Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

These days, the term “Jack of all trades” is rarely thrown around. Most people I went to school with had hardly even heard of the term.

To those unfamiliar with it, a Jack of All Trades is said to be a man with knowledge in many trades, and yet has no specialization in any of them.

The phrase originated in Robert Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit in 1592 and was used to dismiss the accomplishments of William Shakespeare. Though this is the first known appearance of the phrase, a similar phrase “Johnny do-it-all” has origins from late Latin.

While the phrase we use today is “Jack of all trades, master of none”, the later part of the phrase was added sometime after 1700, where it became a derogatory comment. During this time, young men were encouraged to learn a specific trade, and it is thought that the addition of the “master of none” was to express how learning multiple trades would never lead a man to success.

Although a jack of all trades has been looked down upon for years, is it truly something that should be looked down upon? Is learning many things, but not necessarily having a specialization a bad thing? The conclusion that I come to is that it is not a bad thing.

Throughout schooling (pre-university) it was widely encouraged by the schools to learn all subjects equally, and to have a greater understanding in all of them. Although it was always stressed that everyone would “specialize” in a certain subject, it was important that all students took the same classes to develop useful skills for the future. To me, this emphasizes the idea of a jack of all trades. Yes, the education received at this point is to be far from considered knowledgeable in the subject, but it echoes the idea of a jack of all trades: knowing a little bit of everything. We are all jacks of all trades through basic schooling, however, it does not go far enough. We may have knowledge in school subjects, but that does not give us knowledge in everything. Far from knowledge in everything, in fact.

However, many people have naturally developed a curiosity of wanting to know more. This curiosity causes them to read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, on subjects they do not have extensive knowledge in and may not even understand fully, all for gaining more knowledge. Much of the people have no intention of ever even using the knowledge they have on a subject, but rather just enjoying the process of learning.

And here we find ourselves at the true purpose of a Jack of All Trades: the process of learning.

A real Jack of All Trades may have specialization in something, but they continue to pursue knowledge because they find enjoyment in the process of learning.

This is no different than a Jack of All Trades would have been in the earliest mention of it, yet, it is seen as a negative phrase because of the addition of Master of None. The addition of this part of the phrase has all but ruined the exceptional meaning behind the phrase; a true shame.

My challenge to all those who read this is to encourage the use of Jack of All Trades once more, omitting the negative portion of the phrase, and encouraging all people to continue to pursue knowledge.


How a Trip to Peru Inspired Me to Do

Throughout our lives, we will be given many opportunities to change how we experience the world around us, but it is only beneficial if we take up action on these opportunities.

This post was difficult to write, mostly because I wanted to tell a story while expressing what I learned from my experiences. Sometimes it may not flow smoothly, but I encourage you to finish it out and understand what the message is.

Like an average college student, I have many activities I would consider to be recreational. Some I devote a lot of time to, others I do rarely. These activities have been developed throughout the course of my life, and will continue to develop as I age and grow as an individual.

This is a story about how stepping outside of your comfort zone can realistically develop and fuel desire for recreational activities.

Beginning in October 2016, I became interested in a month-long trip to Peru during May of 2017. I had never been out of the country before, and only outside of Michigan a dozen times. Yet, something told me that this trip was something I needed to do. So, I signed up for the trip, worked hard to raise the money needed, and put off all thoughts about the experiences I would have. Normally, you would expect that I would be excited and encouraged of what lied ahead. But I was more concerned with getting through the school year, and thought next to nothing of what I would experience on this trip.

When a week before departure arrived, I still was not concerned with the next month. It was just something that was going to happen, and I continuously went on with my days without a second thought about it.

After arriving, I spent two weeks doing relatively mundane day to day tasks, not particularly enjoying them any more than I would have back at home. The experience was great, but not life changing. After this time however, I quickly came to realize that I had a passion for being outdoors.

It began with a day long white water rafting trip down the Urubamba river. I had been rafting before, but rafting in Michigan was generally mundane and the scenery was what was to be expected. Rafting the Urubamba however, was unlike any other experience. Firstly, the sheer size of the mountains that the river was nestled between was mesmerizing. On land, they are giant, but on the river, they become gigantic. It encouraged many deep thoughts about how at one point, the river and the peaks of the mountains were at the same elevation. The experience made me feel small, perhaps insignificant. But, this experience also helped me to realize the staggering strength of nature and time.

Not only was this exciting experience enough to make me curious about what nature had to offer, but it gifted me the will and desire to complete the next step in my journey in Peru: conquering the Inca Trail. If you are not familiar with the Inca Trail, I should make it clear that I did not hike the whole Inca Trail. In fact, most of the trail is closed or remains hidden within the mountainsides. My group decided to do the two-day hike from kilometer 104 was the way to go. Now, at this point I would not consider myself to have been in the best of shape. I had the ability to do a traditional hike, but this was no traditional hike. The first portion of the hike consisted of a three hour, steep switchback hike up the side of a mountain. I was exhausted when we reached the top of the mountain, and the view was beyond incredible. Tired, but determined by the experiences of a few days prior, we completed another three hours of hiking and reached the Sun Gate, and looked down upon Machu Picchu. Talk about a surreal and inspirational, nature experience.

Now, this story is not designed to encourage you to go to Peru and have a surreal experience that causes you to love nature. In fact, that is not even what I obtained from my experience in Peru. This story is intended to encourage you to do new things that might not excite you immediately. I learned more about myself from this trip than I would have ever learned staying in Michigan and participating in other plans I could have made.

Throughout our lives, we will be given many opportunities to change how we experience the world around us, but it is only beneficial if we take up action on these opportunities. If this post inspires you to do anything, I hope it inspires you to do it.

Give me your thoughts in the comments! Let me know if you have anything to add!