I have been reading a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, written by Yuval Noah Harari. As the title suggests, the author paints a picture of typical human behaviour, skill, and intelligence through time. During the period in which humans were both predator and prey, an individual would have had to possess an incredible amount of knowledge and skill to survive. For example, they would have needed to know when and where the predators would hunt, what food was safe to eat, which medicines could be used to treat different ailments, and have a strong understanding of climate, this was a period in which humans were highly intelligent, a requirement for survival.
By comparison, the modern-day man or woman is very different. We do not need to have a strong all-round understanding of every aspect of life. Rather, our survival depends more on being an expert in the area of specialisation that we choose. In modern times, we could equate our occupation as a form of survival. Almost every high paying job advertisement requires a level of specialisation and field-related experience.
A ‘Jack/Jill of all trades, master of none’ is somewhat of a dilemma in modern day life. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist, a competent individual but no expert. But how does an individual become a specialist?
Traditional high school education systems are tailored for the mass population and provide a broad understanding of wide-ranging subjects. Little specialisation takes place in a group of 30 people who are spoon fed the repetitive content. For those who are successful, this may provide the opportunity to enter university or technical institutions where skills and true expertise come later and are hard earned. In essence, the educational systems are gearing up individuals with the skills necessary for specialisation, foremost – the ability to learn how to learn.
Those who eventually specialise find in themselves the tools to facilitate their own specialisation. Hard work, determination, patience, and genuine curiosity are some of the many tools and qualities needed. In modern day life, careers and job opportunities are also extremely dynamic, changing rapidly, those who succeed can adapt and grow accordingly.
The shortened version, put simply ‘a Jack/Jill of all trades’ without the ‘master of none’ part is often seen as a compliment for a person who is good at problem solving and has a strong foundation of knowledge. You may be thinking, I am probably a Jack/Jill, perhaps that makes you a master in your own right. A master of integration, as those in the past needed to be in order to survive.
In a world in which an individual with one strong skill can create an unimaginable amount of success and wealth, the understanding of your own true ability and skill become more important. All fingers point towards yourself, you need to look inward to become a true master.