Thirty years ago today, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force and graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
That set me off on a series of adventures, during which I met and worked with some amazing people — maybe even you! The track of my Air Force career took some interesting turns, and the years since have been their own “long, strange trip.”
So as I look back at this day in my personal history, when the work I had done up to that point led to looking ahead to those adventures, I thought I’d start something new here on the blog. I ran this idea past my newsletter subscribers* and got more replies than usual, all of them saying that they thought I should do it. So today I’m starting a series of blog posts featuring quotes that may be interesting, inspirational, timely (in terms of historical commemorations or recent news), or just … odd.
I’m torn between calling it “Monday Morning Quotes” as in the post title above, or something like “Words to Start the Week.” (I’m open to suggestions.)
Why would I do this? For the simple reason that I love quotes. Over the years, as I’ve faced difficulties and decisions, I’ve turned to various bits of wisdom and lore I picked up along the way. Back in the days before cell phones, when I carried around a “Franklin Planner” (like many of my Air Force project manager brethren) to keep track of things I needed to do, one section of my planner included a printout of quotations called, appropriately and pedantically enough, “Words by which to Live and Work.” I’ve added to the file in the years since, though it stays on my computer these days.
So without further ado …
Words to start the week. To kick this off, I’ll use the quote I shared in my newsletter. It’s one of my favorite quotes from Science Fiction Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein, from his “Notebooks of Lazarus Long” (found in the novel Time Enough for Love):
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.
(Image: “glowing human being,” by J E Theriot, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)
I like that quote because I agree that we as people should strive to be well-rounded, to acquire new, varied skills and knowledge. I don’t think Heinlein’s specific list of abilities is as important as the idea that we are (and should be) generalists, even if some of us have specialties of a sort. I think many people bear this out in their lives without even thinking about it, when they work in one field but sustain other interests outside of work: the teacher who paints, the engineer who writes, the scientist who cooks; the nurse who maintains a motorcycle, the accountant who grows a garden, the programmer who plays an instrument.
I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that if I had the time and energy to start another venture I’d establish a school that used that quote as the basis of its curriculum. In my dream school, students would learn life and family skills, survival skills, arts and sciences of all kinds, and above all that being human is itself a wondrous adventure with nearly boundless possibilities.
So take a moment, in the spirit of that quote, and consider some of the things you can do. Maybe you can check off a lot of the items Heinlein listed; maybe you could add a dozen more items that didn’t make his list; maybe you can do both. Regardless, I hope you can take some time to appreciate just how gifted and how skilled you are — and if the world sometimes calls your attention to the things you can’t do, I hope today you can concentrate on the things you can do. And do them.
Have a great week!
*Yes, I send out a newsletter from time to time. If you’d like to get it, you can sign up using the form in the sidebar on the right side of this blog or at this link.