I have been introduced to a whole slew of blogs that I have been oblivious too for a while now. Really smart voices with great things to say. I will be linking to them shortly.
One of these voices is Devi, the Danforth Villiage Witch. In a comment to Frater R.O.'s recent post here she makes a point about competence and mastery that is really important. In this context she is referring to a list of core competencies she recommends people develop before doing conjure work. I agree with her on all these. Some people may be put off because they want to start doing goetia right out of the gate, and feel that they would need to spend years on all these skills first. This of course is not the case. Honestly with a strong work ethic, a complete newbie could develop competency in all of these within a month or so. Mastery would take much much longer, and as Frater R.O. correctly points out, conjuration could actually help in this.
This concept of competence and mastery is important for all magicians. I would add perfection as a third stage. You can take almost any discipline and make it your life's work. A lot of people who follow one magical system only are very critical of those that interface with more than one. They claim that unless they devote their lives to the one system they will never understand it. This is false.
There is a rule that comes out of economics, which has been noted to hold true for almost everything. Its called the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. The idea as far as economics goes is important because when you examine a business, you often find that 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the customers. 80% of the sales, also tend to be generated by a different 20% of the clients. When you start looking for it you see this everywhere. 80% of the flowers in a garden tend to be generated by 20% of the seeds that you put down etc.
When you are learning skills this is an important rule to keep in mind. Tim Ferris has pointed out that 20% of a languages vocabulary will enable you to understand 80% of what is said in that language, and 20% of the moves in a given sport will account for 80% of what is actually played.
In almost any discipline, there is a point that you reach where you experience diminishing returns for time spent working on it. Ferris notes that there is about a 5% difference between someone who has spent 2 years learning Japanese diligently and someone who has studied for ten years at a the slower pace that lifelong devotees take.
In my own study of Tibetan Buddhism I spent five years doing that and only that. By exploiting an already existing personal connection with a Lama, and using interpersonal skills to interview teachers directly and get them to talk about things that they normally do not, I was able to learn more in those five years than most people learn in 20. There are certain aspects of it that I have mastered, others that I am competent in. I have chosen one particular discipline that I want to perfect in this life*. Others, I am not willing to devote the time to perfecting because of those diminishing returns.
I think the world is far too specialized. To quote RAW, "specialization is for insects". Specialization gives a kind of tunnel vision that makes you an occasionally useful resource to those of us with a more general knowledge base, but often cuts you off from a bigger vision. You will note that most CEO's are not specialists, but generalists who have access to specialists when they need them. It takes the generalist with competency in a wide variety of disciplines, and mastery of a few of those to see the interconnectedness necessary to make a company run.
Growing up in Jackson NJ, I encountered a Rosicrucian, a Rootworker, a Witch, and a Ngakpa who were all willing to mentor me to one degree or another. All within 10 miles of my home and all before I turned 21. Because of this general exposure I am able to see certain patterns that a specialist in any one of these disciplines probably cannot. I am not saying that being a jack of all trades is better than being perfect in one. I am saying that the world needs both, and that people should understand the role of each.