The Philosophical Apprentice

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” Albert Einstein

Going on Offense

I am happy to report a professional success. I have several meetings each week with important senior leaders in my organization. Yesterday my department head came along with me for one of these meetings. As luck would have it I excelled in my presentation and my department head finally got a chance to see first hand what I bring to the department. After the meeting, my department head revealed that he did not know if he could have performed as well as I had done. High praise indeed from a man to whom all thing have been revealed.

It has been nice to bask in the triumph but this morning in my journal I realized that in the course of my previous briefings I’ve been relying on a lot of background knowledge I’ve picked up through the years and I realize that I am fast approaching the limits of my knowledge in this one area of professional expertise. Since these meeting have been developing into quasi academic seminars I am going to have to hit the library.

I’ve decided to undertake this in light of something I picked up from Gordon MacDonald in his book “Ordering Your Private World“. MacDonald writs about what he calls offensive study:

In my earliest years of ministry, when this business of mental growth had not yet become a discipline for me, most of my study  was what I now call defensive study. By that I mean that i studied frantically simply because I had an upcoming sermon to preach or talk to give. An all my study was centered on the completion of that task.

But later I discovered the importance of something I now call offensive study. This is study that has as its objective the gathering of large clusters of information and insight out of which future sermons and talks, books and articles may grow. In the former kind of study, one is restricted to one chosen subject. In the latter, one is exploring, turning up truth and understanding from scores of sources. Both forms of study, offensive and defensive, are necessary in my life.  (pg 163-1640

Actually the more I think about it, my initiative seems more like defensive study, and it may very well be at first, but the trick I think is to anticipate areas that I may have to cover in the future and reconnoiter them, sketching out the key terrain.

I would like to do that with my philosophical studies but I’m just keeping my head above water but eventually I would like to apply the same principle to my academic endeavors. I just might save me a lot of stress.


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