The Pro-generalist

“Life without change is boring.”

I recently came across the concept of the pro-generalist, someone who excels at numerous sports but isn’t quite a professional in any one activity. Mammoth and Bishop are teeming with them (I may even be so bold and say ‘us’). The 5.12 climbers in the spring who become fantastic triathletes in the summer and probably teach yoga or jiu jitzu on the side before they start winter back country skiing or boarding down treacherous chutes and ravines. These incredible athletes are not quite “pros” at any one sport, because to get to that level you have to focus and sacrifice other activities to perfect that chosen life path. The pros lose some fun and freedom for fame. Our society idolizes the pro-athletes, but what about the equally impressive pro-generalist? There is no decent living wage for someone who shines at a lot of sports, but there’s plenty of sponsors if you’re a superlative: The best freeskier, the fastest marathoner, the strongest, etc.

Why is our culture so obsessed with –‘ests‘? When someone asks who you are and you respond with a one word answer (doctor, environmentalist, mother) think of how much you’re limiting yourself. It’s time to return to the celebration of the Renaissance person who can cook good meals, run in the morning, bike during lunch, climb after work, configure a GPS  before dinner for the upcoming backpacking trip and fix a bike tire all within a  24 hour period. Those are the people I would choose to be stuck on a desert island with, or a desert in general. Say, isn’t Bishop a…


4 thoughts on “The Pro-generalist

  1. Woohoo… let’s hear it for (what I would call) the “achievers!”. I understand surfing, love snowboarding, dabbled in climbing (5.12 is a bit of a stretch), can survive mountain bike riding, enjoy a good hike, appreciate all other sports, and can cook the sh@t out of a nice piece of salmon. I’ve “achieved” greatness within my circle of good friends, and have yet to become sponsored. I’d happily skip the they paycheck to keep what I hold most important… which is you, my friends!

  2. So very true. I would like to offer this definition of a rennaisance person: “a learned person (especially in the humanities); someone who by long study has gained mastery in one or more disciplines.”

    So though some Renaissance people don’t fall into your category of pro-generalists, please don’t count out those of us who don’t hike, bike, ski, climb or run everything in sight, but still include ourselves as people of broad interests like painting, reading, dancing, music, writing, hiking, conversation and generally having a fascination with and openness to learning. For me, it’s Jack of All Trades, Master of None. That opens up the world, no limits.

    On another note, as always, I am proud of you and all you do.

    XOXO me

  3. I’m definitely a proponent of the dabblers. That’s a large part of why Geography works so well for me. The planet is a big place with lots of aspects to investigate and as long as they’re somehow a place, space, or time… it’s geography! It does also lead to a feeling of being qualified for everything and nothing at the same time though. I do love knowing a LOT about a few topics and a little about a LOT of other topics. It’s a fun way to be. :->

  4. Awhile ago at a party were I only knew a hand full of people somebody asked me what I did and I replied: “I play soccer, surf, bike ride, run, hike, snowboard, climb, do yoga, travel as much as possible and enjoy life as much as I can” I purposefully left out the answer to their question because I do more then a job.

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