Is it better to be a jack of all trades or a master of one?
This is a question that many people have surely asked themselves at some point in their life. I’ve personally been asking myself for the better part of seven years. But I’ve come to a realization...
Becoming a master of one thing is a pipe dream.
Some say that if you try to be a jack of all trades, you’ll find yourself being a master of none of them. But consider this: is anyone truly a master of his or her trade? You’d be hard-pressed to find an individual in any field that would say they have learned every single thing there is to know about [insert whatever it is they are into]. We are always learning and sharpening our tools. Adversely, to stop learning is to stagnate. So the task of mastering a trade is a never-ending process, an unattainable goal, a pipe dream.
If mastering a single skill is like driving down a single-lane road, being a jack of all trades is like driving down a five-lane highway. The highway has tons of exits and alternate routes that are waiting to be explored. You’re always headed in the same general direction, but this imaginary highway allows you to explore other avenues. My advice is to take your time exploring and leave no stone unturned. When you’re ready, merge back onto the highway to continue on your journey. When you get to where you’re going, you’ll wind up having more experiences/skills than you otherwise would not have obtained. These experiences/skills make you far more valuable as a professional.
While I believe we should err on the side of being a jack of all trades, there should still be a method to the madness. Chances are that if there are a lot of things you are interested in, they likely all fall into a certain category. For instance, some of my interests are art, illustration, photography, branding, marketing, and technology. When I take these interests and put them on a spectrum, the common thread is graphic design. The benefit of finding that common thread is that I can use it to my advantage to help pursue secondary interests. As a designer, I have been able to explore other avenues, like photography and marketing, to develop an arsenal of tools that make me a more well-rounded creative.
All this being said, there is still a place in the world for those who choose to focus on one specific thing. The goal of this article is not to discourage people from trying to master a skill, but to encourage those interested in exploring skills that aren’t necessarily part of their job title.
To make things short and sweet...
1) Consider all of your interests
2) Find the common thread
3) Choose a primary focus
4) Get on the highway, don’t be afraid of pit stops/scenic routes
5) Become a well-rounded, multi-talented tradesman (or don’t...your call)