Rather Than Learning A Few Things Perfectly, Learn Many Things Well

itemThis post is an elaboration of #4 from a list of things I learned early in life.


First a disclaimer. I have an eccentric personality to a notable degree. This post may not apply to you. It is my enjoyment of risk, my lack of envy, my passion to learn, and a yearning for change that all converge into the extreme dilettantism I am promoting here.

Take the number of different types of jobs you’ve work for more than a year. Multiply that by the number of real hobbies you’ve pursued for more than a year. Multiply that by the number of relationships you’ve been in more than a year. Multiply that by the number of residences you’ve lived in. Divide all this by your age.

This is your dilettantian score. © Phil Stilwell 2009 ;)

Here’s the simplified formula.
({job types > 1y} x {hobbies > 1y} x {relationships > 1y} x {residences}) / {age}

Most Japanese my age should score around 1.

I scored 476.

Now the only question that remains is whether 476 is a number to be proud of.

When I look back on my life, I honestly cannot think of anything I’d change. I sometimes mull the mistakes I made that brought on painful experiences, but I now highly value the memory of that pain. Other times I wonder what life might have been like had I not lived a very rural life until my 30s. However, my numerous and varied experiences make me the odd guy I am today. And I enjoy being an oddity.

Most of all I enjoy change. Once I learn something to a satisfactory degree, I’m bored and move on to the next experience. As one example, I used to play and teach piano. I was not actually very good at it, but I did have a few fans of the jazz style I developed. However, I have played very little over the past 10 years in Tokyo, and have replaced piano with photo art as my creative outlet.

It is the sum of these experiences that have produced the confidence I have in my ability to find happiness in nearly any situation. Remove me from Tokyo with only the clothes on my back, drop me in any location in the world, and within a month I’m (overly?) confident I’ll have constructed an exciting new life.

Many of my friends have worked the same job for years, and seem quite content with the long-term hobbies they are now experts in. Some are happily married to their high-school sweethearts, and have lived in only a handful of locations. Many of them excel in their careers to a point of perfection. There is certainly virtue in the ability to focus once in a while.

However, as my mother used to say “I’ve got ants in my pants.” I’m trying to pack in as much as life as possible before I call it wraps. I do feel a bit guilty about not taking life as soberly as some suppose I should, but I just can’t think of anything better than life to take euphorically.

Once again, unless you have a similar personality and outlook on life, you might want to get in a slower lane. You’ll probably get better gas mileage, and enjoy some of the scenery I’ve miss due to my lack of focus. But that new town up ahead looks too inviting for me to dilly-dally. See ya.


I’d be very interested in seeing your dilettantian score. Simply post it in the comments box.


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3 thoughts on “Rather Than Learning A Few Things Perfectly, Learn Many Things Well

  1. Andrew says:

    Is that possible? Generously assuming you have had one job, one relationship, and two hobbies at a time, each for precisely one year of your life, excluding the residences, that would equal 4. So 476 / 4 = 119. You’ve lived in 119 different places? Is that right? If it is, I’m surprised you could keep count. I’m quite curious as to what those specific numbers are.

    Mine is

    (1 job) x (anywhere from 2 to 4 hobbies? not sure) x (2 relationships) x (birthplace + hometown + college + 3 places in same city + new place I’m about to move into) / (almost 24 years) = anywhere from 0.5 to 2.33, depending on how you count it.

  2. Andrew says:

    Oh my goodness, my math has been horrendous of late. Those are multiplication signs, not addition signs. Never mind.

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