What’s the Word? Wheelhouse

Writing

I recently heard a speaker encourage the audience members to “specialize or die.” I found this to be a dramatic statement and one to ponder. It made me think of the often-used expression, “in your wheelhouse”, which has come to mean doing something in your particular area of expertise. As an etymology enthusiast, I was curious as to the origin of this expression and found that it has its roots in boating. The wheelhouse is the protected area where the captain can see everything around him and drive the boat safely and effectively. This is the place where he can use the skills and perspective honed in hours of practice to best maneuver the waves.

A related word is bailiwick, hailing from Old English and Latin, meaning a neighborhood or vicinity, and it has come to be used in a similar way to wheelhouse in that it describes a person doing what he or she does best because it’s an area of skill or knowledge in which an individual feels most comfortable.

Rather than languish in a world of mediocre balance, wouldn’t it be refreshing to identify and operate in our wheelhouse most of the time? I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly endorse the intensity of the statement “specialize or die”, but I do long for the confidence to unabashedly proclaim, “THIS is what I’m really good at.”

If there’s freedom, perspective, and possibilities in my wheelhouse, I want to know what my skills are so that I can navigate life with excellence and certainty.

What’s in your wheelhouse and what are you doing with it?

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