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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Heinlein on being a talented generalist

I recently met Ed McNierney, and in talking about being good at a variety of things, he brought up the quote below. I thought it was a perfect way to describe the startup mentality. Bonus points for sci-fi.

"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, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

- Robert A. Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love

A startup marketer should be able to change an email template, plan a street event, butcher crappy product copy, conn a conference call, write an e-book, balance engineer-speak and English, build a financial forecast, set a KPI, comfort customers, take criticism, give criticism, cooperate, be a self-starter, solve social media gripes, analyze databases, pitch journalists, program a blog layout, cook up campaigns, fight for brand consistency, die after a 4-hour night of sleep. Specialization is for squares.


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