Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

by David · 71 comments

We’re all familiar with the expression “Jack of all trades –  master of none”. Most people I cross paths with believe in the sentiment. Do you believe this? If so why? Have you actually stopped to think about it ? Or did you just accept the idea ? What does it mean to be a Jack of all trades? Why are the connotations logical? Are they logical?

Here’s how Wikipedia defines the expression:

“Jack of all trades, Master of none” is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent  with many skills but is not outstanding in any particular one.

Master of none? I don’t see how being competent in many skills entails not having mastery of any. Sure, one person can’t master everything in the world. But only  master one skill? Are you serious? This doesn’t make sense.

As children we were all asked what we wanted to be as adults.Your answer may have changed a million times, but it’s likely that you had an answer. If you didn’t, there were suggestions waiting for you. As children we had young penetrable minds. At this point in our lives society planted its seed of limitation and boundary. We were conditioned to believe we are confined to the mastery of one trade. I challenge this stupid notion!

Societies Nurturing of the Narrow Mind

Society is structured to discourage the growth and development of our minds. It’s expected that we will grow to fit a pre defined mould. We’re expected to learn more and more about less and less as we grow older in a world which expects and encourages speciality. Why? It is said we only use a miserable 10% of our brains. If this is true. Why are we not encouraged to expand our minds? I’ll tell you why. Because knowledge is power, the narrow mind is unable to understand the bigger picture in its entirety. Which then makes for an easy cog to control.

I’m not the only one that believes this. Seth Godin writes on the subject passionately. Emilie Wapnick leads a tribe of people with multiple interests. Luciano passuello shares techniques to push our minds into new domains, and there are many more people out there with similar messages.

Knowledge is Power

The constant acquisition of knowledge and skill is a super power. I say super power because it will certainly result in the fruition of new perspectives and opportunities. The more you learn the easier it gets; ‘it’ being life. Let’s rephrase this: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Smart people get smarter and dumb people get dumber. When it’s put like this, being “competent” with many skills doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Mastery of multiple disciplines is not a new concept. It all started with the infamous Greeks, which were undoubtedly some of the most intelligent people to walk this planet. However, the world we live in today encourages speciality. A person nurtured  to complete a specific set of tasks. This concept has been made popular by the infamous Henry Ford and Ray Kroc in their successful businesses. Both men made great fortunes creating systems that could be run by cogs. Do you want to be a cog?

Where Next?

I’m a  passionate philomath always seeking new knowledge and skills. I understand that you may not be  as curious as I am, or have a desire to learn as much as I do. That’s totally fine. What I want to see is more people giving time to self-development. It’s important that we continue to push our minds into new domains, even if it is just one or two more things you decide to pursue. What’s important is constant development.

I see nothing wrong with being called a Jack of all trades. I believe in the sentiment so strongly  that I’ll call myself ‘Mr Jack of all trades’ Leaning is nothing but a pleasure. Don’t allow for anyone or anything to coerce you into thinking of it in a negative light. It really is ok to be the Jack of all trades,  Impressive in fact.

I’m Mr. Jack-of-all-trades –  master of learning.

Thank you for reading.

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  • Me

    I agree. We should never stop attempting to learn. Decline sets in when we stop learning.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • http://twitter.com/EwelinaGonera Ewelina Gonera

    Depending on your point of view, Jack of All Trades might have a negative meaning and it should not be confused with Renaissance Man (Polymath). Somewhere in-between there’s 21 Century Man – skilled and qualified in one discipline only whether it’s knowledge or skill. Ask yourself whether you want to have a narrow knowledge of many disciplines or a broader knowledge of a specific one. I’d go for the latter even if it’s the result of modern fast lane life and capitalism. Being highly skilled in one profession gives you opportunities for the future whereas being a Jack of All Trades is often just not enough. Polymaths are rarely to be found unless looking back through history (It’s not like you see a lot of Leonardo da Vincis walking around these days).

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      You are correct. A ‘Jack of all trades’ is not to be confused with Polymath. I made no reference to polymaths for this precise reason.

      “Ask yourself whether you want to have a narrow knowledge of many disciplines or a broader knowledge of a specific one. I’d go for the latter even if it’s the result of modern fast lane life and capitalism.”

      That is precisely the attitude this article aimed at. I wholeheartedly believe that strict focus prepares one for to be a cog in the system. That’s ok if that’s what you want. But why not make a difference in the world?

