Master of One
Jack of all trades, master of none.
Jack of one trade, not a master at all.
The most intimidating fact I have come to realize is the measure of how much I do not know as against what I have already learned. Just the thought of being asked a question I should know the answer to but don’t, leaves me cringing. I feel this way each time I step into a senior friend’s study, or a bookstore. I feel this way when I sit in the library at school and even at Church. I feel this way when someone says a word I have never heard before or simply do not know the meaning of. I feel this way when people talk about what they had read or heard especially when I have not. And then there are the accomplishments and achievements that come from ‘knowing.’ You feel like a dot. Scratch that. You feel like quarter of a dot when it has been split in a million places.
True, you cannot know everything. Even though people say “you should know everything about something and something about everything, I realize this is a near impossible feat. However, this should not discourage you from reading WIDE. Just make sure you do your best to grab at every bit of information you need. “How exactly do you do that? There are only so many hours in a day that you can have to yourself,” you say. Let me stop you there before you run yourself over the cliff of mediocrity (harsh, I know, but bear with me). You see, I have heard so many lectures about how hard it is to stretch yourself beyond your daily routine and other responsibilities. I’ve given quite a few myself so I know the familiar self-pity themed overture when I hear it. Whatever the case, you cannot afford to starve your mind. There are no limits to the (unnecessary) hardships people go through because they “don’t know.” Ignorance is the first daughter of complacency. The very word means ‘self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers.’
If you are only interested in being vast in your field, you would be subjecting yourself to serious social handicap. For one, you would be incapable of engaging in meaningful and enlightening discourse with individuals or professionals from other fields. Have you ever sat in a room full of people and felt like a total basket case because you knew not one word to say? There are so many times when it seemed like people were ‘speaking over my head’, especially when they talked about what they had heard or read in the news or the latest technology making its rounds in stores. I would make up excuses for myself like my lack of interest in computers and my lack of access to the internet at the moment or even blame my ‘aloof-ness’ on school work. The drawbacks of not feeding your mind are an endless list but that is a lecture for another day. I would like to focus on how we can solve the obvious problem.
Can we fix it?
One way around the mountain could be to cut back on sleep and other activities which are important but do not need to take up as much time as we apportion, like going out with friends, chatting online etc. Perhaps you already get less sleep than you can get by with. There are other ways in which you can squeeze in time for reading a book or listening to some other useful material.
Listening to the news on the radio while I walked to class or worked on my design project also helped me keep up with the current happenings in the country. Sometimes while on the bus or in a cab, I would look over the headlines on the BBC Mobile webpage on my phone. You could try listening to the news while you cook meals or do chores. You could pin a dictionary app to the taskbar on your laptop or desktop (or make it one of the icons on your phone’s homepage) so you can look up new words as soon as you come across them. If you write them down and say, “I will check it out later”, chances are you never will.
Take a book along with you when you go out. Sometimes meetings are delayed, people stand you up or you could get stuck in traffic. Instead of getting worked up, you could find a more productive use for all that ‘wasted time’. Sometimes while standing in line at the bank, or sitting at the customer care desk, I look up things on the net or at least save a bunch of webpages I would like to go through later. Let no opportunity to learn something new pass you by. Just try typing in ‘Architecture’ on Facebook or Twitter. You would be surprised at all the accounts and pages that would come up. Just by scrolling down your timeline, you could have access to all the latest innovations in the field as well as inspiring 3D images and new ideas for landscaping and building interiors. So you see, those little minutes we let slip away can actually make a world of difference in the face of an insane workload.
I recently made it a point to read the biographies of every famous leader in History or at least the ones most often referred to; and even though I have had the same volume of Encyclopedia Britannica on my bed for nearly two weeks (my bookmark is still on Napoleon), I am making progress. Game plans do not have to be perfect. Being architects, we know all too well that things always seem to “come up” at the worst possible moments and ruin nearly everything we have planned for our day. What matters, however, is that you make an effort and strive for consistency in adding “depth” to your life. This will help build your discipline and “bulldog tenacity”.
What to do, what to do…
So now we have admitted that the excuses we make are not at all tenable and that we CAN do more to broaden our scope. But where do we go from here? There seems to be far too many options open.
History, Geography, Literature, Health, Finance, Technology and Vocabulary are areas I believe everyone should take interest in. Learning a handful of commonly used phrases in a foreign language could also be a plus. If you are interested in music, read about it. Learn about genres, timelines and the lives of ground shakers past and present. It is always an invigorating experience, being friends with people who talk about something new every time you have a conversation with them. Wouldn’t you like to be one of those people?
If nothing I have said so far makes any sense to you, maybe this will:
“It’s a tragic thing when my car or clothes cost more than my mind”
Meaning: if the cost of your possessions far outweighs the value/ worth of your mind by virtue of your investments to it (especially through books read), then my friend, your middle name is Pity. Always try, no matter how hard it will be, not to go to bed without having learned something new every day.