Posted by: thoughtflashes | April 22, 2010

Achieving Your Full Potential: Breadth and Depth for Variety and Specialization in Life

I have spent a lot of my free time studying successful people and history, thinking about and trying to understand how and why people excel.  One of the cornerstone concepts that I have come across from my reading, watching, hypothesizing, analyzing, and thinking is that people who do well tend to assimilate information from a wide variety of sources.  People who succeed are generally those who are open to learning from almost everything, everyone, all cultures, everywhere, and all the time, even if busy.  This is the breadth part of the equation, where learning can come from a wide variety of sources.  By practicing being humble and having the mindset of a learner, it helps to develop this characteristic.

One problem with just working on the breadth approach is that you don’t keep fine-tuning yourself to excellence and head in a particular direction of excellence.  Depth, or specialization, in a subject is also highly important for success.   Sometimes, it’s important to focus on one area and get better and better at it, as well as aim in the general direction of excellence.  Most highly successful individuals underwent prolonged apprenticeship in their art or science with an accomplished master.  Apprentice to Genius: The Making of a Scientific Dynasty by Robert Kanigel delineates well this relationship between master and apprentice.  Many examples of this exist in science or art.  A famous quote from Isaac Newton is that he felt that he “stood on the shoulders of giants.”

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  1. […] Tesla (who incidentally did work for and thus learn from Edison – more on this in the post Achieving Your Full Potential: Breadth and Depth for Variety and Specialization in Life) since the 19th century is also a key catalyst enabling humans to literally aim for the stars and […]


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