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Have different jobs, practice sports and hobbies, developing a side business, whether lucrative or not, caring for other people, volunteering, preparing meals, maintaining the home, etc. ..... The reality of our lives shows that we are generalists with a few specialties that are more developed and and valued in society. In the 30 years that our networks have been expanding on a scale scale, the complexity of our lives necessarily calls for more versatility than ever.

Having a specialized and sought-after expertise is a recognized advantage, but being able to manage in several fields allows us to face the unexpected with more with more confidence and without worry. As the world becomes more complex we specialize in more than one area, but as we often find, specializations age quickly and only useful at particular times or in particular contexts. It is difficult to cook rice with a laser or console a child with an excel file. The Cobol programming teacher had to specialize in something else as well as the muslin maker for ruffles or the or the factory worker replaced by a robot.

The most common compromise is to have a generic training in several specialties, even if it means keeping up to date in the most sought-after through ad hoc training. At the heart of versatility is generic training: science, culture, philosophy, music, etc. Popularizers necessarily have a broad cultural background. Some professions, such as politics or front-line health care, clearly require a high degree of versatility in order to last.

Mastering a specialty sometimes leads to a prison where we are only asked to practice that one without participating in the whole, a legacy of Taylorism. One is often better at being versatile, able to deal with many situations and to control one's environment without being limited by one's specialty. Those who change careers have been able to develop their their abilities and interests in more than one field. In addition those who have many interests are less likely to be depressed: two things can go wrong, it's nothing when ten others go right, but seem dramatic when there are only those two. When everything revolves around a single interest (video games, work, money, children, appearance) the world ends at the first slip.

The school has to encourage generic training; specialties come and go soon enough. Long live versatility.

Happy reading!

Denys Lamontagne - [email protected]

Illustration: DepositPhotos - photography33

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