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  • Writer's pictureEduardo Beltrame

Generalist or specialist: what should we be?

Can there be something that is good, but that is also bad? In fact, I think (almost) everything in life is like that. (Almost) everything has a good side and a bad side. Sometimes it's 50/50, sometimes it is 90% good and 10% bad, or vice versa. I am saying this because of a characteristic of mine that I always thought was positive or was one of those 90% good and just a little bit bad cases. But today I think it is more of something mostly bad. I am like “Rodrigo Hilbert” (a famous person in Brazil known for doing everything). I make the fishing rod and the hook, catch the fish, make the flavoring, build the oven, make the fire, bake the fish, and make the bamboo cutlery (I actually did it once, when we went on a little family adventure and forgot to take the spoon to the children's lunch). And at the end, I still wash the dishes. And that's bad because I do everything, and I can't be an expert in one area.

Having multiple skills is a good thing, maybe great, right?! But it can also be a bad thing and a huge waste of time and focus. Like the duck, which swims, flies and walks, but does nothing perfectly. I am the duck, or the generalist guy, while the world says we should specialize in something.

I like to do a lot of different tasks, and everything at the same time. I have a thousand ideas, and sometimes I want to run them all together. I am doing something, in the middle, I have an idea, then I start doing this other idea, and in the middle, another idea comes up, which I also have to start because I don't want to leave it for later, and in the end, I started a lot of things, but I didn't finish anything. Like now, I was editing photos of an architectural project, while I think about the photos for a painting of a potential client, not forgetting the to-do list of building my house, and in the middle of it all, without having finished anything, I decided to stop to write this text.

I know right now I am at the height of madness of having dozens of different things running at the same time. After all, I resumed my role as the engineer responsible for a major renovation of a house that is in the final phase of construction, while I am executing my house, where in addition to the role of owner and responsible engineer, I also assumed the roles of designer-plumber-mason -locksmith-carpenter-carpenter, and I did not want to completely abandon my profession as a photographer or my artist side (which is what is most forgotten, although I have the desire to be what is most in evidence). And in the midst of it all, I can not forget my role as father and husband.

But it is an especially troubling phase. And like every phase, this one will pass too.

Comparisons with others are inevitable, and I envy some photographers-artists who live selling their photos and paintings all over Brazil. But the truth is, I'll never be able to be just one thing, do just one thing, just be the specialist photographer and picture-selling artist. When our house started to be something real, I never thought about just having the house, but about making the house and what goes inside, like the furniture. I myself do what I can. When I think about having this life as a photographer-artist, traveling around and exploring the most exotic corners, I think about making my RV to have a mobile base taking the family along. I'm not thinking about buying it, I am thinking about making it. And I spend hours and hours thinking about every detail, every solution for the features of this RV that may never come true. And that consumes me because then I see that I wasted a lot of time thinking about something that might not happen, at least not in the short term. I spent a lot of time thinking about a distant dream while I have loads of things to do "for yesterday".

And to help, I am still a perfectionist. So, not satisfied with being and doing everything at the same time, I want everything to be perfect. And perfection takes time, a time that is already scarce for me. But if it is to be done anyway, I'd really rather not. And since in the end, I am always going to do it looking for the best, even if it takes more time, the ideas and to-do lists keep piling up. But I have been trying to live in peace with it since I am like that and it is a waste of time-fighting against the nature of things. And that's my nature, to be a guy with multiple facets who like to be an engineer and a photographer at the same time, as well as being an artist-plumber-carpenter-woodworker-electrician-mason-container-house designer--entrepreneur-violin player...

What makes us an expert in something is to seek to do this "something" in the best possible way, dedicating time and study to it, always improving processes and the final result. So, I think I can say that I am an expert at being a generalist. Now enough with the daydreams and I will get back to photo editing =)

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