insect pioneer skyrocket
attack navigate science fiction
design spare (2) appliance
tasty industry approach (2)
gadget overload concentrate
fraction advances outsource
double specialize impossible
field (2) anticipate master (2)
narrow keep up imperative
layman unaware appendicitis
lawn obsolete general practitioner
league algorithm proliferation
bone fracture copywriting
afford remodel out of my league
hire spring up accomplished
mow digestion distasteful
focus hopeless Renaissance


By Robbie Blythe


The great science fiction pioneer Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) wrote that “Specialization is for insects. A human being should be able fight off an attacker, navigate a ship, design a building, write a book, start and run a business, build a house, invent gadgets, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fix machines and appliances.”

Information Overload

I cannot do most of the items on Heinlein’s list. A much better approach is to concentrate on your area, field or industry, and outsource all the rest to others.


What Heinlein and others did not anticipate was how the amount of information and technological advances has skyrocketed.

Today knowledge doubles every 12 months. It is impossible to master even a small fraction of what there is to know. No one can keep up with every field — or even new developments in their own (single) field.


It is therefore imperative that you specialize. And the narrower your specialty, the better.

Here’s a real life example.

Gastrointestinal Science

Recently, scientists developed a new test to determine whether a person has appendicitis.

When I called our gastroenterologist to arrange to have this test, he said he hadn’t heard of it. This was the biggest development in his field, and he was unaware of it. Meanwhile I, a layman, found it in 20 seconds using Google.

If a gastro expert can’t stay current with new treatments and tests regarding digestion, a general practitioner probably cannot either.


In my field, copywriting (advertising, marketing and promotional writing), new technology and business concepts have caused a proliferation of methods and techniques that no one person can fully keep up with.

Google changes its algorithms so frequently — and without warning — that any book on SEO (search engine optimization) is obsolete before it is even published. The same with social media, where new networks spring up almost weekly.


Outside of copywriting, I’m hopelessly lost.

I don’t know how to treat a bone fracture . . . but I do not need to know. That’s what doctors and emergency rooms are for.

Likewise, planting flowers, fixing a computer, and remodeling a room are way out of my league.

Am I missing anything by not knowing how to do them?

Not really, because I am already an expert at something: with a university degree in biochemistry and understand of this area, I do copywriting for the pharmaceutical industry.

I can’t do much else. But copywriting alone has provided a very good living for me and my family.

Menial Tasks

Also, part of my personal definition of “success” is not having to do things I don’t want to do.

For the record, in my 30-plus years as a homeowner, I have never mowed my lawn, painted the house or washed the car, instead hiring others to do these jobs, so I can focus on being an accomplished copywriting.

The reality is that the age of the Renaissance Man is over — and the age of the specialist is here.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Humans and insects are different. What is the difference between humans and insects?

2. What is a widespread attitude regarding people?

3. Is it possible to be a generalist (an expert in many domains) in the modern world?

4. Does the writer give an example of this? What example does the writer give?

5. There are many experts on SEO who knows everything about online success. True or false?

6. According to the writer, is there a shame about not being able to repair a car or computer?

7. People should try to be independent and do everything themselves: cook, clean, gardening, decorating, etc. Yes or no?


A. In your school, do the teacher and books praise versatile, multi-geniuses?

B. I know people who only do one thing and outsource or hire others to do everything else. Yes or no?

C. Do you have friends or colleagues who do everything themselves, i.e. fix their car, computer, oven, remodel and redecorate their houses?

D. Do you agree with the writer that people should focus and specialize in only one area?

E. People’s skills, specialties and interests change over time. What do you think?

F. What will happen in the future?

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