The Truth About Being a Jack of All Trades

Jack of all trades

There’s a big dilemma that’s going through every entrepreneur’s mind when they first get started.

Should I focus on my strengths or my weaknesses?

“I feel like I can sell anything to anyone! But I also need to learn how to code and design websites… There’s just not enough time in the day!

Because you have so much excitement and energy within you to start this new passion project, initial energy splurges out to learn everything on your own — for the first 3 months.

Then as any human will face, they burn out. Hard.

We feel this predisposition to fill the weak gaps that we personally have, rather than focusing on improving on current strengths.

It’s this common misconception that leads us to become a 5/10 on most skills, but never a 9/10 on one skill. These are the jack of all trades. No one ever gets acknowledged for being 5/10 at a lot of things; the influencers that stand out from the noise are those that are 9/10 on one or a few skillsets.

For example, when you think of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates — one of the most successful entrepreneurs in our generation — did they focus on what they were not good at?

No! They built a team around them that filled their weaknesses.

Opportunity Cost

Everything we do needs to be looked at as an opportunity cost.

A few years ago, I wanted to learn how to code because that seems to be what everyone was looking to do. Those that were “technical” were constantly sought after by companies and teams, and I felt like I was missing out.

After many failed attempts at trying to de-bug my code in Sublime Text, I realized that learning how to code isn’t going to drive me forward.

First off, I’m not a detailed oriented person and although I valued the knowledge of coding, I knew I would never become the best at it. It just was not what I was put on this Earth to do. Instead, I focused on skills that I was naturally adept to excel at, such as online marketing, relationship building, communications, psychology, and strategy.

There are so many diverse and amazing opportunities out there, that trying to master a skill you’re not meant to master is only going to hinder you from achieving your real purpose in life.

Outsourcing

Today, it’s easier than ever to work with those who can make up for our weaknesses.

With the advent of technology and communication tools, such as Fiverr and oDesk, we can build a team of virtual assistants, designers, editors, writers — pretty much anyone to balance our weaknesses.

If scheduling meetings drives you crazy, hire a virtual assistant.
If photoshop makes you want to hurl, hire a designer.
We have no excuse for trying to do everything ourselves, when the real opportunity is honing on our current skill-sets.

Being busy with efficiency, not effectiveness is the biggest misconception we have in our working society.

T-Shaped Individual

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make an effort to strengthen your weaknesses. I’m saying that you should focus 80% of your efforts on mastering the skill-sets that will position you for success, and 20% of your efforts improving your weaknesses.

In marketing, there’s what you call a T-shaped marketer. It’s a marketer with a diverse and high-level knowledge of all the components in marketing, but possess an in-depth, powerful expertise in one or two categories.

This is one dangerous mother-marketer. 

To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to have the diverse knowledge of hiring, accounting, marketing, communicating, etc. but to stand out from the pack, you better be a master at one or two expertise.

Being the jack of all trades only pays off if you can use it as the backbone of a trade you can master.

Let me know what you think about being a jack of all trades. Powerful or Harmful?

4 Comments

  • Josh
    Hi Sean, A more appropriate title for this would be "The Truth About BECOMING a Jack of All Trades". There's absolutely nothing wrong with being one - it's just not always practical to become one depending on where you are in your career. I consider myself a jack of all trades, and I consider that one of my greatest strengths as an entrepreneur.
    • Thanks for pointing that out Josh. Would you consider yourself being better at one thing better than most people out there?
  • Sean, Great article. As someone who considers myself to be "a jack of all trades", I often identify the frustration of not being GREAT at one particular thing and often feel the pressures to focus on one particular skill. Although, I do think it depends on what type of role you are looking to fulfill. There are many roles or jobs that require understanding the bigger picture and possessing the knowledge of several pieces can often be advantageous. Also, people who are interested in becoming good at several things, usually tend to be very well-rounded. If I only coded my whole life and spent all my time being the best coder in the world, I'd be just that. A great coder. Personally that wouldn't be as fulfilling. I'd feel like there were so many more things I'd love to learn more about and at least become at least proficient in. Yves Chouinard from Patagonia implemented a strict 80 / 20 rule. Being 80% proficient at something makes you more skilled than the average person, but the amount of time / effort it takes to be 100% proficient at it, wasn't worth it to him.
    • completely agree Stephen. It's something that I struggle with all the time as well, but I think we're entering an era where we need to be diversify our skillsets while maintaining and expertise in a particular sector. My 2 cents :)

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