Topic from Goldring

posted Apr 18, 2009, 9:29 AM by Jason Karp   [ updated Apr 18, 2009, 9:36 AM ]

Balancing the benefits of discomfort with focusing on core strengths:

 There are many parts of life where there seems to be a benefit to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone – playing sports against competitors better than you  improves your game; skiing on increasingly difficult slopes improves your abilitiy; challenging your brain with new puzzles improves cognitive agility. On the other hand, focusing on “core competencies” is often recommended for people and companies which are searching for the way ahead. What are the right circumstances in which to push yourself versus focusing on what you already do well and maximizing those benefits? At what point do you decide that a new activity just isn’t right for you, so the best path is to give up and go back to what you’re comfortable with?

Along those lines, this concept also touches on the dichotomy "dilettantism" -- in general, it's "good" to have lots of interests, but eventually you have to settle on one or a small number of them to focus on. On a personal, rather than organizational level, this doesn't really matter for things like hobbies or reading material that might be of interest; but for some areas of life (careers, romantic relationships, etc), it is important. As for mastery, it's easy enough for most people to figure out that they're not going to be masters at something (no matter how hard I practice, the liklihood of my playing in the NBA is very, very low), so when do you give up? Is there value in continuing to try, beyond the enjoyment of practicing? When does "diligence" and "determination" become just beating your head against a wall that won't budge?