I was never a perfectionist. But I have always been an idealist. The question that I used to ask myself was, “ if this person can do it, why can’t I?” Basically I wanted to be good at every aspect. I had this ideal in my mind, this perfect me, that I wanted to work towards, and I egged myself on.
But gradually I began to realise, it is hard to be good at everything—we have only so much time and energy. It is hard to be musically talented, sporty, academically inclined, sociable and still have time to yourself.
So the question we sometimes have to ask ourselves is do I want to be an all-rounder, or do I want to use that time to develop an edge in a certain area instead?
This is one tough question to answer, and there is no right or wrong answer. Each approach comes with its benefits and downsides.
Developing an edge — Pros
In economic theory, when specialisation is practiced, society as whole benefits more. This means that instead of person A and B each farming 5kg of durians and 5 chickens, person A and B will do what they are best at. When they do that, their output in total will increase, with the result being person A having 15 kg of durians and person B having 15 chickens. They can then trade durians for chickens, and both will be better off than if they don’t specialise.
It is the same in Singapore society. Nowadays many working mothers do not cook. They simply take away from hawker centres or restaurants. The food cooked by professionals tastes better than many mothers can manage and the time that is freed up can be used to do more productive things.
When you go to work, the same concept applies. If you start out working in an accounting firm, then you are only required to be familiar with accounting related software. Do you need to know how to use Photoshop or Sketchup? No, so focus on improving your excel skills.
If you are a professional DOTA player, do you need to know about the latest current affairs? Well, it will certainly change people’s perception of you (from geek to nerd), but at the end of the day, it does not value add to what you are doing for a living, so your time can be better spent reciting pudge, sniper, crystal maiden…pudge, sniper, crystal maiden.
Being an all rounder — Pros
The problem with developing a niche area for yourself is basically, you make yourself vulnerable, especially when conditions change.
Will DOTA’s prize pool keep increasing? Maybe. But looking at how StarCraft, once the biggest eSport in the world, fell from grace, it is understandable that your parents are worried. Playing DOTA professionally may be able to feed you right now, but can it in 20, 30 years?
Another problem with overspecialising is you tend to have a tunnel vision of the world. We have all heard of girls who talk incessantly about fashion. Yes, we get it that rouge red is different from cherry lush, but don’t you have a life outside of your mirror?
Multidisciplinary learning is also important if you do not just want to be a small cog in a large wheel. Managers are always people who can see things from a macro-perspective, and the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more knowledgeable you must be about different departments. That is why MAS encourages their scholars to study courses that do not have much bearings to what they will eventually do. What MAS wants are future managers, CEOs and even leaders of the country—people who do not have a fixed job scope but instead are required to solve unconventional problems when they pop up; people who can think out of the box and see from different perspectives.
So what’s the conclusion? That is up to you to decide. As for me, I guess I will take a balanced approach of developing my comparative advantage while remembering that, life is too short and volatile to be spent on simply one area of interest