Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about communication and specialization. I mean, to “sell” effectively – my ideas, my knowledge and expertise, and even just the writings in my blogs – there is a need to communicate well.
That should probably go hand in hand with a focus, a specialization, so that I and my blog/work/service/… can be recognized immediately. Get a tagline that’s catchy, prepare your elevator pitch. You’ve probably heard it all before.
I’ve noticed that myself in my work surrounding chile peppers (which is in large part what you find over @www.chilicult.com). Those who know me from my work in that area have an immediate reaction of thinking of me, and thinking of chilli. Dr. Chilli is who I am, chilli is what I don’t just eat, but grow and live and breathe, apparently.
Except, if you have come to this blog, you’ll notice how it talks about (being, coming to be) “at home in…” Or you may have seen my work on the ecology of happiness, which is closely related, but less about intercultural aspects, less personal, and more about the science and wisdom of happiness and how to get it, while not having it cost the earth.
All three are related, because they are all about our living in this world: how it is, and how it could be more (eco-logically) real and better, but they also focus on different aspects which may appear to (and sometimes indeed do) diverge quite a bit.
So be it, though. You are supposed to specialize nowadays, so that you can get put into a drawer, classified, and be squarely put away, painted into a certain corner. People see you, define you, and don’t have to think about anything but that one label anymore. You give them the power to define you, and you get “siloed to death.”*
It’s a human tendency, but it’s also a symptom of the common failure to recognize the connections there are between different aspects of life, and to not really see people as individual human beings anymore.
We are always more than one thing, though. A human being as opposed to a mere animal, hopefully. A man or a woman (or a transsexual, for that matter). Child and, probably, at some point, parent – or not. A sinner and a saint. A person of different religion, or none, of different regions, and countries, and cultures…
It can get pretty difficult even for yourself when you have different interests, and may make it necessary to focus. Certainly, you shouldn’t try doing and being everything at once, but one thing at a time.
Yet, the more you explore, the more you become, the more resilience you probably get. If you “are” your job, and you lose it, what remains?… On the other hand, when you fail with one plan, cannot get by using just one skill, you still have alternatives if you are not just singularly defined. Just don’t expect to get the best at everything – here, too, there needs to be some focus and balance.
Being a polyglot, you cannot know any and all languages similarly well, learn them all at once – but the breadth of knowledge/skill is the very definition to that label. Why don’t we do that – find labels for diversity rather than simplicism – in other areas?
And so, I remain decided not to be defined as just one. I *am* one – me – and I have my focus, obviously, but I rather enjoy having more to me than one thing. I like to look a snappy dresser, when I can and want to – but not when function wins over form (as for running – you’ll see what I mean in an upcoming post). I like to be in one place and get to know it, even discover that I may feel familiar with it, but still have lots to discover – and I enjoy getting on the road and going somewhere else. I am very much the intellectual – and love growing some of my own food, and work my way towards running (more) ultramarathons.
It’s not for everyone, so don’t worry if you decide to focus differently, on being specialized. There is value in that, too. Decide for yourself and expand your horizons every once in a while, though – it will give you new ideas even for your specialization.
Things change, yet remain the same – and so must we.
* The phrase “siloed to death” is a borrowing from John Jay, who used it in talking about creativity, in this video I want to leave you off with: