Is it ok to be a jack of all trades?

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Universal
  • Post comments:1 Comment
  • Post last modified:August 25, 2022
  • Reading time:6 mins read

You might have heard the famous quotation, “A jack of all trades, master of none”. The full quote further adds, “but oftentimes better than a master of one.” It is a widely discussed topic that should we be a jack? Does being such a jack make you a master of none? Meaning, should we specialize at all or not?

Models of Human Capital Development

There are essentially two odd models for the development of human capital. There exist variants and blends of the two models though.

  • Specialization Model
  • Renaissance Model

Specialization Model:

The specialization model promotes one to specialize to succeed. It is quite a popular old-school career advice to say, “Focus, or Fail”. In other words, one must specialize early in their life to be focused and succeed in their career. The advocates of the specialization model say that being a jack of all trades means that you are a master of none.

However, modern-day leaders and thinkers disagree. The famous science and investigative reporter, David Epstein, strongly advocates not specializing early. He delivered a TEDx talk titled, “Why specializing early doesn’t always mean career success”, at TEDxManchester.

An alternative approach is to combine the specialization model with the jack approach. This approach means someone can be a jack of all trades and a master of one skill. It highlights the importance of learning a little bit of everything. Alternatively, we can say that we should have a working knowledge of every aspect of life. We should not be afraid of learning new things on-the-fly, as and when needed.

Renaissance Model:

An alternative model of human capital development is the renaissance model. Supporters of the renaissance model nullify the negative connotations associated with the classic perception that “a jack of all trades is a master of none.” A lot of people augment the following phrase to the quote, “but oftentimes better than a master of one”. Others have modified the quote to reflect the renaissance model and its variants, i.e., a hybrid model, as shown in the diagram below. I would say it’s better to be a jack instead of being just a specialist with no knowledge of anything else.

Jack of All Trades, in combination with different models of Human Development
Jack of All Trades, in combination with different models of Human Development

Carrie Rich, the founder of the Global Good Fund, explains it in an article written for Forbes. She says that today’s global world needs renaissance leaders. She negates the necessity of specialization for success. Renaissance is an alternative way to succeed.

Way Forward:

While I don’t agree with the classical perception that the phrase “jack of all trades” is a complement to “a master of none”. It is quite possible to remain focused while being a jack. However, depending on one’s interest, the three models are quite adaptable. Let’s take the example of healthcare. A dentist is the one following the specialization model. Likewise, an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throught) specialist is the one taking the hybrid approach. A general, family physician, or a specialist in internal medicine, is an example of a renaissance. All three approaches are crucial for a good healthcare system; the same applies to virtually any other business.

The Jack Bro is an initiative to make more and more people aware of the best practices in human development. You will find many posts on our blog on this topic. We also reference useful resources highlighting the jack of all trades saying or the essence of it. The brain behind The Jack Bro, Shahbaz Ahmed, identifies himself as such a jack and master of quite-a-few.

Being a Jack to Find Your Passion

On an end note, let’s hear from Emma Rosen on how to find our passion and make a career out of it. She shared that she tried 25 different jobs before she turned 25 in order to find her real passion. It shows another benefit of being a jack; you get to try different things, and then stick to one or two of them.

Last Updated on 10 months by Shahbaz Ahmed

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply