Jack of All Trades
David Friedman has an interesting post that leads off with this quote from novelist Robert Heinlein:
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, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
David goes on to mention a lot of skills he has that are like some of the above or that are simply general skills that he finds useful.
Here’s how I rate on the above.
Change a diaper. Been there, done that many times. The startup cost to learn it again would be very low.
Plan an invasion. I don’t know if I could; I’ve never tried. I’ve planned a few “political invasions,” that is, using very limited resources to conduct and, in most cases, win on a ballot initiative.
Butcher a hog. No; I think I would do a bad job.
Conn a ship. Does running a pontoon boat count?
Design a building. Design? Maybe. Would it be any good? I don’t know.
Write a sonnet. Yes.
Balance accounts: Absolutely. I used to do it to the penny.
Build a wall. If it were made of stone, then I can say that my brother and I did it when I was about 12.
Set a bone. I don’t know.
Comfort the dying. Yes, I’ve done it.
Take orders. Yes.
Give orders. Yes.
Act alone. Yes.
Solve equations. Oh yes.
Analyse a new problem. Yes.
Pitch manure. If pitching human manure (I dug out all the crap under our outdoor toilet at my cottage when I was 14) counts, then yes.
Program a computer. Sadly, no. Although I think I did some basic stuff on a Compaq back in 1985.
Cook a tasty meal. Absolutely.
Fight efficiently. I know the principles. Would I put them into action if push came to shove? (Pun intended.) Maybe time will tell (but hopefully time won’t tell.)
Die gallantly. Yes. When I was on a flight that I was pretty sure would crash in Monterey in about 1995, I calmly took out my credit card, stuck it in the slit, called home, told my daughter to get her mother on the phone, and prepared to say goodbye to both of them and remind Rena where the life insurance documents were filed. Then the captain thought better of it and turned around to go back to San Fran. I was amazed at how calm I was.