Specializing in Mastery

Try new things, but then pick something to focus on to the point of mastery.

It is good to be a well-rounded individual, to be a polymath. These days, in fact, it is essential to know a little bit about a lot of things because most folks have to wear multiple hats in order to thrive in our fast-paced, ever-changing, highly automated world. True joy and satisfaction, however, do not come from shallow dabbling, but from deep specialization and mastery.

Specialization requires commitment and focus. Specialization to the point of mastery requires these to an almost obsessive degree. Mastery requires that we shut ourselves off from distractions, from the temptation to veer off on tangents, and reduce the number of variables in our way toward our goal.

There is simply no way to put in the time, energy, and repetitions necessary for mastery if we try to go for breadth over depth. Breadth is important for having a holistic understanding and knowledge of a given subject, but, without depth, all we are really doing is dancing around the shallows. By mastering one thing, it becomes much easier to master others, so the true polymath begins not with variety, but with specialization.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Street art photo taken by Robert Van Valkenburgh, artist unknown unless otherwise noted.

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