      “Being a Jack of All Trades is often just not enough.”
      I challenge this notion – Why is it considered a bad thing to have knowledge of multiple disciplines? Why does it have to mean one doesn’t have mastery of anything?

      Being the ‘Jack of all trades’ in my humble opinion has never been more important. We live in a society where we are drowned with oceans of information and innovation. I think it’s ludicrous to have mastery of one small pocket of knowledge in such a dynamic world.

      “Polymaths are rarely to be found”
      I understand and agree that polymathic mastery is rare. I do not propose that everyone sets out to be a polymath. I set out to encourage exploration the world and the gems of knowledge that resides in each and every corner of the world.

      Moreover, I strongly believe we don’t have polymaths because we’ve been condition to believe such achievements are unattainable.

      Why do we limit ourselves?

      Thanks for you contribution! Every point of view is valid and you raised some great points!

      • http://twitter.com/roman_druzyagin Roman D.

        Hey, David! Thanks for another great article.

        There is one question that was bothering me, however. You say that in current society we drown in the oceans of information, and that being a “Jack of all Trades” is extremely important. Then, how does a person choose the knowledge he wants to pursue? Does he pick something close to what he already knows or attempts to grasp the area that is completely unknown to him? When does he say “allright, that’s enough, I’ll do something else”?

        In my opinion, it is reasonable to assume that mastery is something you get to after years of practicing whatever it is that you do. If a person does not reach the mastery in other subject or field of human endeavors (hypothetically speaking), but attains only, at best, a certain level of proficiency, could he be considered a Jack of all Trades? Or maybe he’s just not motivated enough to really put the effort into mastering something else? Will he really be able to make some sort of difference with a broad, but not deep enough spectrum of skills?

        That’s not just idle curiosity, but actually something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, as I realized that what I do now isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my days. So I would appreciate your input.

        • http://twitter.com/EwelinaGonera Ewelina Gonera

          @Roman Can you really master so many skills in one lifetime? Unless you’re extra talented I must doubt it. Like I said earlier you don’t really get to see Leonardo da Vincis walking around, do you? On the other hand there are many fools out there who think that after they’ve taken a few pictures with their expensive cameras this somehow makes them photographers, they learnt how to say hello, sorry and thank you in a foreign language and they think they’re polyglots. What is the world coming to?

          • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

            Ewelina, theoretically it is possible to master an array of skills in one’s lifetime. It takes exceptional discipline, time management, hard work and motivation to do so. Yes, talent helps but without turning that raw talent into skill by putting in the necessary shift, one is merely a genius in one’s own head. I’ve seen plenty of those “fools with expensive cameras” and I see where you’re coming from. That is unfortunately best summed up by what CLE2 said – “We’re a very distracted generation”.

          • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

            Why are we speaking theoretically? I know it’s possible. Fact!

          • http://twitter.com/roman_druzyagin Roman D.

            That’s exactly what bothers me, Ewelina. Like David, I have always been curious and fond of learning something new. Right now I finally have the opportunity to do just that, and I am really at loss. I guess there is this little thought that worries me. I wouldn’t want to chase one thing after another without getting any substantial results.

            If I learn little bits of this and that, in the end I would feel like I haven’t learned anything at all. Unless I can produce a real, tangible result.

        • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

          Hey Roman, Thanks for stopping by again!

          To answer your questions.

          “how does a person choose the knowledge he wants to pursue?”

          I don’t think there’s a one size fits all for this question. It’s personal journey. Personalities vary and people have varying likes and dislikes. My suggestion to anyone that came to me with this question would be to try anything and everything. You never know what’s going to speak to your soul. It’s likely that you would like painting if you like drawing. But if you only try related activities then again you could be missing out on the gems in the world on the other side of the ocean, because you’ve been playing in one room your whole life, jumping from toy to toy within close proximity to one another. Every now and again it would be a good idea to leave the room. Leave the house in fact!

          When does he say “all right, that’s enough, I’ll do something else”?

          I say when you get bored of it. If I ever get bored of Spanish I’ll stop. I’m out to have fun in life, not create circumstances that subtract from my happy state of being. Moreover, learning gets easier once you reach a certain level of competency it doesn’t take as much effort to maintain a skill. I.e language. Just because you’re ready to move onto something else doesn’t mean you have to leave the the other behind. Take as much as you can with you! Why not?

