21st February, 2014
I’m a Jill Of All Trades and Damn Proud Of It
I’ve always been a dabbler. I’ve dabbled in this and I’ve dabbled in that. I’m excellent at being average at a handful of things. If you were to look at my homework from when I was 11, underneath the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you would see the following: A vet, an artist, an actress, a dancer, a magician and an astronaut. No biggie. Dream big, right?
When it comes to dedication to one specific skill (or picking one future career), I have the attention span of a 3 year old. I get jazzed about an idea, commit to it for a month, maybe a year if I’m lucky, and then move on to the next idea. During my early 20’s this was a huge hinderance to my productivity. I would pick up and drop classes in a heartbeat. Deciding on a major? Forget it. I wanted to major in everything. I quickly learned I wasn’t able to take classes willy nilly (yes, I just said willy nilly) and in order to graduate I had to focus. Drill down they said. Looking back, I appreciate the guidance from my university advisors. However, I remember thinking to myself at the time, “But why can’t I do it all?”.
By no means would I consider myself an overachiever. When I say I wanted to do it all, I think I was struggling with my own inner indecisiveness.
This is what lead to my realization that deep down I would rather be a Jill of all trades than devote myself to a master of one.
I want to remain as innately curious as possible which will lead me to continually explore new ‘trades’. Everywhere I look online I’m blasted with self proclaimed ‘experts’. The term expert has now lost all meaning (kind of how any word will lose its meaning if you say it over and over again). I don’t believe that Nancy, the ‘Social Media Expert’, who has 150k Twitter followers but also follows 150k is an expert. We are too overconfident in our mastered skill.
I think there will be a new niche carved out by modern Jill’s of all trades. If you want to discover your own ‘Jill’, find that balance between quasi mastering one skill while having proficiencies in many others. Be a fantastic marketer, but have the ability to dominate an SEO strategy, host a meetup, and photograph events. Be able to tackle things thrown your way that are outside of your job description.
I have primary passions that drive my desire to acquire new skills and build on existing ones, but I will not pour my energy into mastering one skill. I have thirst for knowledge which will fuel my inner Jill. As Tim Ferris once said, “Be too complex to categorize”.
Long live the generalist.