This past week as I took an evening stroll with my maker-in-training teenage daughter we stumbled up the topic of what most would call the ‘impostor syndrome’. She, like myself, have a plethora of interests. They run the gambit from woodworking to embedded electronics, from cosplaying to drawing. However, she feels like she is not really great at any of her interests. A notion compounded by the nearly endless number of YouTube or Twitch channels of more advanced makers.

To attempt to assuage her fears I did what all parents attempt to do; feign some degree of wisdom and repeat as many cliches as possible that I have collected over nearly four decades of earthly existence.

My first “pearl” was the idea of the specialist versus generalist.

I explained how some of us train to train to become proficient in one or few skill sets; the specialist. Other of us dabble in many different skill areas without gaining mastery in most.

My second pearl was the concept of the warehouse brain versus the factory. We have been working on her ability to manage her time and stay organized. Needless to say, her brain is much more a factory brain than it is the warehouse brain. That is to say that people with a warehouse brain are great at rote memorization of details without the need for tools such as lists and notebooks. They are able to give history and context to current events. Juxtaposed with the factory brain that is the more creative. It is a brain that takes inputs, processes them, and create new things. Be it art, products, or services. Both types of brains are important to a functioning society and even as a successful individual. Therefore, a person with a more creative factory brain may need to use a notebook or app for tracking tasks and reminders. Conversely, a person with a stronger predilection for the warehouse brain will have to work on their creativity by engaging in activities such as “Yes, then” improvisation, engaging in doodling or fictional writing, or finding a group of creative individuals to engage with.

I strived to emphasized there is no right or wrong way, or that one way is superior to the other. Indeed it is desirable to balance being a generalist and specialist as well as the pros and cons of the warehouse and the factory brains.

I ended though by stating I too, even unto this day, have my fair share of self-doubt. That’s okay because it keeps the firey passion of learning and experimenting well-stoked. Learning is, and should always be a lifetime endeavor.

Photo courtesy of Magda Ehlers (