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  • Writer's pictureAmie K

Jack of All Trades - Master of None?

You've likely heard the saying "A Jack of all trades is a master of none", but what's left off is the remaining (redeeming) part: "but oftentimes better than a master of one." I've contemplated this quote for the majority of my career, and decided that there are advantages and disadvantages to both...ultimately, like everything else, it boils down to finding what fits you best.

Specializing gives an advantage over your peers and the chance to advance more quickly. If you find something you love, it makes a lot of sense to stay the course and become an expert - there could be a very lucrative and distinguished career on this path if you're dedicated and skilled. People lean heavily on specialists and will pay for their time. Focusing in one area also has the potential to be less stressful; staying in your lane is a welcome approach for many for this reason. On the flip side, being in just one area may eventually get stale no matter how far down the rabbit hole you go and you may not feel comfortable contributing to every conversation outside your world. But this isn't always true or doesn't bother everyone and that is just fine.

Being a generalist isn't always for the faint of heart, but can be extremely rewarding as well. For the curious little bees out there, it's the best and only way because it allows the adventure of learning all things. There is no concept of "that's not my job" for a true generalist; there's a will and desire to help and know anything that comes your way. The downside of this life is that it can get overwhelming and frustrating, because the quest for knowledge is often hungrier than the size of your stomach/brain. Like Neo in The Matrix, there's a constant need for more information, except in real life there's no brain insert to teach us Kung Fu in mere minutes...but man, how cool would that be!

There could also be a longer timetable to progression in a generalist's career, simply because of the time it takes to acquire solid skills to be good at several things. But therein lies the question, doesn't it. Is a Jack of all trades a master of none? Perhaps; especially feels that way in the beginning, middle, and maybe end (check back in 20 yrs for post update). But being able to speak at least high-level about such a vast array of topics is alluring and valuable in itself to many, including me, if it's not blatantly obvious yet that's where I stand. If you're smart and humble enough to know what you don't know, this kind of knowledge isn't dangerous because you'll be able to admit when you need to dig further or find a true specialist - but you will know where to look at least...and probably want to know the answer regardless of who finds it. Eventually, the endgame for a generalist is to be a wealth of knowledge and resource for others. That's the payoff, in my opinion.

But the world needs all kinds - if everyone were alike we'd have no significant advancement in thought. Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle where you have a couple things to quasi-specialize in, but also keep an ear to the ground on the rest. My guess is that's where most people end up. But there's no right or wrong in this thing. Just because one person does it one way doesn't mean that's also your destiny; have the courage to discover and own your path, because a happy you is what makes the world a better place.

Amie K

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