The Problem With Being Well-Rounded

Jake Parrish
3 min readDec 6, 2017
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As I walked across campus today chatting with a friend and the stress of upcoming finals she began to express how she could not wait to get out of college.

To this I was a bit surprised. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, or so they say.

But honestly I heard where she was coming from.

I know that she puts in a ton of work getting good grades, leading student organizations, and prepping for a career after graduation. But at what cost?

She was expressing that she did not know what direction her skillset would take her. What was the point of working this hard if I don’t know what I want to do?

I tried to reassure her that the hard work will pay off and that the only way to figure out what it is you want to do is to experiment.

However at this point I realized that I was feeling the same way. I realized I do not have an answer for her because I am trying to figure it out myself.

Sometimes I do not even know what my skillset is!! And that worries me. It seems that everyone else has it figured out (which I know they don’t).

I mean growing up we are taught to be good at all areas. In grade school you must be good at writing, math, science, and history. Also if you want to get into a university you must show leadership skills and other extracuricular activities.

In college you must fulfill the general education requirements and your major requirements. Again if you want a decent job you must show leadership skills and extracurricular involvement.

Overall I think this system is favoring a well rounded person as the ideal applicant.

But a well rounded person can not focus their time to become exceptional at one skill. They can not become the best at anything because they are wasting their time checking boxes.

Therefore we are stuck here questioning what our skillset is?

Then on our walk we began to discuss the issue of pursuing a dead end.

I mean what if I pick one skill, writing, that I am interested in now and decide to focus all my energy on that. But let’s say 6 months down the road I feel completely different about writing and discover it really is not for me.

It would feel as if I wasted 6 months that could have been used pursuing my actual passion.

I know that this is an immobilizing mindset because if you fear a dead end then you will never take action. But I think that this is how a lot of people feel in college and shortly after?

Some people, I guess, stick with the first job they get whether they like it or not. But I do not want to settle. I want to find that thing that I could do nonstop, talk about all day, and lose myself in. I want to find that thing and become exceptionally good at it, best in the world.

I do not want to be well rounded.

I want to be a expert in X or the greatest in Y.

Maybe that thing is still to be found or maybe it is sitting right under my nose I am just too immobilized by fear of a dead end to act.

Would love to know your thoughts on being well-rounded versus focusing on one craft. As well as how to find that craft and have the courage to pursue it without fear of being wrong.


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