          “If a person does not reach the mastery in other subject or field of human endeavours (hypothetically speaking), but attains only, at best, a certain level of proficiency, could he be considered a Jack of all Trades? ”

          He can be called a “Jack of all trades” Sure. Mastery is never needed to fit into this category. Mastery of many trades is a characteristic of a polymath. Two different type of people. Although I see the overlap.

          Will he really be able to make some sort of difference with a broad, but not deep enough spectrum of skills?

          This is a great question! The short answer is yes. But to expand. Having knowledge in a variety of different areas to varying degrees of competency allows for a person to have a unique perspective, which only comes with disjointed knowledge and skill.

          Lets say you want to learn a new language. Knowledge of multiple languages would allow for one approach any new language with an advantage. No matter how competent you were at any of the languages. The little experience you had carries over.

          Now imagine this in the world outside of language. You have a little knowledge of art, carpentry, accounting, music, public speaking…… ect ect

          Would this person not make for a great boss? They may not know the trade better than the regular employee, but their wide range of knowledge makes them best for the job.

          This is

          • http://twitter.com/roman_druzyagin Roman D.

            Thanks for your replies, David!

            Fun is a necessary ingredient, you are right. However, I wouldn’t feel that I have accomplished what I’ve set out to do if I were to start studying something, like a language, and then would suddenly drop it just because I got bored.

            This is, in fact, the main issue I have with the concept of “Jack of all Trades”. In certain cases, it might lack practicality. In my opinion, studying just for the sake of it can produce idle knowledge, the kind you can’t do anything with.

            This is what I want to avoid in my life. I am more than open to new possibilities and expanding the horizons, but I’d want to also be practical about it. There is a lot of talk about following your passions around the Web lately and doing things your way, but when reality sets in, you’d be damn better be able to do something real with your skill set in order to simply survive, let alone contribute something. It might be even impossible, depending on the circumstances, to just go off the deep end and throw yourself into a completely new area :)

            With this in mind, I think that a good way of evolving (so to speak) into a “Jack of all trades” is by having a set of hobbies, for example. Most of my hobbies are completely unrelated to my professional life and in this I see a way for them to expand into a completely new way of life (or lifestyle, to use a more trendy word). This looks like a practical way of actually doing it.

          • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

            You’ve made some great points. All of which I have strong opinions about. However, Instead of dragging the discussion on for too long I’ll give you my point of view in a series of posts to come.

            Thanks for your participation!

      • http://twitter.com/EwelinaGonera Ewelina Gonera

        @David Answering your question, it is not considered a bad thing to have knowledge of several disciplines, however, the term Jack of All Trades itself suggests this knowledge you have is not wide. I just get the feeling there will always be somebody out there who mastered one of the disciplines you have only the basic understanding of. In other words while you gave up improving in one particular field and swapped for a new one, they carried on to the point of mastery, quite simply over-shadowing you. When a company comes to downsize who will retain their job, the master or you, the jack? Fighting the system and making the difference in the world might sound like a good idea at the time but does it really pay off in the long run?

        • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

          I suppose I can see where Ewelina is coming from, just because the connotation of “jack of all trades” is match with “master of none.” I’ve always wanted to avoid that label, I feel like right now I’m only a “jack of all trades” I do a little bit of everything, I don’t feel like I have mastery over anything at the moment, I’m just enjoying the journey at this point.

          I think though that your intention was to drop the “master of none”, portion of the saying and ask the question: “What’s wrong with being good at many things?” and “Does society try to place us in our little niche that we’re expected to live in for the rest of our lives?” The respective answers to both those questions are “Nothing” and “Yes.”

          • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

            I couldn’t agree with you more. Spot on. I could have written that comment. Thanks! ;)

        • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

          You’re right that the expression has negativity attached to it. Sure, you may not be a master of everything. Why does that matter? To me It doesn’t. Moreover, It doesn’t mean that you don’t specialise in everything.

          I challenge both notions.
          1. There is nothing wrong with pursing many disciplines.
          2. Pursuing many disciplines does not have to mean that you don’t master any.

          I don’t think that the context you created with the company downsizing stands up too strongly.

          Every company hires people for a specific roles. The fact that you are a jack of all trades has no bearing on your ability to do the role you have been hired to do. In fact, being a Jack of all trades would make you a more valuable asset! You know what you were hired to do. And more!
          If a company is downsizing they need more for less!

