The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.


A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

16.1 (Winter 2016)


Generalist & Specialist in Contemporary Professions


Examining Two Possible Strategies for Success Today: Networking vs. “Borderdwelling”
Mark Wegierski

A young person’s decision to specialize in an area that promises to narrow with further advancement or to straddle the intersection of several related areas may well determine his or her professional future.

In this short article, the author would like to offer some strategic, sociology-based advice for persons of any defined, and at least somewhat positive, outlook.

There are probably two main possible strategies for personal success today. These two strategies can be applied both to offline and online environments. Networking is based on trying to achieve success and so-called “standing” in one main community. (The term “community” is used broadly here to mean multifarious types of networks and groupings.) The ultimate goal is to become “leader of the network”. “Borderdwelling”, by contrast, consists of trying to participate in many different communities. This allows one to maintain a degree of independence, and also to not fully identify with the interests of any one community. Indeed, if one identifies too tightly with any one grouping, one may face problems assimilating new knowledge.

There is the importance of what could be called “maintenance of standing” in different communities. Although it takes different forms in different communities, the underlying concept of “standing” is largely the same. Whether we are talking about the “street cred” of rappers or the “authority” of scholars, there is a somewhat similar sense of the person’s opinions and outlooks being held in high esteem by his or her community.

Whereas there are different ways of “proving” oneself before one’s peers, there is nevertheless a highly competitive aspect to all these multifarious endeavors. Persons should be very conscious of the parameters of the competition in which they are participating since, obviously, particular achievements are viewed differently by different communities.

These are some of the communities in which one can participate today: music/lifestyle “tribes”; professional associations/work-related groups; competitive sports organizations; hobby and “fan”-type communities such as those related to role-playing games, historical boardgames, and Star Trek; gender-, ethnic-, and social activism-based “new social movements”; national, regional, local, or ethnic communities; THE ACADEMY, divided into disciplines and sub-disciplines; genre-literature communities (e.g., science-fiction, fantasy); political parties and activist groups; religious groups; the various types of possible fora in THE MEDIA; different fora in cyberspace; ecology, etc.

A listing and systematic identification of the possible communities one could get involved in, combined with an estimation of how suited each of them is to one’s temperament and how far one believes one could advance in them, could be an important method for achieving success. It is important to note that some communities are, to greater or lesser degrees, defined by ascription, a fact that can offer some guidance as to where one can, realistically speaking, get involved.

It is an interesting question whether one can achieve more by seeking to excel in one more-or-less narrowly defined area, or by trying to achieve a little in a large variety of areas. Indeed, what is the best strategy for maximizing a person’s impact on society, politics, and culture?

It should be noted that the amount of effort one puts into different communities must usually vary, as they cannot be seen of equal weight in terms of their impact on society, politics, and culture. A person is always juggling various time commitments and should be wary of an overconcentration of efforts in less germane pursuits.

It might also be noted that, beyond those groups to which one belongs largely by ascription, one should usually try to get involved in those communities for which one feels a defined affinity, not necessarily those that one thinks it merely useful to be a part of. It might be argued, to use Hegel’s terminology, that there is sometimes “a cunning of reason” operating, where even the seemingly most impractical and trivial interests – if passionately, conscientiously, and diligently pursued – can result in considerable social success for the person.

It is interesting to note that these issues have been subject to a great deal of prior philosophical discussion. Schopenhauer believed that a person aspiring to genius should not specialize, whereas Clausewitz by contrast believed that effective commanders, for example, should move in the direction where they achieve success. He believed that, in the 1815 Belgian campaign, Napoleon should have pursued Prussian General Blucher’s defeated forces rather than turn to face new armies. The lesson for the individual is to pursue success in one field, so to speak.

To continue the military analogy, networking is similar to the relationships in a regular “conventional” army, whereas borderdwelling resembles various forms of asymmetric warfare, including psy-ops, guerilla action, ideological persuasion, etc., with individuals doing a bit of many of them.

It is useful to differentiate between these two types of endeavor—networking and borderdwelling. Insofar as one is conscious of these differences, it becomes easier to carry out a strategy that utilizes both approaches. However, most people will probably lean towards one or the other approach. As is the case with asymmetric warfare for weaker or irregular armies, the borderdwelling approach is usually better suited for less influential persons with less popular views.

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian freelance journalist based in Toronto. His research interests in our journal have ranged from political theory and practice to science fiction and popular culture to–most recently–the culture of Poland, his ancestral homeland.