First Gen American asks:
What advice do you give people who are singularly focused beings and do you think there is anything wrong with that? For example, I was recruiting this week and there are some students who have never worked or done sports. All their focus was always on academia. I have known some folks like this and although they are forced to change focus over time, it’s always singular. The transitions are often difficult but they become workaholics or super moms lying on the sword for the sake of their singular focus. (transitioning to retirement is often very difficult for these people). I am the total opposite so my opinion on this is skewed so I would like a more rounded view on the topic.
The third part of this question is, do you think its just how a person is wired and there’s no sense in fighting it? If we didn’t have folks like that then there would be no Olympians because I can’t imagine swimming 5 hours a day like Phelps for like 1/2 your life.
Hush talks about this a bit in her post on Amy Chua.
My dad told me that college was not vocational school, and that I should take one class just for fun each semester. I am a big believer in a strong Liberal Arts education, and students lose out tremendously when they focus too much, in my opinion. Sports in school are over-rated. Sure, it’s nice to learn teamwork, sportspersonship, etc., but you can learn that on the math team or something. I tried sports and found out that a) I am terrible at them; and b) they are not fun, they hurt, they make you feel gross physically, and I hated interacting with the other kids.
However, it’s not like I can really talk here. I have been singularly focused on becoming an academic almost since I knew what one was. (Other childhood dream jobs: scientist, rock star, astronaut, spy. Oh wait, I *am* a scientist!) I pretty much always knew I wanted to be a professor, but strangely, I changed my mind on what I wanted to be a professor of. In college I changed my major several times, always thinking I would have an academic career though. And now I do. So I am a little bit useless on the career exploration front.
#2 never wanted to be a professor because her mom is a humanities professor and she had many crazy colleagues. It took a while for #2 to realize that some disciplines veered more towards crazy than others, so she made that decision near the end of college. At the same time, #2 is pretty focused on academics and only did extracurriculars before college because her mom made her. (I’m also a well-rounded and cultured person because my mom thought that was important.) That doesn’t mean I don’t have hobbies though, just not ones that would go on a resume straight out of college (“Watched 50 anime series with friends”). I don’t *think* I’m a workaholic (though some of my colleagues say I am… they’re just slackers), if I am one I’m a pretty piss-poor workaholic.
I’m also not sure what’s wrong with being a workaholic if that’s what makes you happy. So long as you’re providing value and not destroying the economy in your day job.
We’ve already covered the mom thing.
Why should a person have to retire? I mean, sometimes you’re forced to retire, but you have plenty of time to learn how to change focus then. Why borrow trouble?
Umm… a singular focus can be fine. It can get you far. So I think that last part of the question is accurate. People who do great things tend to be both talented and singularly focused. More power to them.
So I guess my advice to singularly focused people would be: Are you maximizing your utility subject to your budget constraints? (That is, are you happy doin’ what you’re doin’, considering your circumstances?) If so, more power to you! If not, then sure, allow yourself some more exciting hobbies.
What does the rest of the Grumpy Nation think?