Jack of all trades, master of none,
Though ofttimes better than a master of one
I like this quote, so here are my thoughts on it.
I believe I fit quite well into the ‘Jack of all trades’ category quite well, and although this quote if often used with negative connotations, I believe it to actually be a compliment. So here is a little more info and my thoughts on this quote.
It is thought that this quote has been expanded over time, firstly starting as simply “Jack of all trades” to imply a person had a wide range of skills.
This was then expanded to “Jack of all trades, master of none” which implies the person in question has, perhaps, only superficial knowledge of the subjects and little substance to back it up. This is probably the most well known version of the quote and is normally used in a negative way.
The final section, “though ofttimes better than a master of one” harks back to the original statement, stating that having a wide range of skills is often more useful than being highly skilled in a specific area.
This is a belief that I agree with and one that I live by (mainly because my short attention span prevents me from ever mastering anything, although my degree states that I am a ‘Master of Engineering’ although I probably wouldn’t agree, anyway I digress!). This is not to say that mastery of a subject is bad or useless, just that on the whole it is perhaps more useful to have a wide range of skills of a competent level than to master one. This is reinforced by my belief that skills become exponentially more difficult as you progress towards mastery. For example, it is often said that in projects the first 80% takes about 20% of the effort, and the final 20% takes 80% of the effort. Using this (very dodgy) math, you could learn five skills to 80% while ‘spending’ the same effort as learning one skill to 100%, meaning that in a competition consisting of these five skills you would win 4 out of 5 times, not bad for a “master of none“.
So the next time someone calls you a “master of none” remind them of the complete quote and thank them for the compliment!