Several economic theories, such as the theory of Comparative and Absolute Advantage, state that specialization is the best way to grow the global economic pie. If we all focus on only one thing, and we do that thing well, we can serve the community with our skill and rely on the skills of the community to fulfill our other needs.
In theory this is an elegant model, however the question remains, can we all really achieve our full potential by only focusing on one discipline? Let’s say that I’m a carpenter. Would my carpentry skills be best developed by studying only carpentry, or would it be more beneficial to my carpentry skills if I studied a variety of disciplines including carpentry? I think we can all agree that there is a good argument for a well rounded education, but is it even conceivable that a carpenter would see his carpentry skills improve by studying something as seemingly unrelated as biology, fishing, or gardening?
As a strong proponent of the liberal arts, I believe that there is no limit to the benefit of studying multiple disciplines. However, I am not saying that is it easy. Just like an athlete practicing line drills, if you’re not always thinking of how the skills you’re practicing can be applied to performance situations then you’re just running in circles.
The easy part is studying multiple disciplines; the hard part is connecting the dots.
(below – “Do Work” by Andrew Eifler – 2010: 53 itemized, color coded to-do lists, representing two and a half years of work)