The Dangers of Dabbling

You may be good at several things.  You may be one of those “creative types” who cooks and weaves and writes poetry and plays the ukulele. I’m there. I am a dabbler in all sorts of things. I love plunging into new skills, learning the basics of HTML5, then editing film, then painting with gouache, then roasting a chicken.

But I know, not even that deep down, that I am not getting all I can out of any of these skills. That I am still envious when I see someone doing something truly great at which I am only marginal. I know they are getting far more out of this art than I am.

Being great at something takes work.

Doesn’t matter how talented, how smart, how connected you are, you have to focus and work to refine you skills and your vision. That can be painful at times; how much easier to find another meadow to graze in.

Here’s an interesting phenomenon: the famous, would-be poly-tasker. Michael Jordan leaving the NBA to play baseball for one dismal season. Eddie Murphy recording a disco album. Fame brings opportunity: who was gonna tell Allan Iverson not to record a gangsta rap album? When Picasso read his poetry at Gertrude Stein’s salon, she said “Pablo, stick to painting.” And then there’s James Franco. But being a genius in one field doesn’t effortlessly make you Leonardo.

I wonder how many people get sidetracked from their true calling by the fact that they have talent to excel at more than one artistic medium. This is a curse rather than a blessing. If you have only one option, you can’t make a wrong choice. If you have two options, you have a fifty percent chance of being wrong.
— Twyla Tharp

I’m not saying, “Stick to your knitting.” It’s quite possible you don’t need to excel at at one thing, that you are content playing the field. For you, creativity is just a hobby, and you don’t want to invest in any particular medium or metier. If so, good on ya — but know what you are giving up. When you focus on the thing that you were born to do, work hard and really push yourself, you will find new pleasures, deeper, richer, more fulfilling experiences that dabbling will never provide.

Do some self-examination and listen for your true calling. What do you feel in your marrow? And are you investing all you need to to achieve your own personal form of Greatness® there?

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