You’ve probably heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
Most of us would no doubt prefer to be a master instead of Jack. The title imbues the owner with a multitude of wonderful rewards: respect, power, authority, fame, and even wealth. It can be bestowed upon athletes, musicians, scientists, lawyers, artists, etc. Many work hard to achieve the rank of master and relish the results.
What about the Jacks of the world?
Jacks certainly don’t receive the same accolades. The words most frequently applied to them include flighty, uncommitted, weak-willed, impatient, lazy, fickle, and cowardly. These labels miss the beauty of being a Jack.
Personally, I’m definitely more of a jack of all trades, master of none type of person. My latest adventure is a beginner aerial silks class. I’ve only had one class, but I didn’t get (too) tangled in the silk or fall on my head. I consider that first class an auspicious beginning in an exciting new adventure! However, I digress…
Being a Jack isn’t only about lacking mastery, it’s about experimenting. I see Jacks as searchers – wanderers, if you will. My personal list includes piano, softball, flute, art, tennis, skydiving, scuba diving, and belly dancing to name just a few. Some were pursued for years, others were one and done endeavors. All met with varying degrees of success…as I’m blogging, clearly skydiving wasn’t a complete and utter failure! As you can see though, I have some experience being a Jack.
Let’s address a few myths first. Jacks aren’t burdened with a restless yearning, damned for eternity to wander the earth seeking one true thing which will bring absolute joy and meaning to life. Jacks aren’t dabblers who are unable or unwilling to finish a job. Jacks aren’t running from past failures to seek easier paths. I’m not saying those things aren’t true in part or at particular times, but I think those things are true for all people. It is just that Jacks are more likely to move on to new options. Many will condemn a Jack for that very choice – do I need to repeat the name-calling portion here?
Despite being willing and able to move on, a Jack can also be perfectly satisfied with his/her lot in life. To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” The beauty of being a Jack is living in the moment but with an awareness of what else may be possible.
Jacks are searchers, explorers, adventurers, and dreamers, and they come in many forms. Each Jack has a unique embodiment of his/ her Jackness (yes, I’m making up words now). Being a Jack is very much an internal drive that isn’t about what is lacking (internally or externally). It’s about constantly seeking improvement in one’s self. While I do dabble in many things, aikido has been a constant in my life for over a decade. There’s a quote from O’Sensei that I believe applies well to Jacks – true victory is victory over one’s self.
Again, while happy in the moment, a Jack can still seek more, seek to be better. Being a Jack is very much about challenging yourself in new ways.
There are some wonderful lessons in living life like a Jack. You can apply past experiences and knowledge in new ways thus deepening your understanding. There’s less fear of failure or starting over if you see both as part of the ongoing life process. Jacks don’t have to fly by the seat of their pants either; you can plan your adventures well and still be a Jack. Lastly, being a Jack can provide great fodder for writers – my characters indulge in a variety of hobbies and experiences from my personal journey.
Being a Jack isn’t a bad thing – I’m rather proud to be one myself. Let’s replace those earlier negative words with new ones: independent, open-minded, adaptable, energetic, hard-working, adventurous, and courageous.
So, what are you…a jack of all trades or a master of one?