Why I Want To Be A “Jack Of All Trades”

jack of all trades

According to Wikipedia, The phrase “jack of all trades” has been around since the 1600’s. It was originally a compliment to someone for their knowledge in many areas.

However, at some point an additional line, “master of none” was added to give a negative connotation to the individual being referred to.

Fortunately, those two phrases together were extended further to create a rhyming couplet which went:

Jack of all Trades… Master of None…
Tho’ oft
n times better… Than master of one.

Below is an excerpt of an article I found on blog written in 2007. I respectfully request that you digest the information presented herein prior to using the phrase “Jack of all trades” in its typical dismissive form.

Top 5 Reasons To Be A Jack Of All Trades

Are the days of DaVinci dead? Is it possible to, at once, be a world-class painter, engineer, scientist, and more?

“No way. Those times are long gone. Nothing was discovered then. Now the best you can do is pick your field and master it.”

The devout specialist is fond of labeling the impetuous learner – DaVinci and Ben Franklin being just two forgotten examples – “jack of all trades, master of none.” The chorus unites: In the modern world, it is he who specializes who survives and thrives. There is no place for Renaissance men or women. Starry-eyed amateurs.

Is it true? I don’t think so. Here are the top five reasons why being a “jack of all trades,” what I prefer to call a “generalist,” is making a comeback:

5) “Jack of all trades, master of none” is an artificial pairing.

It is entirely possible to be a jack of all trades, master of many. How? Specialists overestimate the time needed to “master” a skill and confuse “master” with “perfect”…

4) In a world of dogmatic specialists, it’s the generalist who ends up running the show.

Is the CEO a better accountant than the CFO or CPA? As technology becomes a commodity with the democratization of information, it’s the big-picture generalists who will predict, innovate, and rise to power fastest.

3) Boredom is failure.

In a first-world economy where we have the physical necessities covered with even low-class income, Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs drives us to need more for any measure of c“omparative “success.” Lack of intellectual stimulation, not superlative material wealth, is what drives us to depression and emotional bankruptcy. Generalizing and experimenting prevents this, while over-specialization guarantees it.

2) Diversity of intellectual playgrounds breeds confidence instead of fear of the unknown.

It also breeds empathy with the broadest range of human conditions and appreciation of the broadest range of human accomplishments…

1) It’s more fun, in the most serious existential sense.

The jack of all trades maximizes his number of peak experiences in life and learns to enjoy the pursuit of excellence unrelated to material gain, all while finding the few things he is truly uniquely suited to dominate.

Don’t put on experiential blinders in the name of specializing. It’s both unnecessary and crippling. Those who label you a “jack of all trades, master of none” are seldom satisfied with themselves. Why take their advice? Be too complex to categorize.

Obviously, not everyone has a brain that is wired in such a way that they can be a “jack of all trades.” For them, the route of a “specialist” is the way to go.

For many years as I was developing my skills as an installer in the window treatment industry, I considered myself a “blind man” because that was the only type of treatment I was comfortable installing. And at that time, there was not enough money in the world to entice me to learn shutters or motorization. But my employer at the time required me to learn shutters regardless of how I “felt” about them and now I am just as comfortable with shutters as I am with wood blinds.

Of course, being an “installer” is just one of many hats that I wear these days. I’m an installer, a consultant, a teacher, and a writer. I also dabble in photography and web design.

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