Master of None: Tips From a Jack of All Trades

We are quick to call someone a “Jack of All Trades” as a compliment to highlight their wide-ranging skills and talents. Less often do we follow up that compliment by repeating the “Master of None” part of the phrase, which emphasizes that, although we might be good at a lot, we aren’t great at anything. But, for those of us who identify as “Jacks” in our personal and professional lives, both sides of this coin are true, and for better or for worse, we have to live with the consequences.

I have never been a person who is good at committing to or focusing on one thing at a time. My diagnosis with ADHD as an adult helped to explain a lot of this, although whether that is a deciding factor in being a “Jack” is sort of a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation. That said, there is one story that highlights the depth of my commitment to being non-committal.

When I was about 15, my involvements in extracurriculars included taking weekly horseback-riding lessons and attending competitions, playing the flute and the piccolo in the marching band, singing in the women’s choir, playing on the junior varsity volleyball team, participating in weekly creative writing workshops, and acting and directing as part of our school’s one-act festival. You should have seen my calendar! One day, the director of the equestrian program at the stable where I rode told me that I could have real competitive success riding rodeo, but it would require me to get my own saddle and my own horse.

I spoke to my parents about the opportunity, and they were supportive and excited (bless my sweet parents!), but they warned me that a horse and all of its supplies would be extremely expensive. If I wanted to move forward in my equestrian career, I would have to give up all of my other activities to pay for it. In other words, no more trips to music festivals and competitions, no more voice lessons or flute lessons, no more writing classes, and no more money spent on supplies for the plays I directed. It was a generous offer—what 15-year-old doesn’t want their own horse?—but after a lot of agonizing and arguing with myself, I ended up choosing to remain a “Jack” and to maintain my participation in a wide variety of activities instead of becoming a “master” at rodeo riding.

Do I ever regret this decision? I can honestly say that no, I don’t. I loved being involved in school activities, and I had once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as touring with the band through the Czech Republic or competing with the choir in New York City. I made some of my closest friends through these activities, too. At times, however, sometimes I do wonder what my life would look like now if I was a world-class equestrian.

This story perfectly highlights the fact that being a “Jack” comes with both positive and negative consequences. I benefit from wide-ranging experiences and opportunities, boundless curiosity, a love of learning, and I’m never bored! On the flip side, I often feel off-balance, like I’m constantly playing catch up and holding onto a lot of unfinished business.

The ups and downs of being average at an abundance of activities rather than mastering one are probably well-known if you identify as a “Jack,” but in case you’re new to the concept, allow me to explain.

The Pros of Being a Jack

First of all, you’re never bored! There’s always something you’re doing or involved in, and if not, it’s easy for you to find something. No rowing club in your new hometown? I bet there’s a craft store where you can take classes!

Another highlight of being a “Jack” is your limitless curiosity. Your interest might be piqued by a mention of something in a book, TV show, or article, and thus, a research project is born! You probably spend a lot of time on Google, trying to find answers to the questions you have that pop up on a daily basis.

Being a Jack also means having a great love of learning. As you participate in your different activities, you find true joy in learning new things and expanding your mind. You are not one of those people who finished school to finish; instead, you’re always looking for something new to expand your mind. Whether that’s nature documentaries or autobiographies of presidents, around every turn is the potential to learn something that can contribute to a better life and a better world.

All of these characteristics together mean that you are always ready to seize any opportunity that comes your way. Even if it’s something you’ve never tried before, if an opportunity arises, you will take it. For example, a few years ago, I took a weekend seminar about becoming a doula. I’m not a doula—and I probably won’t ever be—but I jumped at the chance to learn something and to make connections with new people.

One thing is certain: you probably have a resume with a vast range of different experiences. This can play to your advantage whether you’ve been in the same field your whole career or you’ve made several big changes. You definitely stand out in a crowd and bring something unique to every role you’re in.

The Cons of Being a Jack

Although being a Jack has its pros, it has its cons as well, and a major one is a lack of balance. With all of the different projects I have going on at various times (currently: gardening, aromatherapy, sewing, reading, writing, and naturopathic skincare), it can feel impossible to get everything on my to-do list done. Especially when I’m trying to balance jobs, relationships, families, and social lives, my exciting projects can either get pushed to the side or prioritized over things that are more important.

Being unbalanced quickly leads to lots of unfinished business. You might commit to something for a few months at a time but then get overwhelmed and leave multiple projects abandoned. Maybe you hold onto lots of disappointment in yourself for not taking things to completion. Maybe you secretly call yourself a quitter, or maybe other people in your life not-so-secretly do.

You might feel like you are always playing catch up with other people, which is another source of shame for us Jacks. For example, as I was deciding not to commit to being an equestrian, there was a girl in my grade who made the opposite choice, and now she rides professionally and has a very fancy career where she competes and has at least ten horses. Sometimes she comes across my feed, and I think, “Geez, I’m never going to catch up to her.” And she’s not the only one who appears to be so far ahead of me that nothing I do will close the gap. But all of this is just part of being a Jack, and I’ve had to come to terms with it.

