Another look at Jack of All Trades

What should you do when you want to do everything? If you're fascinated by everything, and you've been called dabbler, dilettante, undisciplined, indecisive etc., this forum is for you.

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Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Fri Dec 04, 2015 6:07 pm

I'll put something else here that was unexpectedly popular on Facebook last week. Maybe some of you will enjoy it and want to share it with some undiagnosed Scanners you know:

Answering a question from a Scanner who complains of being called 'A Jack of All Trades:'

Maybe you don't realise this but a Jack of All Trades was - and among wise people is still considered the same as 'Most Valuable Player.' Sea captains went looking for them and needed at least one on every voyage because they could do everything: they could cook if the cook was sick and use all the tools the sailors used, they could climb ropes and sew sails, and tie knots, and and speak languages, they could sing and dance and draw and cook and invent ways to polish the copper and clean the deck when they ran out of brushes. They could find ways to cook seaweed when there were no fish and knew how to approach native people's when they were shipwrecked. They could do pretty much anything, but they only took up the space of one person, they only ate the food of one person. Jack of All Trades was a real job title, and a highly respected one!

So when people call you that, thank them profusely. It is a compliment. (And it's fun to confuse people who are trying to insult you.)"
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Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Fri Dec 04, 2015 6:11 pm

And then someone read what had written and posted this: "It's the implicit 'master of none' that is disheartening."

To which I answered:

Not at all! People who say ‘Master of none,’ mean “Not perfect at any.” Neither is anyone else. Perfection is for Obsessives (who never achieve it) or the Angels. There’s a point at which someone who loves learning stops and realises he's in the land of diminishing returns. I’ve known more than one highly intelligent, creative person who described the writing of her PhD theses as “learning more and more about less and less.”

And the people who call you a Jack of all trades and imply ‘master of none,’ have an agenda. That’s not just an innocent observation they're making. It’s a comment by someone who wants to belittle you. You have to stop wondering if that’s true and start asking yourself: What would motivate someone to want to do that?

Try looking at a multi-talented person like yourself through that critic’s eyes and you might get a very unexpected insight!
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby solinox » Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:40 am

"We Also Walk Dogs" is an entertaining short story by Robert Heinlein that suggests an entire corporation built around the idea of Jack of All Trades. We can do anything and everything!
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:13 am

I'm gonna look that up! Thank you, solinox!
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby AbbeyRoad » Mon Dec 07, 2015 2:31 pm

Exactly! I think of it as the steepness of the learning curve. Once something gets too easy for me, or I find myself doing the same thing over and over, or reading through a lot of what I already know to find the fewer and fewer nuggets that I don't know, I get bored and I lose interest and I want to move on to the next challenge. It isn't really about looking for novelty so I can experience a brief high. It's more that it takes challenging things to engage me enough that I experience flow, or what I've heard Barbara say, that when you're doing what you love you aren't even there (paraphrasing, of course).

I'm more than one type of scanner. I'm just re-reading Refuse To Choose now, so I don't remember the names of the types of scanners. In addition, to going deeply into certain subjects, I have interests that tend to be grouped by subject and I will drop some things and pick them up again later. Or return to learn something new in the same general area, eg health and wellness.

I was feeling badly about myself that I have lost interest in a lot of what I used to be interested in doing. (I'm having health issues, so that's a lot of it right now.). Then I made the list of the things I've done and know how to do and it's impressive, if I do say so myself.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby Elaine Glimme » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:41 pm

I first read the term "scanner" on Hanging Out, and I thought 'what a wonderful thing to be. I wish I were a scanner.' Maybe when I first stared working, I was more scanner-like. I wanted to learn new things. And I wanted to be a Jack-of-all-trades. I wanted to be useful in a lot of ways.

Now I'm not so eager to learn knew things. I want to be able to do something well. Or at least I want to be able to do something. I'm tired of starting something, and then having to stop because it's not working and i don't know how to fix it. I hate that computers keep coming up with innovations while I'm still trying to get a handle on the old version. I'm tired of messing up and apologizing - which is what happens all too often.

And I'm not as interesting to talk to as scanners are because there are so many subjects that I don't know anything about.

So maybe being called a Jack of all trades is a good thing.
I've also noticed that this happening a lot of times. Someone makes a comment, and another person takes offense where no offense is intended. Because we are our own worst critics.

So three cheers for scanners! It takes all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts to make the world dance. :D
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:17 pm

I beg to differ, Elaine. You are more interesting to talk to - especially about the work you used to do, and the huge variety of what was involved - than any Scanner I ever met.

And I can't help thinking that your feelings about being able to do something well are based on the deplorable way your hard work in self-publishing was treated by all the different people you had to deal with. It was totally frustrating, and none of that was your fault.

