Before being housebound by the coronavirus, I stopped at our local bagel shop every Friday morning. I ordered the same thing: a toasted onion bagel with lox and chive cream cheese. Waiting for my order, I would watch the salesclerk, and, at some point, I became fascinated by the automatic bagel slicer. The store clerk inserted a whole bagel in the upper end of the enclosed metal chute, and the bagel came out the bottom end perfectly sliced in two pieces. I’ve always wanted to operate that machine. It has only one and only one purpose and can’t be used for anything else. Its design is engineered to accommodate the length and depth of a single bagel. An orange or a baguette would come out mangled. Nothing else will fit into the canister.
By contrast, a bread knife is extremely versatile. It can slice a baguette, tomatoes, roasts, fruit, vegetables, and even a bagel. I have two. I don’t know why or how I wound up with two, but there are two in the knife block on the kitchen counter. I don’t favor one over the other or use one to slice one type of food and the other to slice another. I use them interchangeably and choose one depending on which hand reaches out.
A bow maker and restorer had his shop on the corner of Lawrence and Polk in “uptown” Port Townsend, Washington. I don’t mean an archery bow; I mean a musical bow used to play the violin, viola, or a cello. The store window displayed bows of varying sizes, lengths, and materials. Inside, diagrams of bow designs and measurements hung on the wall. Gazing through the window, I could see the master bow maker bent over a worktable, configuring his next project. Bows were his specialty. Bows were the only product he sold. One might sell for more than $10,000. He worked on nothing else. Because his work was so specialized and the bows were made to order, he rarely had customers in the store.
By contrast, a musical instrument store was located down the hill, farther down on Lawrence. It sold a variety of instruments, mostly acoustic. Instruments, some gleaming metals, others have beautiful woods, were suspended from the ceiling, hung on the walls, standing on the floor, and displayed in glass cabinets, leaving barely enough room for customers. There were rooms in the rear of the store where music emanated by students learning to play an instrument. The place was a constant hubbub of activity and people.
Okay, thanks for being patient. I’ll get to the point.
I’ve always wondered whether specializing in one field is better than having a broader overview of several areas and seeing how they can function better as a unit, such as a violinist versus a symphony conductor.
Before retirement, my career in finance, a rather one-dimensional view of the business world. I was a highly trained professional with a single focus and viewpoint in fulfilling my job responsibilities; some might say I was unswerving. There was some leeway in terms of methodologies and approaches available to me, which allowed for some creativity, but it was a narrow leeway. To compensate for this singular focus, I engaged in hobbies, home repairs, and social activities.
Now in retirement, I have taken a broader swipe at life, engaging in a wide variety of activities. I am learning to fly a plane. I volunteer at a community theater in the production department. Until recently, my wife and I have continued our travel excursions. I am taking piano, creative writing, and art history instructions. And for good measure, I am enjoying every minute.
– Joe from Arizona, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (FAR) LLC