Written by Nathan Rudolph
“When am I ever gonna use this?”
That is one of my students’ favorite questions. Often, this question is an attempt to avoid a topic that the student finds challenging. Sometimes, though, the question is genuine. In this increasingly fast-paced world, many assignments can seem like wastes of time, especially if a student already has strong interests and dislikes. However, being well-rounded provides students with advantages in many areas of their lives—in their day-to-day activities and as they face new and complex challenges in the future.
From the outset, it is easy to show that grasping higher skills requires an even stronger grasp of fundamental skills. Algebra requires knowledge of arithmetic. Grammar requires an understanding of how words function. Programming requires familiarity with how to navigate computers. For example, even though an actuary has high-level software assisting him as he evaluates financial risk for companies, it behooves him to know arithmetic thoroughly; otherwise, he’ll rely too heavily on his software and may overlook simple errors. In the professional world, employers are looking for employees with broad understandings, people who can address a variety of issues.
In all organizations, communication between various departments is crucial no matter how specialized each department is. This often requires overlapping knowledge among the employees. Consequently, students should be aware of the benefit of having knowledge of subjects that are not directly related to their desired career goals. Math interplays with many subjects: chemistry, physics, accounting, and music, for example. Language skills are required in situations where communication skills are necessary. Any discipline that requires rote memorization prepares the mind for other such menial but necessary tasks. Devoting some energy to the visual arts gives an individual a sense of space, color, and general aesthetics, which lends itself heavily to the fields of advertising, interior design, architecture, and other creative fields. Reading literature enables a writer/speaker to stretch and strengthen his grasp on words and, consequently, his ability to express himself vividly and clearly.
Furthermore, having variegated skills allows people to analyze information more accurately and adapt more easily. At first glance, some students may think of the scientific method as suited only for an experiment or research project. However, these steps can be effectively applied in many areas of life. Using its format to approach situations in general allows an individual to make conclusions confidently and explain his or her position convincingly. Art is a discipline that helps individuals develop perseverance and intuition, which are invaluable skills for overcoming many challenges.
One of the most difficult obstacles people face on a daily basis is a simple lack of familiarity. A lack of familiarity with basic math skills may paralyze a shopper who is trying to calculate a discount or make change. A lack of familiarity with cars fills most motorists with panic when something goes wrong. The list goes on. Having a wide array of skills allows one to respond to a wider spectrum of problems. As the old adage goes, a jack of all trades and master of none is better than a master of one.
Not only does a broader spectrum of skills allow us to adapt, but it also allows us to innovate. Many successful people have fostered opportunities in unexpected places. Nick Offerman—most notably famous for his role as Ron Swanson in the series Parks and Recreation—is a carpenter. It would be hard to say which occupation lends itself to the other: Many of the episodes in Parks and Recreation orbit around Ron Swanson’s woodwork, and it’s safe to say that Offerman’s fame from the TV series has attracted business for his woodworking. J. R. R. Tolkien—the renowned author of The Lord of the Rings—created his own fictional languages, “Elvish” being the most popular example. It has been said that he created his languages first and then crafted stories to fit them. Tolkien’s constructed languages are one of the many attributes that make his writing so distinguished. Bruce Lee—one of the most iconic figures in the martial arts—was pulled into making movies because of that very prowess. To this day, it is difficult to separate his talent as an actor from his proficiency as a martial artist.
Whether you’re looking for a creative outlet, trying to further your opportunities at work, or seeking to further your education, broadening your interests will only broaden your horizons.
photo credit (2nd photo): sfupamr