          • http://twitter.com/EwelinaGonera Ewelina Gonera

            Well, hold on a second. Since when can you just cut half of the definition and substitute with whatever you please. Jack of All Trades is a person who does NOT master any of the disciplines he might have some knowledge of. What you’re talking about is a polymath. The distinction between the two I explained earlier as I felt a misunderstanding there. If you consider yourself a polymath, may I ask what disciplines have you mastered so far? You must be really quite self-confident to use that label as I wouldn’t risk calling myself a master of anything, really. I know I might be a bit down to earth compared with you spiritualised lot but seriously, this isn’t poetry. So yes, in this context my example was perfectly valid. Of course the company will give you the job in which you will have a certain set of responsibilities and as soon as a better qualified person comes along you’ll end up on the streets with all your jack of all trades BS.

          • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

            I can do whatever I please with language. You’re a linguistics student. Langauge changes all the tim, and I challenge the notion of this expression, because I do not believe in it’s sentiment. If something doesn’t make sense to me I’ll challenge it. I’m sorry if you don’t believe in that.

            I’m perfectly aware of what a polymath is, and there has been no misunderstanding on my part.

            If you look through this site nowhere and I mean NOWHERE will you see me refer to myself as polymath I refer to myself only as a philomath – a lover of learning.

            Spiritualised? I’m a person that believes in the human capability more than you do. That’s it. Society has clearly got to you.

            Jack of all trades BS? Come on Ewilina Play nice! haha don’t loose your cool!

  • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

    “In the late 1970s, Jobs, with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula, and others, designed, developed, and marketed one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series.” – Wikipedia entry for Steve Jobs.

    “Designed, developed and marketed”. If you break that up into skill requirements you could say he designed the hardware, programmed the software and used his marketing skills exceptionally well. There also is a famous story about Jobs taking a calligraphy class in Reed College from where he dropped out after only a semester. Jobs later stated, “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

    It is difficult to in the modern world to become a polymath, owing to factors (let’s face it) such as the education system and peer pressure (not the teen kind, but the adult kind of focusing on one skill). But the point I want to make here is that even if you INSIST on focusing on a single skill, you should keep your mind open to the idea of exposing yourself to more “general” skills as well.

    For instance, consider a programmer in the software industry who happens to have a good understanding of economics. He might not be proficient and have studied extensive theories on economics. But a good understanding of supply and demand would go a long way in helping him understand how the market he deals in functions. If he has some knowledge of business through a class or book, he might be more familiar with terms thrown around the workplace.

    It might be practical to market yourself as being skilled at one thing and complement that with a fundamental understanding of skills that may be similar or beneficial to you. If of course, you don’t want to be a polymath. Not that it’s impossible to be a polymath, but this would be something between being a polymath and being skilled at just one thing.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      Fantastic! Do you want to write a guest post one day? Every point you have raised is in agreement with my belief. Thank you for your input!

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

      • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

        Sure, I would consider it. We should get in touch online some time. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516216213 Marsha Marshuu

    It’s just a descriptive saying, in that it’s not absolute. It’s used to refer to someone who happens to be that way inclined, it’s not necessarily stating that you can’t master all trades, or that if you know many you definitely can’t be outstanding in one specific field. It’s literally only used to describe someone who happens to be average at most things. It describes me exactly. I can do many things, but there is nothing in the world that I excell at. I’m very much average and I have accepted that. It’s not an absolute, just descriptive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516216213 Marsha Marshuu

    It’s just a descriptive saying, in that it’s not absolute. It’s used to refer to someone who happens to be that way inclined, it’s not necessarily stating that you can’t master all trades, or that if you know many you definitely can’t be outstanding in one specific field. It’s literally only used to describe someone who happens to be average at most things. It describes me exactly. I can do many things, but there is nothing in the world that I excell at. I’m very much average and I have accepted that. It’s not an absolute, just descriptive.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      That’s an interesting point of view. I say it’s a matter of semantics. I of course can not tell you that you are wrong for you perception, because you aren’t. But I can tell you that the way this expression is processed in your mind is not the same way my mind processes it.

      In my experience this expression is used with the intent of it being a negative descriptive.

