Emma Duffy / Gavel Media

Happiness Wins the Battle of Renaissance Man vs. Genius

Leonardo Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man. He was considered to be a genius in the realms of painting, sculpting, science, architecture, etc. Clearly, he truly could do it all. However, is it possible for non-geniuses to achieve the status of Renaissance man or woman? Is it better to specialize in one specific trade or to be adequate in many?

Children are encouraged to have a wide variety of interests and achievements in order to be attractive candidates for colleges. In high school, the kids who were considered truly smart and successful were the ones involved in many organizations. Having a multitude of activities listed on one’s Common App easily became a measure of success. We live in a society that values those who are well-versed and well-rounded.

Is this healthy? Is it better to spread oneself thin and be mediocre at many activities, or to choose one extracurricular at which to excel?

Here at BC, it seems as if everyone is involved in at least five different clubs or service pursuits. I know people who have to plan meals days ahead of time because of schedule restraints. Being involved in several different clubs or organizations on campus because of real, genuine interest is commendable. Pursuing previous interests and finding new ones is what college is for. BC's mission states that we should be men and women for others, which often requires being well versed in many different areas.

On the flip side, it often seems that the people who truly excel in one specific trade are more highly regarded than those who dabble in many. They are able to master their craft and move far past those who have spread themselves too thin. While this is all too true, extreme success in one activity or club is a double-edged sword. Being successful at one thing may limit us from finding other talents and pursuing other interests. If a person is a great dancer they may believe that dancing is the only thing they can do. This logic can become a box that is difficult to break out of.

Truthfully, I don’t have the answer to which method is better. Being great at a single activity or adequate at many both have the possibility to breed success.

There is an immense amount of pressure to be the best in the most activities and pursuits here at BC. Why can’t success in an organization be measured by a person’s passion for its purpose? It’s easy to become swept into thinking that in order to be successful one has to be a Renaissance man, or a genius in one specific subject, but I disagree with that idea.

If I am passionate and care about the eight different clubs I am in, it shouldn’t matter if I meet the measure of success set by somebody else. I think everyone would be happier if they stopped trying to meet other people’s standards of success and simply pursued their own interests at their own paces, however numerous and bizarre those interests may be.