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3 Reasons You Want to Be A Jack(of All Trades)

February 6, 2011

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

~ Robert A. Heinlein


We’ve all heard the term “Jack of all Trades“, right? But what about; Scanners, Multipotentials, Renaissance Man(or Woman), Generalists, Eclectic Experts…

Up until a couple of days ago the term Scanner was a piece of electronic equipment I owned, until I came across an excellent post on multipotentialites by Emilie Wapnick @ Puttylike and finally things started to make sense.

Scanners or Generalists, are those who have a broad general knowledge and skills in several areas.

There has always been a negative connotation associated with being a Jack of all Trades. Simply hearing those words implies that you dabble in many interests but lack the discipline or drive to become an expert or specialize in any. Basically, you’re a starry-eyed amateur who doesn’t have what it takes to pick a field and master it. Ouch!

When and Why did we start associating being a Jack of all Trades with being a master of nothing? No one can argue that the most famous Jack of our time, the Renaissance Man himself; Leonardo Da Vinci was a master of his art.  Leo had crazy skills in everything from sculpture, painting, engineering, inventing, warfare, poetry and science.

Personally Speaking

It’s easy to feel out of sorts and like you’ll never make it if you don’t buckle down and stick to one thing. But what if you truly can’t? What if doing that kills who you are and leaves you feeling miserable in the end. What do you do then?

After years of meandering between travel and periods of stability and work in my 20’s fueled by extreme feelings of guilt and doubts in regards to my lifestyle and personality, I finally made a choice that it was time to grow up and specialize in something.

With my science background, I got a job in a research lab and was well on my way. The first few months were filled with the excitement of learning everything I could about all the various departments where I worked. I dabbled my way through Hematology, Chemistry, Microbiology and Histology.  Things were going great, I was now part of the real world until I went into work one day and was told I was being promoted to my very own speciality area in the Microbiology department. That was the day my plans began to unravel.

Over the next few months I became miserable stuck in my little scientist cubicle waiting hours on end for something to grow in my Petri dish. The excitement I had felt in the beginning when I was learning so many new things had vanished. I knew there was nothing more I could learn from the position I was in. I spent long hours wondering how anyone could justify to their souls staying in the stagnant position I  now found myself  in, for a lifetime. Sure the pay was good, the job came with a certified stamp of status in society and screamed out loud “I have a career” but what about the boredom?What about not being true to my needs?

I lasted about 15 months in that job and learned many valuable lessons  contemplating life over bacteria. The most important being; Specialization is Overrated.

Embrace It

Even though back then I didn’t know the majority of the terms I have used here and had no positive feedback from other Generalists or Jack’s that we might just be on to something good, I came to the conclusion that I was one of the lucky ones and began to embrace my inner Jack due to the following 3 reasons:

  • You’ll never wonder what if? Probably the most important reason. Who wants to be on their death-bed wondering if they should have jumped out of that plane at 23 or taken guitar lessons? Specialists spend so much time specializing in one area they miss the magic that is all around them. I have hundreds of areas and interests I want to pursue and although I may never be a professional photographer, champion tennis player or Pulitzer prize-winning writer, the point is I’m pursuing all of my interests and won’t have to ask myself any horrible questions at the end of my time on earth.
  • You never know what doors your curiosity may open. What I have noticed on my journey so far is that my original interest usually leads to other interests that I had not even thought of. And so the ball rolls, and because of this I’ve found myself in places I’ve never imagined, doing things I never thought I would, like running a Juice Bar on the beach in Greece.
  • You will never be bored. Boredom is something that scares me and thankfully it is something that I rarely come across these days. I see boredom in life as a sign of ungratefulness to the world.  We are each given these blank canvases at the beginning of our lives to paint whatever we choose on. The world is so big and magical and filled with experiences waiting to be fulfilled, so who has time to be bored? As a Jack you sure don’t.

Be Proud

If your lucky enough to fall under this category then hold your head up high and be grateful to know that this is a unique talent that has been bestowed upon you. Don’t take it for granted and use it to its maximum potential to create the life you want and know that you are following in the footsteps of  other great Jack’s like: Leonardo Da Vinci,  Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Goethe, Maria Agnesi and hundreds of others possibly standing right next to you.

So go ahead, be a Jack of All Trades and Master The World!

How are you using your unique Scanner traits to your advantage?

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 17:57

    Hey Jessika!
    I am very proud to have finally embraced my Jack of All Trades personality. (Or should I say Jill?)
    I fought it for a long time until about a year ago I came across the term Scanner in a book. I was pissed off at myself wondering, “Why can’t I just specialize and be great at ONE thing??!?! WHy do I keep changing and rotating?!” I went to Barnes & Noble just to search for books to help me “solve” this “problem”.
    And then I found this book about being a Scanner and it all made sense haha. THen I started to embrace it.

    It’s posts like these that will serve the same purpose for those who don’t understand yet either.

    I’m glad you came across Emilie’s post about it on PuttyLike. That was a great article, wasn’t it? I love how she calls us “multipotentialites” 🙂

    Us Jack & Jill-Of-All-Trades need to stick together! THere’s a lot of people telling us to specialize in 1 thing, and we just gotta keep telling them, “You may be perfect at one thing, but I’m damn excellent and passionate about 100 things.” 🙂

    • February 6, 2011 20:54

      Lauren,

      Thank you so much for the support and the great comments.
      It’s always a relief to know that what you’ve been doing isn’t leading you down the wrong path. A little reassurance in times of doubts is definitely a good thing and it sounds like you saw the light at the right time otherwise we might not be reading your great posts today. Thank You Barnes and Noble for protecting one of us 🙂

      Jess

  2. February 8, 2011 07:32

    Hi Jessika!

