Jack of All Trades?

Our culture has an obsession with the division of labor – this idea that we separate tasks and projects into specific duties. We believe there are people who should spend their lives cooking, other people selling, other people making things, other people doing counseling, etc. The idea is that if each person is good at just one thing, they’ll get really good at it, and we’ll be using people and resources in the most productive manner.

By and large, this is a good thing. Much of our current civilization is based upon this idea. The problem occurs when we tell people (usually starting as kids), that they can only do 1-2 things in life really well. That’s simply not true. We can learn to do a lot of things well (if we learn to learn…which is a whole other blog post). We aren’t limited to doing one or two things well. Most of us will get 70+ years. To only learn 1-2 things well seems like quite a waste.

There’s a phenomenon called the 80/20 principle. When learning a language, we can communicate about 80% of what we want with only 20% of the language. It’s the same in most other areas. 80% of the points in athletic events are scored with the same 20% of moves. To get good at a lot of things, find the 20% that matters and learn that really well.

Plus, we aren’t robots. We are human. We aren’t designed to sit on an assembly line all day and do the same thing. We are meant to have variety. When we specialize to the extreme, we are often fighting against our very nature.

So learn to do a lot of things well. Chances are you already do 3-4 things pretty well. What is one more you can add to that list this year?