On Dabbling

The world usually rewards people of perseverance, those who stick to one thing, master it, or are just lucky to find what they are good at, and then proceed to excel in it. I am, on the other hand, driven in the opposite direction – far be it for me to spend all my time perfecting one thing. No, I am a self-confessed dabbler.

For me, life is too short to spend it all on one thing. In fact, I find a day is too short to spend it on one thing. I tend to read about ten books at a time, all of them in various stages. Quite understandably, I have a huge collection of bookmarks!

My eating habits are also those of a dabbler. I rarely eat the usual numbers of square meals a day. My consumption function appears to be more of a random walk, nibble here and there, and sometimes a binge. No steady diet for me.

Living a well-structured life is detrimental to dabbling. People who plan their next day by thinking through it and making a list the previous day will make poor dabblers. A true dabbler will, on the other hand, wake up in the morning, and ask – “So, what should I do today, if anything?” I don’t mean that I may not teach a class if I am to do so, but its more that, outside of the few hours of regimen, life seems wide open to possibility. The core of the dabbler mentality lies in placing trust in random-walking through life.

Being a dabbler is pretty hard-wired into one’s psyche. You cannot take someone with good discipline and turn them easily into dabblers, nor should you. There is a purpose to everyone born with organized habits and routines. Books are written about these people, such “The Organized Life” and so on. But no book has been written about the benefits of the dabbler ethic, presumably because we have exercised social value judgments and agreed that the dabbler is the root source of much of what ails us. Dabblers have been labelled as people with ADD/ADHD, when what it really was is a heightened sense of curiosity, one that does not need satiation but just one that needs constant feeding. Dabblers are not people who lack concentration – dabblers are simply people who need to act on every random thought that comes along.

What good is a dabbler then? Dabblers see connections between things, which does not always happen when we are too focused on something to the exclusion of much else. Dabblers seem to have deeply internalized the wisdom that the entire world is closely connected, and by foraging widely, these connections will come to light.

Dabblers are more likely to be open-minded, as they are naturally receptive to alternative ways of looking at things. They are hard-wired to tune into hundreds of frequencies, easily switching between them as often as necessary.

Dabblers are less likely to want to protect their turf. This is an easy virtue, for a dabbler does not have a turf. The question of protecting it does not really arise. There is a smug satisfaction in claiming all the world as one’s own stage.

If you know you are a dabbler, make time for your gift. I take a day off every week to make sure I give my habit the time it deserves. It pays off handsomely on the days I do not goof off. I am fresh with ideas, drummed up in dabbling model.

Every now and then, life conspires to sorely test even the die-hard, seasoned dabbler. Life demandingly asks for undivided focus on a single task. And it is in these moments that the true dabbler shows his colors, by refusing to cave in and dabble on regardless.

Dabblers of the world unite! Oops, I forgot, dabblers are defined out from doing that!


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