    Just came across your blog from Lauren’s. Wow. One day when I grow up I want to be just like you! 🙂 I love reading your story and it hit a soft spot with me because I did Microbiology in Uni too. I used to dread the times I had to do research in the lab for hours on end. It made me miserable and ill.

    Now, I’ve got a lot more planned in my head and like you said, “original interest usually leads to other interests that I had not even thought of”. I can’t wait to see where else my passions may lead me.

    Thank you for this post and thank you for inspiring me to go with my dreams.

    Shaheera

    • February 8, 2011 08:50

      Hey Shaheera,

      Thanks for stopping by and the feedback 🙂 It’s so hard to accept that we can have happy successful lives without specializing in one area and become a slave to it, and we have society to thank for that.

      Free thinkers have always been feared throughout history as we make the rules as we go and although today in the 21st century we might be admired for following our dreams, the fact still remains that most people just don’t get it and associate our need to justify our own existence by trial and error through various pursuits as either “something we will grow out of” or craziness.

      I totally relate to you about the Lab making you miserable and ill. Our bodies give us so many signs when things just aren’t right for us and unfortunately we most often ignore them. I’m happy for you that you didn’t and that your on your way to where you want to be on your own terms. You never know where you’ll end up and I’m sure your having a great time getting there.

      I’ve come across your blog through Lauren’s(she’s awesome isn’t she?) and have bookmarked the link to go back and check it out, as I’ve been super busy, so expect to see me around 🙂

      Jess

      • February 8, 2011 13:14

        Hey Jessika!

        Thank you for the reply! Yes we’re having a pretty good time getting there. 🙂

        Yay! Look forward to seeing you at our blog. And yes, Lauren is totally awesome!

        Shaheera

  3. February 9, 2011 18:44

    Jessika,

    How true this is. Your words are beautiful and full of clarity. I especially love this: “I lasted about 15 months in that job and learned many valuable lessons contemplating life over bacteria.”

    I once lived with someone who literally sat me down and proceeded to tell me the fact that I was interested in so many different subjects was naive. Classical civilizations, acting, art, etc. It was absolutely absurd seeing as she was the same exact way. But what I’ve found is all these interests intersect and inform one another. There is a truth about ourselves that we identify in each subject, be it bacteria or ballet. There is a converging truth to it all, and there should be no judgment when it comes to revealing this.

    Thanks for sharing, I am very happy to find you!!

    ~Quinn

    • February 10, 2011 14:04

      Hello Quinn,

      Thanks for the feedback and am glad to meet another individual who thrives on learning as much as she can from a variety of interests that she is passionate about.

      It’s hard to understand why people like the girl you use to live with and so many others feel threatened by others who refuse to give in to simply one thing. It’s also amusing that such people always feel that it’s their duty to set us straight as well.

      Good for you for staying true to yourself.

      Jess 🙂

  4. February 10, 2011 10:44

    Jessika,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much for this post!

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been referred to as a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ or a wanderer, and how many times I’ve felt that intense fear of judgement of my changing interests, or a pang of guilt and shame for being so all over the place with my passions and pursuits.

    But, for the first time, and thanks to you, I have seen that saying in a different light. It’s time to embrace my love of everything and stop holding back out of fear of never specializing in just one arena. Wow! Totally just had an Aha! moment 😀 *happy dance!*

    I am going to check out that post you mentioned and discover even more reasons why I’m awesome 😀

    Before I go, I’m wondering if you would be interested in being interviewed for My Smiling Heart? I’ve been looking for someone bold and inspirational enough to be the first interview for MSH, and I think you are perfect for it!

    Email me at jenartist@live.com.au if you are interested 🙂

    Keep Smiling! 😀

    Jen xo

    • February 10, 2011 19:53

      Hi Jen,

      Thank you so much for the great comment. If this post helped You realize how Awesome you are than it makes me feel really good as reading your blog has done that for me many times 😀

      We, all the Jack(and Jills)must unite and embrace our qualities that allow us to get so much done in a lifetime and be so uniquely different. Our qualities are gifts that allow us to get where we want to be via many different roads if we can learn to see them that way. You keep on smiling and being passionately random. Your doing a great job and are definitely headed towards great things.

      Jess

  5. February 16, 2011 23:33

    I rather try to be a Jack of all Trades but I don’t quite have all of the components yet. But as an art history major that taught eighth grade education before directing a non profit, which led to a job at a news station, which led to a job directing a museum, which led to my current job as a social media marketing specialist who runs, watches sports, and copyedits psychology doctoral dissertations in her spare time….I’d say I’m getting close!

    • February 17, 2011 10:33

      Way to go Jessica,

      sounds like your already there! I guess the main thing to remember is just keep on doing whatever feels good for you even if others think you’re all over the place. Live All your passions. But it sounds to me you don’t need any advice in that field as your doing a great job making the most of everything.
      Thanks for stopping by and showing everyone another successful Generalist 🙂

      Jess

  6. Rosie permalink
    March 9, 2011 09:12

    I’m new to your blog and have just read this article.. Better late than never! I have been pondering and pondering my life’s purpose over a number of years yet I stick to work that I know (but am not passionate about). I also tend to have a few different things that interest me but since I can’t narrow it down to one specific area of interest I don’t follow through on any of them. This then leads people I know to say that I’m always “hitching my cart to every passing wagon”. It wasn’t until I read your article and also Jen ‘Smiling Hearts’ response that I’ve woken up and realised that maybe just one career path isn’t my thing. Maybe I just need to nurture my inner ‘Jill’.

    Thanks again.

    Rosie

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