Less

This Harvard Business Review piece "The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" is an interesting piece, and I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with it depending on how I approach it. I approached this article as a professor, thinking about students I see year in and year out.

I'm circumspect about any advice to students about focusing too precisely to the exclusion of thinking and learning broadly. Many art degrees are so completely obsessed with such a highly prescribed laundry list of courses/concepts/skills, that the degrees leave little to no room for student exploration outside a narrow set of acceptable tolerances that were set out by the professors. I get very few students from the more traditional art disciplines in my own media art classes. This is partially because they can't fit any spare credits into (what I see as) an overprescribed degree. But it's also partially because art classes that don't physically meet for hours and hours in a studio where students execute their work don't count as art.

(Film, media, new media profs, think about this. It's bananas. I'll write more about that separately, because the accreditation industry has created this bizarre hegemonic structure that allows our disciplines to be treated as second rate in many schools, ghettoized and kept away from students who could really get a lot out of our classes. But why? I've got theories. And it's not because they don't think we are real artists. Okay, some of it may be that.)

So, this "disciplined pursuit of less" is bad? Too much obsessive focus?

Well, there's the other problem. I get a lot of students who double major in art and something. And the something isn't anything they're interested in, it's always something their parents have decided is more "marketable." They're double majoring, sometimes with an additional minor. Or one major and three minors. And the reasoning is always the same... "I'll be more attractive with more stuff on the degree," or "if what I want most doesn't work out, I'll have all this other stuff."

Look, if you love turf management then you should do it. Why not? But very few of these folks are able to devote the time necessary to really make a kickass portfolio, because they're so busy doing everything they have to do to just graduate with these insane multi-major programs of study.

Something in between a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none and master-of-one-trade-but-unable-to-adapt would be a good goal in the early twenties, right?