Breakfast Notes #54 (Specialization is For Losers)

Breakfast Notes #54 (Specialization is For Losers)
Photo by Peter F. Wolf / Unsplash

Good morning friends.

Here are four quotes of the week I want to share with you.

  • Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, said this about worry, "The time to worry is three months before a flight. Decide then whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying. To worry is to add another hazard."
  • Morten Meldal, the newly minted Nobel Prize-winning Chemist, tells us that, "We are only scratching the beginning of our understanding of organic chemistry." A reminder that the world is still being built and new things are still being uncovered.
  • Mario Andretti, one of two drivers to have won races in F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, and the World Sportscar Championship, encourages you to go faster, "If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough."
  • Felix Dennis, the founder of Maxim Magazine, gives you the secret to winning negotiations, "You have to persuade yourself that you absolutely don't care what happens. If you don't care, you've won. I absolutely promise you, in every serious negotiation, the man or woman who doesn't care is going to win."

Here is the 54th serving of the Breakfast Notes.

Reads Of The Week

Here are the reads of the week.

  • Writing is a Bad Idea. Steven Pressfield shares a correspondence between him and a disillusioned writer. If you ever feel lonely in your craft, read Pressfield's reply. The best thing about writing in the age of Tik Tok & Reel is that you get a weekly micro-dose of disappointment. You shout from your corner of the internet and all you hear is your echo. But, even then, you refine your thoughts. (I really liked this interaction and I think its worth a revisit)
  • How to Work Hard. Most people have an idea of what it means to work hard. But, honey, they have got no clue. Paul Graham argues you should find out the shape of real work and figure out how you are suited for it. He says, "A deep interest in a topic makes people work harder than any amount of discipline can."
  • Failed Simulation Effect. The idea is that you can be special without necessarily doing hard things. If you cannot mentally simulate the steps taken by some ordinary person to reach an accomplishment, you will feel impressed by him.

Visualisations Of The Week

Visual Capitalist 

Apple is the world's most valuable brand.


Say what you want about the vanilla flavour of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they are crushing it at the Box Office.

Notice how Disney has essentially taken over the film industry.

Specialisation is for Losers

Emerson probably would rock Nikes today

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The shoemaker makes a good shoe because he makes nothing else."

I say that's bullshit.

I prefer Robert Heinlen's summary of requirements for the competent human- "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialisation is for insects."

The best overachievers rejected the lure of economic efficiency through specialisation.

Consider these examples,

  • Steve Jobs' encounter with calligraphy in college showed him the beauty of typography and fonts' commercial and spiritual value. Don't believe me? Try typing in Helvetica and then in Comic Sans.
  • Winston Churchill was fascinated with history and wrote of England's finest historical literature - "A History of the English-Speaking People". He wrote this four-volume behemoth in his spare time as a Prime Minister in World War II.
  • Sun Yat Sen was a doctor who graduated from the Hong Kong College of Medicine. Yet, he also found the time to become a revolutionary to help China re-emerge as a strong nation. Sun is unique for being among the few political leaders widely revered in both Mainland China and Taiwan.

These people said no to specialisation because they knew they could not be reduced to a function.

If their lives are a lesson, we should learn to avoid the pitfall of contorting ourselves into one pithy corner of the world.

Do more, do differently and say no to specialisation!

Thank you for reading, and may the sun shine upon your face,


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