Many societies, both Eastern and Western, demonstrate an almost pathological need to classify and categorize things, perhaps in an effort to impose some “social order,” or at the very least, the artifice of one.
It is hardly breaking news that as I write this, the global economy is undergoing an enormously painful “correction” or “transition” or perhaps even “complete meltdown of the existing order,” with all the attendant consequences, ramifications and “bad juju” that this entails. People at virtually all levels are feeling the impact (and those that have not, as of yet, perhaps should beware of being smug, as the stage is becoming fertile for more contentious expression of dissatisfaction, namely peaceful or even violent revolution from certain quarters), and the accompanying disharmony and chaotic energy unleashed is not inconsequential.
With job security being an illusion for all but a fortunate few, many people are finding themselves having to actually give meaningful thought to the career paths and choices that they have made, engage in “personal branding” (this blog quite frankly being an expression of this idea), and really try to develop a longer-term career strategy. In doing so, and performing such frank soul-searching, those in the working world will often have to contend with being labeled by others as a “specialist” or “generalist,” although in recent years, as I previously referenced in a blog posting (“The Zentropist Defined: The Fourth Attribute”), the term “versatilist” has entered the lexicon among savvy workers.
Of these various existing labels, the Zentropist is closest in relation to the definition of a versatilist, although characteristics of both the generalist and specialist will be found. If we examine the concept of “Zentropism” as a philosophical and ethical framework, the inevitable realization that should follow is that anyone, no matter how lofty or humble their occupation is perceived to be, can embrace the Primary Attributes and utilize these not only for occupational growth, but personal development as well.
By imposing labels of “generalist” or “specialist” on a person, whether this is done internally by one’s self or by others, we immediately limit the potential of that human being to evolve and transform. If we dig deeply enough, even the individual widely perceived as fitting the traits of a “generalist” is apt to have command of some sub-set of knowledge, no matter how arcane, narrow or “useless,” to encroach on the domain of a “specialist” in that particular field.
It is probably self-evident, but perhaps not to all, that one of the primary criticisms of the “generalist” is that while this individual knows a little about a lot of things, he or she is unable to go “beyond the surface” when deeper understanding or command of certain skills or knowledge is called for, and perhaps is even perceived as a bit of a dilettante that flits from one thing to the next, without “mastering” anything.
Of course, the Zentropist can only smile at the notion that “mastery” has a fixed goal line that once crossed, can never be exceeded or improved upon.
Conversely, the “specialist” can be in high demand and well-regarded in his or her field, so long as this knowledge is perceived as being valuable to others, but as soon as that knowledge becomes (or is perceived to be) outdated, commonplace, or simply no longer relevant, that individual is seen as a dinosaur or one unable to change with the times and adapt to new circumstances.
Humans should not have expiration dates, beyond the time when our journey in this world is finished. Up until that moment, as the Zentropist understands, barring deterioration of our minds / body / spirit, we retain the capacity to learn and to grow. The Greeks spoke of gnosis (“knowledge”) and sophia (“wisdom”) as being highly desirable for individual cultivation, and these are indeed highly worthy goals for us to pursue, so long as we understand that we will never reach the finish line. It is a journey without end, in which the road we travel will reveal many things about ourselves and others.
So rather than allow yourself to be branded by others, or worse, to perceive yourself as falling into the “generalist” or “specialist” camp, accept where you are today and commit to embarking upon the path of the Zentropist. If you expand your thinking and refuse to accept the limitations that are often self-imposed or even (all too often unfairly) placed on you by others, you may surprise yourself with what you can accomplish if you “get your mind right” and commit to the path which beckons.
We all have something of value to contribute to this world, and if we accept this not as a burden, but as a sacred or simply meaningful statement of fact, our lives, and the lives of those that intersect with us, no matter the duration of such contact, will be richer for it…