Why Being Well-Rounded Doesn't Matter

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It seems like everywhere you look, society is constantly urging young people to be well-rounded. We feel the pressure to be smart, athletic, artistic, musical, and highly social. However, when you look at people who make history—the thought leaders, social change agents, and legacy-creating individuals—they were not necessarily well-rounded people. Consider Albert Einstein, Alice Walker, Michael Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, and of course, let’s not forget Beyoncé Carter! They identified their passions and talents, shared that gift with the world, and became increasingly skilled and influential through the sharing and mastery of that gift.

Truly great people have a laser focus on what they really love and share their gifts no matter how small the audience. They don’t seek to be well-rounded or, in other words, a “little bit good” at everything. They seek to be outstanding at what they do. They offset a relentless drive to share their ever-unfolding gifts with a sense of balance in their lives.

Balance is different from well-roundedness. Balance means that all your time, energy, and money is not going into one place. For example, a great musician spends many hours a day playing music, but she also spends time with her family and friends, working out, and meditating. If all she did was stay cooped up in the studio playing music, where would she get the inspiration to feed her work? It’s important to take time away from that special gi to make time for other things that bring joy and calm. A balanced life gives you somewhere to go—not to escape the challenges and rewards brought on by being great—but to replenish your mind, body, and spirit so you can continue to be great.

But what if you really are quite good at a lot of different things?

The pitfall of being well-rounded is that you could end up succumbing to a wandering sense of obligation. This is the gifted painter who suffers through an economics class in college not because she is curious about the topic, but because she feels like she’s “supposed to.” Diversity in one’s interests and passions can be helpful in bringing new perspectives and approaches to a situation. However, these diverse interests and passions should organically emerge in the process of pursuing what you really want to do.

Introspection is important to evolving as a person, but don’t put too much focus on improving your weaknesses. Find the opportunities where you shine. Once you discover your gift, abandon well-roundedness for the pursuit of mastering and sharing that gift with the world.


All people have a God-given gift that, if nurtured, would blossom tremendously and change lives. Invest in nurturing and expressing your gift.

What talent or gift are you most proud of?

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for this. I’ve hated the education system for a long time, but I’ve only figured out a few weeks ago that 70% of why is because I don’t want to be well rounded. I want to do what I love, and by that I mean specializing.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.