Becoming a Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

During the 14th-17th centuries, beginning in Italy, a period of learning and cultural advancement called the Renaissance began. This period was marked by an enriching of general life from the arts, to athletics, to social graces. We often hear of the product of such an age referred to as a "Renaissance man" or someone who is adept and knowledgeable across many spheres of life. It began as an idea birthed by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) who was an Italian humanist author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher and cryptographer -- embodying this cultural movement. 

A man can do all things if he will.
— Leon Battista Alberti

He, and his personal philosophy, embraced one of the pillars of Renaissance humanism: mankind has a limitless capacity for development. Humanism put such a great emphasis on human achievement that it went so far as to shove God out of the picture, embracing man's capabilities and potential as the golden standard for greatness. Though I would be heartbroken should any of you come to this conclusion, the facet of humanism embraced and expounded upon by Alberti provides us with an intriguing frame through which to live. It frees our minds from the confines of cultural standards allowing you to think, explore and learn whatever you set your mind to!

Fast forward to modern-day earth and we see civilized societies across the world encouraging specialization. Universities provide career development courses, athletes are told to pick a sport and focus on it... even artists are confined to their particular medium, all under the banner of "success". It is a common belief that you cannot make it successfully in your career or in society if you are not specialized in your skill sets and abilities. Focus your efforts to become the best at what you do and you'll make millions! While an intriguing thought, it brings up some unsavory hypotheticals. For example, what happens when technology renders your skill set obsolete? Or what if the electric grid goes down and you're forced to use your skills as a web designer to find food for your family?

It is becoming increasingly more apparent that the 14th century Italians may have been on to something.

We've all heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none." And when embraced in the context of our society, it sounds foolish. But who's to say you have to follow one mold or the other? I would propose an alternate option: Jack of all trades, master of one. Or three.

The "Jack of all Trades" title isn't an antique! It's simply lost on a specialized world.

My encouragement is this: learn your craft and learn it well. But don't forgo the rest of what life has to offer.


Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Learn a language
Build a house
Pick up an instrument
Practice shooting a gun
Write a book
Read a philosophy book
Paint a picture
Fix up a ol' junker
Invest in a growth stock mutual fund
Start a fire with flint and steel
Start a business
Take a dance class (yes, men, I'm looking at you)
Learn how to cook
Travel to a new country