Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

General UpdatesKristina Pino1 Comment

Every now and again, I think about the way life doesn't cooperate as this straight, narrow path to some goal. Growing up, I definitely thought I'd always be an artist, and go into some kind of artistic career and that would be my life. But as I got older, my path started to get wider, and eventually when I got into university, it started winding and squirreling around as I tried different things. For all my love of art and expressing myself creatively, my love of learning exposed me to other things that interested me just as much.

The phrase "Jack of all trades" is one I enjoy, but I don't like the weird "master of none" that comes after it sometimes. My life is a web of my various interests and competences, and I like it that way. But it doesn't mean I'm a master of exactly zero skills.

When I hear "master of none," I sit and think about what that's supposed to mean. That we have a finite capacity for learning? Maybe. But not all expertise take up the same amount of space, and I like that bit I read in a Sherlock story that when you reach your capacity, your new memories simply re-write or record over the old, musty ones that your brain deems unnecessary. And I reject the idea that having varied interests and hobbies and being capable at several things (or having several professions) would render someone incapable of honing a craft to mastery, which is something I've thought more about since reading Nick Offerman's excellent memoir. I do think everyone should have one, even private, special craft and make things with their hands. I also believe we have an obligation to ourselves to do things that make us happy, at least part of the time. And I know first-hand that our interests and goals change over time: my competition-level dancing skills as an older teen didn't result in a career path for me, either.

Everyone has amazing skills, whether they realize it as such or not. Some people can make anyone laugh, can write words that make you want to cry, can draw photo-realistically, can photograph surreal-y, can flip an omelet like a champ every time, can hold complicated yoga positions, can empty their minds of noise, can build canoes, can make eye contact and listen really, really well. Skills take time and intention. As a culture I think we value people taking one craft all the way to extreme mastery - and that's really cool. But I also think it's really cool when people are simply masters. An authority, but not The Grand Authority. Or maybe not so much: competent. Good enough. Enough to do the thing right, and happily move on to the next thing, having gained some knowledge, having gained an experience. Is there somehow less value when someone isn't trying to be a Super-Duper Grand-Master?

I'm not going to say "my life is at a crossroads," because I don't think it works that way for many people. It's more like a series of roundabouts and winding mountain roads (or forest paths if you prefer). Not stopped at a crossroads, but traveling in circles until we decide which exit to take, even if it's back where we came from. And we have to choose one (for now). Another path to the same destination might appear later after a winding trip through an awesome (or hey, not so awesome) new place. But with the right amount of time and intention, we can all get there in the end. "There" being where we were meant to go all along.

I'll be over here, enjoying the ride and learning as much as I can along the way.