Succeeding as a Jack

Although being a Jack may come with some unfortunate downsides, I have discovered some ways to both leverage strengths as a Jack and to find ways to overcome challenges.

First, you need to make a plan and prioritize. It took me several years to find a planner that really worked for me, especially with all of the projects I have happening at once. I love my Passion Planner (seriously, it changed my life!) because it lets me work one month at a time and change my priorities as I go. I also use the monthly reflections to help track my progress to see if I’m actually achieving the things I want to achieve. If you’re a Jack, find a planning system that works for you so that you can juggle all of your interests and find a good balance in your personal life.

Once you’re settled into a planner routine, start thinking of ways that you can brag about yourself. Seriously. Being a Jack means you have really unique experiences and accomplishments, so you have to show them off! You might be a graphic designer with a background in massage or an accountant with a side business in interior design. You never know how your skills or achievements will connect with your current work, but you have to share them, or no one will ever know!

Finally, my favorite and the absolute most important way to succeed as a Jack is to remember to breathe. You probably have had this feeling where you stare at your to-do list and think, “Am I absolutely insane?!” I probably do this about ten times a day. I am so excited about everything I work on, and even though it’s a positive feeling, I can still get overwhelmed by how much I’ve taken on. Thus, make sure you have an excellent self-care practice that doesn’t turn into another project! For me, this means creating a workspace filled with inspiration, drinking enough water, preparing yummy and healthy meals, and getting lots of cuddle time with my wife and fur babies.

Sometimes, I look around at all of the half-finished projects I’m working on and all of the deadlines I’ve created for myself and think, “Why don’t I quit? Why can’t I be one of those people who comes home from work and relaxes because they have nothing else to do?” But then I look at the beautiful décor I’ve created for my home, the stories and essays I’ve written and published, the flourishing plants in my kitchen garden, and I know I wouldn’t trade my personality or my experiences for anything else.

Master of None? I disagree. I am the master of my life and my destiny. And that’s plenty.

1 followers

Robin grew up in St. Louis, MO and is now a professional school counselor in Houston, TX where they live with their wife and a menagerie of animals. Robin identifies as queer and gender non-binary. Their work has appeared in The Coe Review, on the stage of The Red-Eye Theatre Project, and on Mic.com.

Want to start sharing your mind and have your voice heard?

Join our community of awesome contributing writers and start publishing now.

LEARN MORE


ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

Master of None: Tips From a Jack of All Trades

We are quick to call someone a “Jack of All Trades” as a compliment to highlight their wide-ranging skills and talents. Less often do we follow up that compliment by repeating the “Master of None” part of the phrase, which emphasizes that, although we might be good at a lot, we aren’t great at anything. But, for those of us who identify as “Jacks” in our personal and professional lives, both sides of this coin are true, and for better or for worse, we have to live with the consequences.

I have never been a person who is good at committing to or focusing on one thing at a time. My diagnosis with ADHD as an adult helped to explain a lot of this, although whether that is a deciding factor in being a “Jack” is sort of a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation. That said, there is one story that highlights the depth of my commitment to being non-committal.

When I was about 15, my involvements in extracurriculars included taking weekly horseback-riding lessons and attending competitions, playing the flute and the piccolo in the marching band, singing in the women’s choir, playing on the junior varsity volleyball team, participating in weekly creative writing workshops, and acting and directing as part of our school’s one-act festival. You should have seen my calendar! One day, the director of the equestrian program at the stable where I rode told me that I could have real competitive success riding rodeo, but it would require me to get my own saddle and my own horse.

I spoke to my parents about the opportunity, and they were supportive and excited (bless my sweet parents!), but they warned me that a horse and all of its supplies would be extremely expensive. If I wanted to move forward in my equestrian career, I would have to give up all of my other activities to pay for it. In other words, no more trips to music festivals and competitions, no more voice lessons or flute lessons, no more writing classes, and no more money spent on supplies for the plays I directed. It was a generous offer—what 15-year-old doesn’t want their own horse?—but after a lot of agonizing and arguing with myself, I ended up choosing to remain a “Jack” and to maintain my participation in a wide variety of activities instead of becoming a “master” at rodeo riding.

Do I ever regret this decision? I can honestly say that no, I don’t. I loved being involved in school activities, and I had once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as touring with the band through the Czech Republic or competing with the choir in New York City. I made some of my closest friends through these activities, too. At times, however, sometimes I do wonder what my life would look like now if I was a world-class equestrian.

This story perfectly highlights the fact that being a “Jack” comes with both positive and negative consequences. I benefit from wide-ranging experiences and opportunities, boundless curiosity, a love of learning, and I’m never bored! On the flip side, I often feel off-balance, like I’m constantly playing catch up and holding onto a lot of unfinished business.

