When did the world get so hung up on the word “specialist?” I understand the merit of focus, but the idea that a person can only do one thing with expertise is malarkey. The Renaissance man or woman is out of vogue. Leonardo Da Vinci, where’d you go? He is best known as one of the greatest artists of all time, but he was also an architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer (map maker), and writer. He’d never make it today, would he? Some lazybones executive would tell him he couldn’t possibly be good at all of those things, that he would be viewed as a jack of all trades and master of none. And Da Vinci would, in turn, call them a jack of something, too, and go about his multifaceted business.
But these days we get talked into micro-dreams. You get this one thing. Master it. Be the best at it; but, of course, once you reach the “best” status, the criteria will change, and the next true genius will walk in and rightfully take your place. It is not, however, the artists vying for positions, it is industry insisting that there can only be one winner.
The truth is that if we all shine our brightest, all those candle’s flames will light up the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the importance of mastery, and I know the time and concentration it takes. My “thing” has been songwriting. I live it, eat it, drink it, dream it. I read everything I can that will make me better. When I study theology, I think of how it will translate into song. When I study psychology, I think of the next insight that will sing into a line and help someone’s heart. When I study science I think about the mystery of melody and the interaction of harmonic notes and how the sonic soul of the universe is in tune to mine. All roads have led to, and stemmed from songwriting for me. I sing because I write. I produce because I write. I eat because I write.
“Mastery,” wrote Daniel Pink, “is a mindset: It requires the capacity to see your abilities not as finite, but as infinitely improvable. Mastery is a pain: It demands effort, grit, and deliberate practice. And mastery is an asymptote: It’s impossible to fully realize, which makes it simultaneously frustrating and alluring.” (from his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)
I get that. He’s right. It’s the journey that I love, and if I ever “arrive” I think I’ll die.
And so I practice, and learn, and grow, and know that I will never be “the best,” but I will work as though I can be. I want to be MY best. I want to be God’s best for me. No limitations. And so the day has finally come when God’s best calls me to broaden my horizons.
When I die, I imagine the thing they’ll say about me is that I was a songwriter, and hopefully it will be that my songs touched lives and expressed something of the soul of God and humanity. (As opposed to “award winning songwriter”) But I do hope that the speaking I do, the Bible lessons I teach, the books I write, the broadcasting I do, the performances I give, and the hands I have held in prayer because someone was hurting, will be in the color scheme of the portrait of me.
So, I’m curious – did you take a moment to look up the word “asymptote?” Here, I’ll save you the time: “ASYMPTOTE: a line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance.” (Webster’s) It’s the dangling carrot you are compelled to grasp but never can. Ain’t life grand?!