      Nevertheless, it’s great to have different points of view. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Rob

    I dont want to be a cog but I think some people find life easier that way.
    There is a trade off between adapting to many things and specialising, to be highly specialised is risky but can pay off.
    Maybe the best way is to do both, specialise in one field but keep adapting to many things at the same time. In the history of life many species went extinct by being over-specialised.
    I would say find a niche but keep your options open.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      What you propose is the very message I hope to spread. Not everyone wants be a polymath. But Everyone and I really mean EVERYONE can specialise in one trade and have competency in a number of different trades.

      Your example really resonates with me. It had not crossed my mind, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense.

      Adaptation is necessary.

      Thanks for your input!

  • CLE2

    I agree that society puts limits on your potential. How ever I do believe in the saying “Jack of all trades. Master of none”. Unless your brain is supercharged or u took that clear pill from “limitless” If you truly split your attention and energy between all trades you can never master any. Look at Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello (>_> yea sure the turtles…) Those are what I consider masters, but look at how old they were when they were recognized as masters. that how long it took them to get to that level and they put all of they’re energy into they’re art. I guess the reason theres an issue is because the phrase is taken very literally, when honestly it only applies to a very very very small amount of people. There are a lot of renaissance men that I know that have experience in many areas, but still have a focus above all and thats where they excel. Truth is not much is mastered these days anyway only excelled. We’re a very distracted generation.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      Fantastic input! Thanks for the humour to break up this thought provoking discussion haha.

      I agree with most of what you say, but the closing section of your response is what really resonates with me.

      “There are a lot of renaissance men that I know that have experience in many areas, but still have a focus above all and thats where they excel.”

      This is precisely my point. You have said it yourself that these men still have a focus although they have knowledge in may areas.

      This is the message I want to spread. Learning is fruitful and there’s no reason one can’t specialise!

    • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

      “We are a very distracted generation.”

      So true. And yet we are better off than our forefathers in terms of getting access to learning resources.

    • http://softvision.posterous.com Rishad Bharucha

      “We are a very distracted generation.”

      So true. And yet we are better off than our forefathers in terms of getting access to learning resources.

  • http://dosomethingcool.net Steve

    I agree that when it comes to learning, I say more is better. However, I don’t there really is anything stopping people from learning. Most people don’t seem to have the drive to learn to begin with.

    I agree that too much specialization is bad. Even Adam Smith wrote about it in “The Wealth of Nations”. He wrote that specializing in a task that is simple with end results being nearly the same creates a man who “naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.”

    I do try to be a master of a few things, but still learn about other things too. It keeps my mind open up to new perspectives.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      Beautifully said. I agree. Nothing stops people from learning. However, society discourages self development and dependency.

      The seed of boundary and limitation has been planted deep. Rooting it out will take a lot of work.

      I’m going to give this my best shot ;)

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  • Rsaya78

    Why, hello Mr. Jack-of-All-Trades, I’m Ms. Jack-of-All-Trades and I completely agree. :)

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David the Philomath

      Great to have you on board! :)  

  • http://www.mindpieces.com kenny

    David, some of your thoughts are similar to mine. I believe that anyone can be a master in as many ‘trades’ he puts his mind to. The 2 main reason most individuals specialize: income and focus. The “Jack of All” phrase has negative stigmas attached to it … irresponsible, scatterbrained, indecisive. Up to a certain point, those are relevant. It applies to many people, but not to all. A person can have one main ‘trade’ (income) and also have other ‘hobbies’ (pleasurable, non-income activities).Does that make him a “Jack of All”?   No. But if he jumps from one ‘trade’ (career) to another frequently or juggles several careers, can he be labelled as a “Jack of All”?  Yes, because most probably he will not be able to focus on one career and, therefore, become a master at none!  However, the question is:  does he WANT to become a master?  Maybe not.  Maybe he doesn’t want to finish all the food on the plate.  He wishes to nibble from one, take a piece from another.  He enjoys the experience of tasting several.  So, why not?The important point is this: society loves to place an individual into a labelled group that society’s narrow-minded brainshave created.  That is a big mistake.  Every individual is unique.  One individual will differ vastly from another in every aspect of his personality.  One’s weakness can be another’s strength. So, some Jacks could be masters and some not. Unfortunately, almost all Jacks allow society to rule and control them; they allow themselves to be led like meek sheep to the slaughterhouse.  The thirst for knowledge and skill should always be encouraged by society.  But, that is rare. We have only ourselves to blame if we don’t use our gray cells to ponder, to question, to make our own path.Becoming a philomath is a wise choice we all can make. Taking every opportunity to learn something new is exciting, interesting, challenging and, gives a zest to life. 

