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  • Writer's pictureNicole Raheja

20 Days, 20 Quizzes, Day 7: Specialist or Generalist

Video Transcript:

Hi Everyone! This is Day 7 of my video series, 20 Days, 20 Quizzes, where I count down the 20 reasons why my book, All About You: A Personality Quiz Book will make a great gift for your loved ones this holiday season!

The seventh quiz in the book is about whether you’re more of a specialist or a generalist. A specialist is someone who is very focused on a few things. You might be really passionate about something and work hard to excel at it, or to learn as much about it as you can. A generalist is someone who takes a more casual interest in a wider range of things. Rather than having one passion that you stick to, you may like to try a wide range of different activities, or learn a little about a lot of different topics.

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was interested in everything. She was involved in so many different activities – different sports, arts, and clubs, and I think if there had been more hours in the day, she might have joined every single activity that our school offered. But one time, that friend told me that she felt bad that she didn’t have one thing that she was really passionate about. Everyone else seemed to have something that they were the best at, and she felt like she was missing something by not having that one passion. And I told her that there was nothing wrong with being interested in lots of different things. The fact that my friend didn’t have one activity that she really excelled at was not from a lack of ability – I’m sure she could have been the best at any of her activities if she had picked one or two things and really given them her all. But there are only so many hours in a day, and the only way she would have had more time to devote to any one activity would have been to quit some of her other activities. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that you’d rather do a little of everything than devote all your time to just a few things. My friend was naturally more of a generalist.

I’m naturally more of a specialist, and I’ve often faced the opposite pressure to spread myself thinner, rather than focusing on the things that matter most to me. When I was in high school, my top priority was theatre. I loved performing on stage, and that mattered more to me than any other activities I did. One year, I was really disappointed about not getting to be as involved in theatre as I wanted to be, and almost everyone told me to just find another activity to do instead. But I knew that theatre was my passion, so I looked for ways to get involved in outside of school, and I made a commitment to practicing a lot on my own, even when I didn’t have a show coming up. All that practicing helped me to get into more shows and get bigger roles in the following years. And I don’t think I would have achieved that if I had taken the advice to join other activities instead of working harder on what meant the most to me.

When I was applying to college, we were all told that we were supposed to look well-rounded, that’s what all the colleges wanted. We were encouraged to list every single activity we’d ever done, even if it was only a casual interest. And even though theatre was more important to me than anything else I did, I was encouraged to present myself as if I was equally interested in everything I did.

But then, after my class had already applied to college, the kids who were a year behind us were told never mind, don’t present yourself as doing a little of everything, you actually want to stick with the same activities for years and show that you’re super dedicated to a couple of interests.

I’ve seen the trends change many times on whether you’re supposed to be a specialist or a generalist, but one thing that always remains the same is that we’re always being told to be one or the other. We’re never encouraged to just be what we naturally are. This quiz will help you figure out whether you’re naturally more of a specialist, more of a generalist, or anywhere in between, and which lifestyle will make you the happiest.

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