I suspect that we have all heard it at one time the phrase……. “Jack of all trades… master of none”. Does that really mean that a person who may be proficient in many fields of knowledge or trades is of lesser value that the specialist who works in one field only?
As I grew up I often thought that to be a jack of all trades would be a beneficial asset. Certainly my father would have been labelled pretty much as a Jack of all trades. For sure he could turn his hand at just about anything. Of course as a self-employed man he pretty much had too, in order to get work and feed his family. I think that in times past people had to be much more self-dependent than people are today and hence the term was probably more as an advertisement of skill than anything else. Maybe it might even have been worn as a badge of merit.
I worked alongside my father for many years and would like to think that I learned many things from him. To be fair, dear old dad, who sadly has passed away many years ago now, was not the best of teachers. If you were to learn you had to do so more through the power of observation than that of instruction.
Certainly through my working career I have been exposed to many trade disciplines of which I have always extracted some knowledge which I could use directly or within some other discipline. For me it has been a very beneficial road. However the label of Jack of all trades has not been one that I have embraced so much over the years, mostly because of the additional comments of…….”master of none”.
I am not sure who said it or where that addition came from but it always concerned me. Now that I am older….yes much older I look at the world rather differently. Perhaps that is not surprising to some.
I think that the world is at a loss if it does not have its “Jack of all trades”. Certainly if you look at the entrepreneurial individual he or she is almost always a person with many different skills and talents. That is not to say that they are the master of all of them but they do have to be versed in many areas in order to create, develop, and run new businesses or enterprises.
As I reflect on the issue today I realized more than ever that society has GREATLY benefited from the Jack of all trades whether they chose to chastise them or not. How could that be you asked? Well if you do a little bit of research you will find that there are many people that have taken “ideas” or concepts perhaps initiated by others in some cases but they developed applications which could be used by everyone.
The Jack of all Trade have been the ones to more often than not been able to piece together missing understanding or function to create things. Of course they have also needed to be armed with enough doggedness to work the problems through.
Today’s Jack may not be as famous as the names below but only history might prove them out. Just to name a few of the more famous historical figures that I think you would agree would be Jacks by definition as they were well versed in many disciplines and have contributed greatly to humanity would be individuals like Leonardo da Vinci, Hero of Alexandria, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison.
Actually the list is endless of people who were never satisfied with working only in one media. All of these people have achieved what they have in life and in no small part because they understood principles of many fields of study.
This is not to say that specialists, who work within one field only is of lesser value. Today’s Jack who might be able to marry the information of many field can be just as important as the specialist only his contribution perhaps may not be as recognized.
So in closing let us embrace those that choose to learn many fields and not demean their efforts just because you may not be able to give them the label of “specialist”. In today’s environment and cutbacks perhaps the Jack of all trades may be needed more than ever.
I am one of those people that aren’t GREAT at anything but I’m pretty good at most things
( American fashion designer and film director. He gained fame as the creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. In 2006, Ford launched his own “Tom Ford” label. Ford directed the Oscar-nominated film A Single Man, and, as of 2016, is directing Nocturnal Animals.)Wikipedia
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