  • http://www.mindpieces.com kenny

    David, some of your thoughts are similar to mine. 
    I believe that anyone can be a master in as many ‘trades’ he puts his mind to. 
     The 2 main reason most individuals specialize: income and focus. 

    The “Jack of All” phrase has negative stigmas attached to it … irresponsible, scatterbrained, indecisive. 
    Up to a certain point, those are relevant. It applies to many people, but not to all. 

    A person can have one main ‘trade’ (income) and also have other ‘hobbies’ (pleasurable, non-income activities).  
    Does that make him a “Jack of All”?   No. 

    But if he jumps from one ‘trade’ (career) to another frequently or juggles several careers, can he be labelled as a “Jack of All”?  
    Yes, because most probably he will not be able to focus on one career and, therefore, become a master at none!  
    However, the question is:  does he WANT to become a master?  Maybe not.  Maybe he doesn’t want to finish all the food on the plate.  
    He wishes to nibble from one, take a piece from another.  He enjoys the experience of tasting several.  So, why not? 

    The important point is this: society loves to place an individual into a labelled group that society’s narrow-minded brainshave created.  
    That is a big mistake.  Every individual is unique.  One individual will differ vastly from another in every aspect of his personality.  
    One’s weakness can be another’s strength.   So, some Jacks could be masters and some not. 

    Unfortunately, almost all Jacks allow society to rule and control them; they allow themselves to be led like meek sheep to the slaughterhouse.  
    The thirst for knowledge and skill should always be encouraged by society.  But, that is rare. 

    We have only ourselves to blame if we don’t use our gray cells to ponder, to question, to make our own path. 
    Becoming a philomath is a wise choice we all can make. Taking every opportunity to learn something new is exciting, 
    interesting, challenging and, gives a zest to life.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David Mansaray

      I’m glad you agree and  thanks for leaving such a a great comment! 

  • Ram Chander Sharma

    I really loved reading the article and I must say the follow-up arguments were a fun reading( kudos to all the people and specially David Mansaray ). I myself believe that having in- depth knowledge in one or two fields only is not enough for anybody. In order to explore the limits of brain, one has to search for new things that can broaden  his/her knowledge as well as drastically impact their perception towards Life. Why is one satisfied by using only 5 or 10 percent of their brain, if it can be used to reach a 100 % efficiency. :)

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com David Mansaray

      Thanks for stopping by –  and of couse,  I agree with everything you wrote ;)  

      In which fields do you have interest? 

  • Mockinfuss

    :D I agree with you. I consider my self as a philomath(?) (I usually use the word polimath)
    but societal structure reinforce us for specialization, and I think its due to the ever growing inferiority complex planted beneath the community. People dislike capable person, they feel threatened.
    Anyway that’s just an extreme opinion, regardless of the society dogma its hard to keep track on what you are doing when you have so many things in your plate.
    Thank you for this wonderful article. I feel less lonely now.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

      Thanks for dropping by and I’m glad you liked the article. Don’t worry you’re not alone, there are loads of us out here :)  

  • Haseeb2

    Short of boasting, I have been called a Renaissance man and a polymath as well as a jack of all trades.  No one however has ever called me a master of none.  Yes I agree that polymaths tend to be relatively rare.  This is something you can pretty much ascertain by looking at peoples webpages and YouTube channels.  What I have discovered is that most people tend to be one dimensional and simply are not interested in pursuing things beyond the common experience or what others would be comfortable with or if they do, they do it only with one or two things which usually are closely related.  For example, there are many people who like to learn multiple languages on YouTube, but I have yet to find any YouTubers who make videos on such a wide array of subjects (on a deep level) as myself.

     

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

      I agree. I think we don’t see many polymaths walking around these days because people aren’t as curious as they need to be, at least that’s what it seems like to me. 

      Also,  being a Polymath is a lot harder today because there’s an increasing depth of knowledge in each filed, and getting to the point where one can be considered to have mastered a particular subject is increasingly more time consuming and difficult.

      • Haseeb2

        I agree.  But today, there are many more resources available for learning than ever before. 

        • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

          Absolutely!

