What Lego Bricks Can Teach You about Specialization

I love Legos.

And, chances are, you do too. While it's been a few years since I last picked up a brick, it's hard to forget the hours I spent building cool structures on my own and with my younger brother, Aaron.

Anyone who's spent a few hours building with a friend learns quickly that different people have different Lego building styles ― some like their builds to be as close to perfect as possible with even the tiniest details pristine, and others care less about the quality of the finished product than the quality of the playtime. There's nothing right or wrong with either style, but it's interesting to see how the dynamics differ.

Me and my creative younger brother, Aaron, on a NYC trip in 2019.

As anyone who knows me well can guess, I fell into the former category, and Aaron fell into the latter. I had fewer builds, but produced structures that were more elaborate and detailed. While Aaron, on the other hand, could also pull off complicated builds, he elected for a greater number of smaller, less detailed builds (as he had fewer bricks to put into each build). Again, neither style is "right" and the other "wrong", they're just different.

However, when you go to the extremes of each case, you start to see some discomfort. If you spend all of your time and bricks attempting to perfect one enormous build, it's likely you'll never finish and give up unsatisfied. At the other extreme, building too many structures leaves you with too many builds made up of not enough materials, not nearly detailed enough for imagination or play. The same is true with athletics: it's important to sample different builds (sports) to see what you like building best with your bricks (time), but be wary of using your bricks too liberally in different builds or you won't end up making progress in any of them.

Last week, I made a case for why athletes should sample different sports before settling into the one best suited for them. After publishing it and considering it a week later, I wanted to write this post to show the limitations of my previous advice. Build whatever you want with your bricks of time, but don't spread them too thin.


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Photo Credit: "Lego Bricks" by bdesham is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0