Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Justin Hamilton alerted me to this figure of speech over dinner last night. The ordeal with general education, I think. One can learn a little bit of everything or learn one thing really well. Which direction should you choose?

In the business world, niche is king. It is much smoother to specialize, carve your name, and turn a profit. Expert a trade skill and you will never have a problem finding a job in your field again. A specialist is far more straightforward than a generalist – more simple to rationalize and far easier to market.

The risk? You can get boxed in, branded, stuck. Known as a great musician, it will be difficult making your name in other art. Known as a great assistant, you will have trouble being seen as anything but a great assistant. Known as a talented comedy writer, you will never be taken seriously. The list goes on. Think you might want to change gears later in life? Be weary of specializing. Mastering a skill is great for those who prefer simple lives, terrible for others who live to explore.

Being a “jack of all trades” heightens your exposure to a wider variety of crafts, trades, fields and skill-sets. You have more options and therefore a broader opportunity to discover your true passion and talent. You may never be the best at anything specific, but you know a lot about the world and can be a broad resource. You can be the center of it all, a leader. Great leaders can speak the language of their collaborators and must understand the all of the trades involved. I would argue “jack of all trades” status is a prerequisite to leading strong teams.

Master of none? How about mastering the jack of all?

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