Following the above example, being a good athlete, more often than not, correlates with with strong academic performance due to the biological/chemical effects and time management skills related to being an athlete. Even though a great athlete may not be the valedictorian of his or her school (although many are), s/he may be better equipped to deal with daily life than the kid who sits in his or her room all day studying.

However, I have a feeling that when all is said and done, those who specialize ultimately get ahead. I strongly believe, though, that to find the right specialization track, one must try their hand at a variety of things. In other words, being well-rounded to start puts people at an advantage when it comes to specializing. It seems that when one is younger, it is better to be well-rounded, but as one gets older, he or she must specialize. And, if you think about it, this is what often happens in real life. Kids start out playing five, six, even seven sports in junior high, then by the time they are starting junior year they are dedicated to only one. The same process occurs in academics, even through college. They make you fulfill distribution requirements so that you can try a variety of different subjects and find the one you are truly passionate at. It also explains why so many people switch majors. At my school, over 75% of students switch their major once or more between the time they enter and graduate.

You also must not forget the people that are well-rounded and also the best at the things they do. Although rare, it is possible and is the best of both worlds.

2. sdpurtill - September 28, 2006

By the way, to everybody that reads this — I totally agree with what Chris has to say, but I’m not going to change my initial post for the sake of good ol’ controversy 🙂

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