The Generalist

“The great strategists of the past kept forests as well as the trees in view. They were generalists, and they operated from an ecological perspective. They understood that the world is a web, in which adjustments made here are bound to have effects over there — that everything is interconnected. Where, though, might one find generalists today? . . . The dominant trend within universities and the think tanks is toward ever-narrower specialization: a higher premium is placed on functioning deeply within a single field than broadly across several. And yet without some awareness of the whole — without some sense of how means converge to accomplish or to frustrate ends — there can be no strategy. And without strategy, there is only drift.”

Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

There are in my mind three great forces at work in the world. They are economics, religion, and politics. Everything else is simply a trend.

Rereading Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” caused me to consider my writing in light of these three great forces, and what he calls the “generalist.” I wondered whether I was neglecting my natural inclination to be a generalist, because of all the spectacularly successful specialist in Silicon Valley?

My conclusion is I am a generalist. This means my writing must change to see the whole, which means considering the influence of the three great forces at work in the world. I look forward to the adventure.

Originally published at Russ Ewell.

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