Casting your net far, wide and shallow

• ~500 words • 2 minute read

This post is part of a pre-written, 3-part, automated series with no particular focus while I'm out of town for a wedding this weekend, in a desperate attempt to continue blogging once every day.

On more than one occasion I've been told I "Know a little about a lot." It's a dangerous thing to be prideful of, but I kind of hang my hat on it. I marvel at specificity, deep knowledgeability and expertise. But, to me, there are too many interesting things out there to not try and touch them all. It comes from the same place that drives me to change my daily walks and routines ever-so-slightly, to constantly seek new ground even where you might not expect there to be any.

Superficial knowledge of things is dangerous if you try to play-it-off as something more than it is, but if you're honest with yourself (and others) about your limits I think there's a lot to get out of it. I've found I can strike-up a conversation with just about anyone. I'm reminded of a Werner Herzog quote —

"I'm not an interviewer. I have conversations. And I know the heart of men. I know it because I have had fundamental experiences like traveling on foot. The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. You're unprotected and have to talk to people to ask them to fill your canister because there's no creek for dozens of miles. You really learn what men are all about."

I love that quote. Every piece of it. I love it even more now that I know it in its entirety :-)

Case in point: I had not actually memorized that quote. I recalled it anecdotally, particularly the phrase "I know the heart of men." In my memory he'd told a story about sitting around with a group of people and how he could tell just by looking at their hands whether or not they milked cows. In this story he pointed at the person and said "I can tell you are a dairy farmer!" and he was right. And perhaps he followed this up with "I know the hearts of men." I cannot recall, precisely. But this other quote about the heart of men captures the spirit of the thing.

Knowing little about a lot can help in conversations and it can also help professionally. I've managed to land a gig with a hearing-loss prevention organization because of relatively shallow knowledge about binaural microphones because one of my favorite bands used one to record an album once and I happened to already know what tinnitus was. That was probably the most memorable one but there have been other over the years.