Are you a noun or a verb?
The specialist versus the generalist. I’ve always aspired to identify with the archetype of a Renaissance man, someone who is interested in and know a lot about many things, but in an era of since Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, there’s a newfound allure of expertise. For the uninitiated, Outliers is based on research done by Dr. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues, who come to the conclusion that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in almost anything. Jiro Dream of Sushi, is a 2011 documentary following Jiro Ono’s relentless pursuit of perfection despite already being referred to as the greatest sushi chef alive. I recommend reading Outliers, and watching Jiro Dream of Sushi, but today we’re going to focus on lesser-known generalist. He was an author of over 30 books, a designer, an architect, a systems theorist, and an inventor.
Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller was born on July 12, 1895.
There’s a lot that we can learn from Bucky Fuller, but I’m partial to a thought from his 1970 book, I Seem To Be a Verb:
“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”
As we age, our interests evolve and we have the opportunity to be far more dynamic than our past experiences. If we apply to framework to our careers, it’s easier to grasp how we can achieve previously unattainable goals and grow our own capabilities.
So whether you’re a specialist or a generalist, perhaps the real question is are you a noun or a verb?