  • Motion Picture

    I have Just read this whole Article and realized, wow i am human after all.
    I have also watched some of your youtube video’s.
    And when i say i’m a jack of all trades, i mean to the point where it became unmanageable, From Acting,Writing script’s,Rapping,Guitar,Photography, And More, but i did cut them down to just one which opens up to a huge array of Disciplines, Which is Music Production, But that doesn’t mean that Everything i dropped still isn’t in my sight as a goal that i plan on achieving. I just think that everything has its timing, and you just have to be patient. 

    Im actually having some of the problems you were mentioning in your video’s with the languages, Except for me its learning how to balance what to learn first with my music production software’s, on top of that i’m very impatient, and a perfectionist. Therefore find myself very frustrated ,and depressed even though i made something quite amazing.

    So when i saw you say that being a jack of all trades would make an excellent boss, it made me thing of law #7 in THE 48 LAWS OF POWER by, Robert Greene, which BTW if your not reading you should definitely get your hands on it. Anyway the law basically say’s : “Never do yourself what others can do for you”. Which in my situation of wanting to do so many different Trades, can only mean one thing; I should just start my own record label.
    Which would allow me to have POWER over everything. 

    Oh and Ewelina Gonera, Negativity was written all over her Comments.

    But its not her fault, its society that doesn’t want to many successful people. Anything is possible with POWER, DETERMINATION, KNOWLEDGE.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

      I of course agree with you 100%!  We live in such an interesting  world with so much variety, why would I want to focus on just one thing?  >_<! 

      By the way I've read the 48 laws of power –  it's a great book!

      And I agree, being the boss is the way to go ;)  

      • Motion Picture

        Just Curious, What happened with you and your music?
        You said in the video that you gave up on it.

        • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

          I never did pick music up again but that’s because there are so many things I’m currently pursuing, who knows, I may go back to it someday ;)

          • Motion Picture

            Honestly though, that is my biggest fear, that the whole JACK OF ALL TRADES concept will overpower me and move me onto something else and I will forget about the music, and say what you just said, “I may get back to it someday” because, If I did that I would be letting so many people down, including myself that believed in me, when I told them, I’m going to make it big with my music. I think the main reason why I get fed up and wanna move on to something different is because It gets really hard at times. Like you mentioned in your video, which then leads to giving up, which is even more drowning. Please tell me how do I keep my head above water, so I could eventually stand on it.

          • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

            I wrote an article that you may find helpful: 

            http://www.davidmansaray.com/jack-of-all-trades-success

            The basic idea is to find something  which brings together many of your interests. For me it’s writing and documentary film making and theme that ties everything together is education and learning. 

            I think that the Jack-of-all-trades sort of person is best suited to be a boss or self employed. 

            I’ll write more on the subject in the future so make sure you stay connected ;)  

  • Daniel

    this is a very common misquoted phrase, its actually ‘Jack of all trades, Master of ONE’

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

      I’ve never heard that before. Can you cite your sources ?

  • Latebloomer

    I realize this is an old post but its relevant to my now. The phrase is really about an unfocused and undisciplined person who dibbles and dabbles. This is never the right approach for the long term. Consider the person who ia working on your house or body. Do you want him to have spent his time prior to servicing you to have only dibbled and dabbled with things or to have given considerable time to have mastered tje areas he is working on? Mastery doesnt have to come at the cost of a lifetime but it does involve focus and dedication. Most people who are the master of many are lineal in it. Look at Oprah, Martha Stewart, Donald trump, Steve jobs,….they all have one focus which has afforded them to master many things in line of that one focus. Now consider someone you know who has a ton going on and appears very busy. More than likely the latter will not leave a legacy of any magnitude…they may even die poor and unfulfilled. Discipline and focus is synonyms with mastery in this phrase. It has nothing to do with limiting people…lack of focus and discipline does put limits on a person. So dont spend your life dibbling and dabbling without a solid direction or focus….

  • Fernando

    Many times, when I looked at my guitar I thought “How much time I’ve wasted not becoming a master with this?” and that made me get angry with myself so many times. From a point of view I was right, on the other not so much. Because few years ago I realized I’ve wasted no time at all. I’m always learning something new and getting into some new sort of experience: dancing, singing, acting, painting, writing, programming, how to hack, meditation, psychology, history, gaming, building PCs, piano, car tuning, and the list goes on and on. I’ve come to realize I might not be able to monetize these skills by themselves but I trust one day they will help me communicate with a multidisciplinary team and also, it means that I’m living how I want to, this part was particularly tricky to get; I’m actually doing everything I can to not leave anything I want to do out.

