Quote Against Specialization

“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.”

Robert Anson Heinlein (July 1907 - May 1988)


Via Rooted Man.


  1. Disagree. Sure, any human should be able to most of those things, but I don't think any human can do all of them well (like plan an invasion, set a bone, etc).

  2. I don't think one should nitpick about the individual pieces. Instead one should rejoice in the potential.

  3. Yeah.... Disagree.

  4. I have no beef with specialization, as long as your specialty is not the /only/ thing you're good at. We tend to think of the phrase "Jack of all trades, and master of none" as having a negative connotation, but just because you're not a master doesn't mean you're not competent. I would not consider myself a master butcher by any stretch, but if you lay a dead animal in front of me, I can certainly demonstrate my competence.

    I would say that one should specialize in the thing one desires to master, and look forward to and enjoy a lifetime of dedication to one's passion. Just don't neglect competence elsewhere along the way...

  5. I love this. G.K. Chesterton has a similar quote referencing women in the home.

  6. Joey and Norbie

    Don't miss Heinlein's point. An insect is capable of doing one thing and one thing only. Within their society each specialized member of the hive has a give capability and no potential to learn, explore and grow. Heinlein was very concern as he watched human society advance that we as a people were also loosing our natural ability and desire to grow, learn and explore our potential. As a people the more we "specialize" we tend to lose our natural curiosity for things outside our area of specialization. Heinlein was simply saying stay curious, stay open to learning. Or as my grandma said "the day you stop learning is the day you stop breathing."



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