Some things should be handed off to other people. I am so bad at dealing with certain jobs I don't even try. I remember what a friend said once: "TAPWDT."

What does that mean? I asked.

"There Are People Who Do That."

On your next book, let me put you in touch with the guy who helped me get my Kindle Scanner book up on amazon.com. Don't try to learn that stuff on your own. No point to it, and if I'm right in thinking where your feelings come from, it has turned a plucky, smart, funny writer into someone who feels like she screwed up and wants to do better. Nope. You don't have to do better. You write fantastic, intelligent books. Kindle techies rarely do that. Everybody rarely does that.

That's what you should do.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby SquarePeg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:21 pm

Yes, good advice. And when it comes to eBooks, which are software, the landscape may be changing so fast that anything you learn from your first publication might be incorrect or inefficient for the next book.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby durentu » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:43 pm

Just FYI, the complete phrase is:


Jack of all trades, master of none,
though oftentimes better than master of one.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:11 am

Hear, hear, durentu!
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby BarbaraSher » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:26 am

AbbeyRoad wrote:Exactly! I think of it as the steepness of the learning curve. Once something gets too easy for me, or I find myself doing the same thing over and over, or reading through a lot of what I already know to find the fewer and fewer nuggets that I don't know, I get bored and I lose interest and I want to move on to the next challenge. It isn't really about looking for novelty so I can experience a brief high. It's more that it takes challenging things to engage me enough that I experience flow, or what I've heard Barbara say, that when you're doing what you love you aren't even there (paraphrasing, of course).

I'm more than one type of scanner. I'm just re-reading Refuse To Choose now, so I don't remember the names of the types of scanners. In addition, to going deeply into certain subjects, I have interests that tend to be grouped by subject and I will drop some things and pick them up again later. Or return to learn something new in the same general area, eg health and wellness.

I was feeling badly about myself that I have lost interest in a lot of what I used to be interested in doing. (I'm having health issues, so that's a lot of it right now.). Then I made the list of the things I've done and know how to do and it's impressive, if I do say so myself.


There are so many quotable statements in your post, AbbeyRoad, that I just quoted the whole thing! What you said in the first paragraph is so common among people who love to learn that I'm very happy to see it said so clearly! I will quote you if I may! Yes, it's not about looking for novelty so you can have a brief high - and that's something that Scanners are often accused of.

Also, most Scanners are more than one Type. (I'm sure there are types I haven't encountered, so I haven't described them. I just believed that it was important to get a start on naming the types so I could offer a variety of solutions that had worked with my clients, so I wrote up the 9 distinctions I had noticed. I hope more will be added!!)

For now, I'd say you sound mostly like a Sybil: you have areas that you return to over and over. I'm beginning to see a difference in the desire to learn how to do things (mastery) and the desire to understand things, what makes them tick, why they happened the way they did in history, for example, or why insects or atoms behave as they do, in science.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby Elaine Glimme » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:19 pm

Awe, thanks, Barbara. :D
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby Lyndonslibrary » Fri Dec 18, 2015 2:26 pm

Elaine: As a techie (thought not as yet a Kindle techie), who reads science fiction, history, fantasy and software manuals for fun, but doesn't write fantastic, intelligent books, just wanted to also affirm that that handing off an Obstacle (especially a Moving Target obstacle like dealing with some else's software ideas) could be a kindness to yourself. -- I'm planning to get the Molly Chronicles as a holiday gift for myself later this year.

Another Jack of All Trades story is Roger Zelazny's novel DOORWAY IN THE SAND. Our narrator had a bequest from his late uncle to pay his college expenses "Until he graduates." Many major changes later the college cornered him and inflicted a degree on him. But that was just the first chapter.
It turned out that this all-over-the-place learning smorgasbord gave him the best possible background to deal well with extraterrestrials when they discovered us.
Complications ensue.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby Elaine Glimme » Fri Dec 18, 2015 4:05 pm

Hi, Lyndon,

I love techies. :D
I hope you enjoy Molly.
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Re: Another look at Jack of All Trades

Postby Gladys » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:30 am

Hallo
I think am jack of all trade type though i have not read all of the book yet. I find myself doing everything around me with an exception of (household chores). I am in Internet marketing, director and producer films, secretary of karate club, large scale farmer, deals with car trackers and cctv, selling motor vehicle spares-parts, private investigations, speaker, mentorship program for the boy child (plus mother, wife, sister) just to mention but a few (many). Am a good observer and learn very fast. The things i do i do them so well that people wish that i take them up as a career though that can never happen. Am called for interviews to speak and my dilemma or problem starts there when am asked whom should we say you are or call you. :shock: Seriously, one name to call me are you kidding me am jack of all trades entrepreneur just thinking :idea: I would like to hear how you get yourself out of that...
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