    So at the end I ask myself: Is there really any obligation for me to be a master of everything I do? My answer is “unless you really crave for doing what a master would do, no” I try the experience, have my taste and when I’m satisfied I quit.

    Its not over for my guitar, I want to become a master of it, or at least someone outstanding. But I haven’t wasted my time by doing everything else.

    By the way. As a Jack of all trades, people my criticize you, but then they’ll be like “you know about this?” or “since when do you speak Japanese?” or my all times favorite “holy duck! You mean to tell me you didn’t just download this?

  • http://twitter.com/kevinkirchner Kevin Kirchner

    This is the battle I’m struggling with: I’m so lazy and non-committal that whenever one thing gets a little tough, I move on and quickly learn something new. How is this beneficial in the long-term? Laziness, lack of longterm commitment, and lack of vision are not benefits!

    Learning is great, but focus and commitment, I would argue, may be better.

    You have to ask (unless you don’t care about the future), what’s your end goal? At the end of your life, are just going to say, “I learned a bunch of stuff. Woohoo!” What good is all that knowledge if it’s not focused? If it’s not directed? What do you expect to accomplish?

    It’s like a tree with roots that are very wide, but only on the surface and never deep. How can such a tree last through the storms of life — we humans, like trees, need deep “roots” to stand strong.

    Of course I see benefit to both actually. The picture of the well-rounded, renaissance man knew MUCH of everything — his roots were wide AND deep. Today, it’s much easier to get wide and forget, or reject, deep.

    • http://www.davidmansaray.com/ David Mansaray

      There are no rules in life, just guidelines.

      As long as you’re happy, there’s nothing with living however you want as long as you’re not hurting others.

  • Pingback: Jack of All Trades can Cultivate Mastery in Multiple Forms | Active Life Addicts

  • Alvin Nashif Magarang

    ‘Jack of all Trades’ is good for somehow, I had a lot of skills learn from different fields of expertise and yet i didn’t master any of those. I only put myself in a mode per project, let’s say this 2 weeks i’ll be a web designer, on 2nd week would be a graphic designer though they’re the same in visual art field …

    the problem with ‘jack-of-all-trades’ is when you are applying for a job and getting confuse for since you are interested on different things.

    • Cyntha Vu

      this is exactly what is happening to me right now. I would admit I am the jack of all trades to some degree. I used to work as an accountant, then an investment analyst, then sales. I used to take courses in French, then another course in Chinese. I’ve tried Yoga, kickboxing, karate, painting. I’ve lived in Australia, Singapore, Vietnam…

      But now when it comes to finding a job in this extremely competitive market, I got confused: what am I great at? which career should I go for? Am not a skilled accountant (I had an idea how to book the transactions and have an accounting degree but thats about it); Am not a super star saleswoman as I hate having to reach targets every month; Am not the best investment analyst as I do not have the local experience. So am stuck.

      • Alvin Nashif Magarang

        SLR, after thinking about this again in my mind back and got a problem
        with … all you have to do is just keep going, accept it with yourself
        that you learned and it’s more a blessing than a curse …

        I
        believe one day we can all use our skills / talents and just be thankful
        for that … last time I just realized that in some of the things you
        can use your skills / talents in other field too …

  • ADD

    I am split between the ideas. In the last month I have learned many songs on my guitar, drawn pretty pictures,taken pretty pictures, read books, went hiking, went raving,learned how to “spin” lights, learned how to make “kandi kuffs”, crocheted a scarf, organized 5years worth of documents, learned how to lay a tile floor as well as replace a wax ring on a toilet and replace the flush valve, I’ve done yoga, I’ve learned dances, and I’ve watched and researched and lived by the marvel comics and movies. Yes I am a girl and I have loved everything I’ve done and did them because I volunteered to and wanted to know how but I feel very useless sometimes because I am not very good at any of these things… I just know how to do them all.

  • kittie

    Thank you so mich. My friend at work always challenges me w lots of interests but not masters in any. i told him i enjoy the process of learning new things. he thinks i would be better to focus in one particular thing and excel. i told him i understand what he says but life would be dull. to him sucess is probably getting a good position in a work place ans get good pay. he doesnt understand life at all. he makes me questions myself. but after reading your post, u make me feel better.

  • Pingback: Being a generalist ~ “Jack of all trades” | Mark B. - tech

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