A friend once asked me to make a decision: would I rather be pretty good at many things or extremely good at only one thing? I first admitted that I would like to be the former, the “Jack of All Trades.” Although my friend did not know, I reflected back and wondered if I really meant those words… after all, I am both prideful and strive for perfection. After much contemplation, I abide by my original statement. Instead of being the world’s best at one particular thing, I’d rather be all of the following: the bench player of a professional sport, the supporting actor of a premiere film, runner-up in a poker tournament, and the silver medalist in the Olympics. Here is why.
I see people doing what they do best every day. Person A is good at his job; he’s been at it for a few years after all. Person B is good at playing football, for he was introduced to it from early childhood. Person C is good at playing video games because he plays eight hours every day. Almost every person, regardless of talent or genes, acquires and maintains a trump card that greatly defines him. He is the King of that one trade, per se. It is through exposure, repetition, and consistency that people improve on a skill. For example, attending class lecture, writing down notes, and reviewing them before the exam increases the likelihood of succeeding in the class. In contrast, skipping lectures, not paying attention during class time, and neglecting study will increase the probability of the opposite.
Using school as an example, that’s where things end for many people. They are content with the one skill they possess. As noted earlier, their skills were constructed via repetition, exposure, and consistency. But why stop there? Why stop at one trade when it is entirely possible to possess much more?
Many of my friends strive to be well rounded, multidimensional individuals. Instead of becoming amazing in one regard and subsequently remaining stagnant, they invest time and energy in other trades. All knowledge is ultimately self knowledge, after all. It is for that reason in which I place myself in uncomfortable, undesirable situations just to accumulate more knowledge. I cannot say the same for some others.
Upon coming back from Berkeley, I’ve rendezvoused with many folks back home. One in particular is the root of this blog. Let’s call her Jane Doe. After half a year, Jane has not changed one bit. She continues to dwell on things she already knows, remains inelastic and inflexible to potential experiences, and still appears to be the same person from months before. This includes traits that originally steered me away from her. When she approached me, I was upfront and honest about my views. She proceeded to spread the word of my hostility to her boyfriend for the past hour and half, reinforcing my prior views of her stagnant behavior. Acquire some more knowledge and grow a bit, bro. The world’s a lot bigger than the minuscule things that you treasure.
All trolling aside, it seems that the more often people do something, the more conditioned they are to repeat it in the future. Suppose that this went on for the rest of a person’s life who is the “King of One Trade.” What if that one skill is a bad one? What if the skill becomes outdated? Or useless? With no other traits to fall back on, what’s left of the person? In using the previous example, I contend that Jane Doe’s repeated trends will lead her to a life that is void of the potential she would have been able to otherwise manifest. The limitation is the self.
Don’t just merely be alive. Go out and live.
All knowledge is ultimately self knowledge. Learn more for the sake of yourself. Acquire many qualities and compile them into your own Jack of All Trades.