I have a cherished quote from one of my favorite authors (Robert A. Heinlein), which goes –

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.

I recently toted up my score. Not counting the last two abilites (which I hope to not have to test for a   l o n g   time), I can conservatively give myself a 15 out of 19.  I even was able to parlay this quote, and some of my accomplishments, into a self-promotion (one of my assignment for school).

So now a two-fold challenge for my readers – first, how do you score on Bob Heinlein’s list?  And second, create a list of your own of 20 or so things every competent human should be able to do (and of course, score yourself on it).

Put your lists and scores in the comments.  Think outside of the box – remember, “specialization is for insects.”

3 Responses to “Specialization”

  1. Kathi says:

    Things every competent person should be able to do (in addition to Heinlein’s list):

    Write an essay.

    Write/e-mail/FAX/call or personally contact one’s legislators, senators, congresspersons, city council persons, and other governmental officials about one’s concerns about upcoming legislation or other matters.

    Have one’s say at city council meetings, zoning and planning meetings, and other governmental events that are of concern.


    Drive a car or other vehicle.

    Grow a garden.


    Lend an ear.

    Solve problems.

    Fix/renovate a house or other building.




    “Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.” …in more than just cards.

    Make and keep friends.

    Know when to cut them loose.

    Know how to love appropriately.

    Know how to “kiss” a “boo-boo”.

    Know how to listen actively.

    Support one’s self.

    Be a steward to the environment.

  2. theAuthor says:

    Let me just add that I know “Kathi”, and from personal experience can say that she can (does) do everything on her list – 21 out of 21.

    More lists and self-scores, please!

  3. marsimbel says:

    Diaper – check, several times over
    Invasion – I play chess, Stratego, Risk, etc. Does that count?
    Butcher – seen it done on TV, could look at a reference book while wielding a cleaver
    Ship – powerboat, ok. No windsail experience.
    Design – to architectural spec? I can scribble w/ the best of them.
    Sonnet – I’d have to review the metric/rhyme schemes I learned in 11th grade Creative Writing class
    Balance – yes, wouldn’t even need a calculator
    Wall – what materials? would probably do ok w/ wood, mud, brick, but not expert
    Set bone – even though I have expert medical knowledge
    & skillz, this one is trickier than it looks. In extremis, I can splint most fractures but not much beyond that.
    Comfort dying – done that (reluctantly)
    Take/give orders – yes (taking is much easier)
    Cooperate/act alone – both yes
    Equations – I’ve done quadratic equations but would need review to tackle them again.
    Analyze – yes, the trick then is to convince others that your analysis is valuable!
    Manure – literal or figurative? I’ve also baled hay.
    Program – I’ve used BASIC w/ some success, I bow to the master for anything more complex.
    Cook – of all the things on the list, the one I do best and most often
    Fight – nope. I’m a lover, not a fighter.
    Die – ??????????

    Score: depends on your criteria of accomplishment

    Love Kathi’s suggestions; won’t try to score myself against all those.

    Rouse the rabble.
    Disappear into a crowd.
    Trust in the abilities and good intentions of those who don’t necessarily deserve it.
    Suspect and question the abilities and intentions of those whose qualifications are assumed to be good.
    Explain & defend a common cultural myth (Santa, Tooth Fairy, Elvis, etc.) to a small child, not just the story but the universal truth it is meant to convey.
    Negotiate all levels of a bureaucracy.
    Go straight to the top banana.

    still thinking of more, will keep you updated….