Jack of All Trades – And Proud of It

I’ve always had a broad range of interests. Now that I have set out to explore the world of creativity, I find that I am not alone. Many creative people report this very same phenomenon: being fascinated by numerous topics and having tons and tons of ideas they are keen on doing right away — all at the same time.

It is not even a new phenomenon. Renaissance man and Jack of all trades are expressions that have been around on this earth for a while — for good reason.

It is both a blessing and a curse.

Renaissance Man

Firstly, it is a blessing because it is a life full of variety. Every day you can choose from a large pool of interests and projects, picking the one you feel like doing the most.

Secondly, it gives you a broader view and instills fresh ideas into all areas you fancy. What seems, on first sight, as an accumulation of arbitrary hobbies and interests, often magically weaves together and the knowledge gained in one field gives you new impulses and ideas for a second, seeming unrelated field.

A creative person interested in many topics can make connections that an expert in just one field (even if they are creative) could not have made because they are lacking this other, unique perspective.

Thirdly, being so inclined has the effect that you’re bubbling over with ideas and ideas. Many creativity workshops and books focus on how to generate ideas. People with a zillion interests are never short of ideas. They have so many all the time that they’d need more than one lifetime to put them all into practice. Many people envy or admire them for that ability.

The Renaissance man was THE great thinker of ancient times. They were experts in all known fields, which gave them a complex understanding of the big picture.

Jack of All Trades

Today, though, there is so much knowledge and so many fields, you can’t be an expert in all of them as the Renaissance Man used to be. The more interests you have, the less time and energy you can spend acquiring knowledge and expertise in these fields. Or should I rather say, the more interests you choose to explore

Because this is the point where it can become problematic. Yes, we can work at numerous projects at once, but the risk of getting sidetracked on a permanent basis is enormous.

Things are starting to change a little again, but for a long time, one-track specialists were — and generally still are — the societal ideal.

You are not taken serious if you’re not specialized. The conviction behind this mindset is that if you are interested in so many things, you can’t know enough of one to have an informed opinion on the topic or work in a related job.

This is where the expression Jack of all trades comes in. In its beginnings, it used to be the modern expression for the Renaissance Man. Some time later, the phrase “but master of none” was added.

What they are saying is: She is indecisive. She still has to choose. She just hasn’t found her way yet.

But this is precisely where they are wrong.

Firstly, creative people are smart and they are burning with motivation for their topics. In result, if they deal with one topic intensely for a few weeks, they often learn more about it than an average person might in years.

Secondly, we have found our way. We have chosen. It is just not the “norm” (whatever that is). We have chosen not to choose. Our way is to live variety.

This can be a good thing. If we can get this tendency to get side-tracked under control. Just take my blog. Even though I already limited myself to the broad topic of creativity, I have written about so many different things.

1001 Interests

I admit it: I have too many hobbies. I’m getting frustrated because I hardly ever manage to finish anything. Again and again I start new projects before the old ones have been completed. When something new comes up, I’m so excited and enthusiastic to start this new thing.

The problem is: I just cannot give up on any of the old ones. I sometimes envy people who have the discipline to limit themselves to very few hobbies and then pursue them with passion and create great stuff. But I also have to accept that I just couldn’t do that.

It is quite amazing that I have been able to update this blog for such a long time now, even if entries could have been more frequent. But that was also due, in part, to this crazy last year and a severe case of perfectionism that I’m still working on.

Writing this blog has, though, even encouraged me to finish more projects so I’d have something for show and tell. I love blogging and I love to see my blog grow.

It wasn’t easy, but now I’m actually proud to be a Jack of all trades, able to think outside the box. Even if it does make life harder for me, both in pursuing personal projects as well as gaining recognition in the workplace.

However, it is time to admit: I have started so many hobbies now that it has become impossible to pursue them all. Even if I could quit working in a day job — which I cannot — I would need a couple more lifetimes. No, wait, over time new hobbies would come along … It is hard to give anything up because they are all fun and I’m still very fascinated by all of them.

Still, I also realized that I prefer a life of variety over a limited one. I just have to find a balance, a strategy to be able to do what I love while still getting things done once in a while.

Time Management for the Creative Mind

Some kind of time management is needed. Recently, I started listening to two podcasts on the topic. Even if this is yet another project that eats up time, it does help me to get a little more organized. I have already had some enlightening insights and have been able to try out some techniques, adapting them to my requirements. I will share my results in another post.

My goal: Find a relaxed way to focus more on the most important projects in order to finish some of them to my satisfaction.

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