The ups and downs of being average at an abundance of activities rather than mastering one are probably well-known if you identify as a “Jack,” but in case you’re new to the concept, allow me to explain.

The Pros of Being a Jack

First of all, you’re never bored! There’s always something you’re doing or involved in, and if not, it’s easy for you to find something. No rowing club in your new hometown? I bet there’s a craft store where you can take classes!

Another highlight of being a “Jack” is your limitless curiosity. Your interest might be piqued by a mention of something in a book, TV show, or article, and thus, a research project is born! You probably spend a lot of time on Google, trying to find answers to the questions you have that pop up on a daily basis.

Being a Jack also means having a great love of learning. As you participate in your different activities, you find true joy in learning new things and expanding your mind. You are not one of those people who finished school to finish; instead, you’re always looking for something new to expand your mind. Whether that’s nature documentaries or autobiographies of presidents, around every turn is the potential to learn something that can contribute to a better life and a better world.

All of these characteristics together mean that you are always ready to seize any opportunity that comes your way. Even if it’s something you’ve never tried before, if an opportunity arises, you will take it. For example, a few years ago, I took a weekend seminar about becoming a doula. I’m not a doula—and I probably won’t ever be—but I jumped at the chance to learn something and to make connections with new people.

One thing is certain: you probably have a resume with a vast range of different experiences. This can play to your advantage whether you’ve been in the same field your whole career or you’ve made several big changes. You definitely stand out in a crowd and bring something unique to every role you’re in.

The Cons of Being a Jack

Although being a Jack has its pros, it has its cons as well, and a major one is a lack of balance. With all of the different projects I have going on at various times (currently: gardening, aromatherapy, sewing, reading, writing, and naturopathic skincare), it can feel impossible to get everything on my to-do list done. Especially when I’m trying to balance jobs, relationships, families, and social lives, my exciting projects can either get pushed to the side or prioritized over things that are more important.

Being unbalanced quickly leads to lots of unfinished business. You might commit to something for a few months at a time but then get overwhelmed and leave multiple projects abandoned. Maybe you hold onto lots of disappointment in yourself for not taking things to completion. Maybe you secretly call yourself a quitter, or maybe other people in your life not-so-secretly do.

You might feel like you are always playing catch up with other people, which is another source of shame for us Jacks. For example, as I was deciding not to commit to being an equestrian, there was a girl in my grade who made the opposite choice, and now she rides professionally and has a very fancy career where she competes and has at least ten horses. Sometimes she comes across my feed, and I think, “Geez, I’m never going to catch up to her.” And she’s not the only one who appears to be so far ahead of me that nothing I do will close the gap. But all of this is just part of being a Jack, and I’ve had to come to terms with it.

Succeeding as a Jack

Although being a Jack may come with some unfortunate downsides, I have discovered some ways to both leverage strengths as a Jack and to find ways to overcome challenges.

First, you need to make a plan and prioritize. It took me several years to find a planner that really worked for me, especially with all of the projects I have happening at once. I love my Passion Planner (seriously, it changed my life!) because it lets me work one month at a time and change my priorities as I go. I also use the monthly reflections to help track my progress to see if I’m actually achieving the things I want to achieve. If you’re a Jack, find a planning system that works for you so that you can juggle all of your interests and find a good balance in your personal life.

Once you’re settled into a planner routine, start thinking of ways that you can brag about yourself. Seriously. Being a Jack means you have really unique experiences and accomplishments, so you have to show them off! You might be a graphic designer with a background in massage or an accountant with a side business in interior design. You never know how your skills or achievements will connect with your current work, but you have to share them, or no one will ever know!

Finally, my favorite and the absolute most important way to succeed as a Jack is to remember to breathe. You probably have had this feeling where you stare at your to-do list and think, “Am I absolutely insane?!” I probably do this about ten times a day. I am so excited about everything I work on, and even though it’s a positive feeling, I can still get overwhelmed by how much I’ve taken on. Thus, make sure you have an excellent self-care practice that doesn’t turn into another project! For me, this means creating a workspace filled with inspiration, drinking enough water, preparing yummy and healthy meals, and getting lots of cuddle time with my wife and fur babies.

Sometimes, I look around at all of the half-finished projects I’m working on and all of the deadlines I’ve created for myself and think, “Why don’t I quit? Why can’t I be one of those people who comes home from work and relaxes because they have nothing else to do?” But then I look at the beautiful décor I’ve created for my home, the stories and essays I’ve written and published, the flourishing plants in my kitchen garden, and I know I wouldn’t trade my personality or my experiences for anything else.

Master of None? I disagree. I am the master of my life and my destiny. And that’s plenty.

Scroll to top

Follow Us on Facebook - Stay Engaged!

Send this to a friend