An Argument for the Jack of All Trades

Is it true that a person who has chosen to remain good at everything rather than excellent at one thing has made themselves noncompetitive? Does the old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” still ring true today or has it really ever? This is something I have given quite a bit of thought to and have wondered if my desire to roam and explore topics has in fact put me at some disadvantage. I suspect in some regards it has, but why and should that be the case? Clearly I don’t believe completely believe that are this would be a rather short post.

Once upon a time, in an age which things where hand crafted. It took a great deal of time and effort to create even the simplest objects. A wooden chair would take days, cathedrals could take centuries. Their creators only hopes of making a sustainable living at their trade was to be quick at making repetitive hand shaped items. To learn was to apprentices along side someone who had dedicated there lives to the subject. Little was shared without it being spoken and shown since books where rare. But progress changed that and suddenly one could learn without being shown.

Things have obviously continued to change since then, knowledge has proliferated. Conversely so has the reduction of manual task. Machines perform the repetitive tasks for us leaving us time to think of new ways to improve things. This changes the emphasis on being good at a singular task but rather an ever expanding array of higher level tasks.

The present is driven by the consumption and application of new information and a few key areas of rarely changing knowledge. Once you learn the key areas you can pivot much easier than the past. Though specialization is by no means obsolete and never will be. But perhaps having a wider understanding is as important now as a narrow one. Pulling ideas from a big bucket with many tools will always yield more progress than a small bucket with narrowly focused ones.

Anyways, food for thought in a age where specialization has grown rather than shrunk. But maybe its not so bad being a jack of all trades.