Thursday, December 17, 2009

More on Specialization

“Don’t talk unless you have to,” singers are sometimes advised before a concert, “talking may wear out the voice.” “Don’t swim,” runners were cautioned back in the sixties, as if swimming might threaten success at the next track meet. Today’s athletes are encouraged to cross-train.

“She will outlast the leaders,” we were told when a 10K specialist ran her first marathon. “There she goes,” an announcer said near the end of the race when she began to put some distance between herself and the others, “it’s her upper body strength. See how she uses her arms.”

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” “I wish you’d concentrate on your game.” Mentors – coaches, parents, and teachers – have pestered us with these possibly contradictory quotes. In high school, aspiring college students rush everywhere to improve their “resumes” for college applications – sports, scouts, clubs, musical groups, part-time jobs, religious involvement, hobbies, and crafts.

Then, many of us forget “variety is the spice of life” as we settle into full-time employment. In olden times, folks prided themselves on staying with the same company for forty-five years. Now we tend to move around, climbing the ladder, or not, exaggerating our busy-ness, convinced “the man” would miss us if we left. “They’re lazy,” some refer to the folks who only work thirty-two hours per week and choose to go home to golf or fish.

Boom. We’re gone, laid off or signed up for greener grass. The employer moves on.

Do we? “X years and what do I have to show for it? No pension. A shrunken 401(k). No health insurance. My shares are virtually worthless.”

“Nurture each of your many baskets, like a schizophrenic broody hen,” Virginia suggests, a song on her lips as she hammers away and her dough rises. “My dad used to quote his father, ‘don’t forget the nest egg. Save ten percent.’” That’s easy for someone with money to say.

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