Being Jack of all trades, bad or good?

(Credit: Pixabay)

MJ Gonzales │

The phrase ‘Jack of all trades” has contrasting meanings,  and especially with the follow up tag ‘master of none’ it obviously falls in the negative side. In the demanding world where everyone has to wear different hats to survive and thrive, how come being multifaceted individual become a liability? Is this an obsolete concept or never-ending reminder that mastery of skills is necessary?

Usually Jack of all trades pertains to a person who is versatile and has different skills. According to, originally there’s no ill meaning about this figure of speech.  “Jack” was a typical name for commoners and later on associate to various labels for traders like lumberjacks and steeplejacks. However in 16th century there were critics who cited that the “Jacks” tend to minimize their potentials and called them Johannes factotum, a Latin word that means (‘Johnny do-it-all’). Then in 1612,   Geffray Minshull mentioned in his ‘Essayes and characters of a prison and prisoners’ the exact term ‘Jack of all trades.’ also shared that it was Charterhouse School headmaster Martin Clifford who added the words ‘master of none’ in the phrase. It was one of his notes for John Dryden’s, an English Poet, and literary piece approximately in 1677

“Your Writings are like a Jack of all Trades Shop, they have Variety, but nothing of value.”

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

In her article on, book author and Solamar Agency CEO Chelsea Berler shared that jack of all trades employees are asset.   Few of their traits are their drive to experience and learn something new that they are great help for startup companies who like flexible workers.  She also compared them with Swiss army knife that can perform many tasks. They are people you can leave without especially in crucial moments.  Meantime, she also added they are very good in business.

“Jacks are creative thinkers. They are problem solvers who thrive in an ever-changing and challenging environment,” Berler shared. “I think it’s fair to say that most (if not all) CEOs are jacks-of-all-trades. So why does it seem like versatile types have a bad rap?”

Meantime, multi-awarded digital personality and 4-hour workweek author Timothy Ferris also recommended five reasons why professionals should become jack- of-all-of –trades. For him the term is perfect for compliment for ‘generalists’ are the last one who can cope up.

“Is the CEO a better accountant than the CFO or CPA? Was Steve Jobs a better programmer than top coders at Apple? No, but he had a broad range of skills and saw the unseen interconnectedness,” Ferris commented. “As technology becomes a commodity with the democratization of information, it’s the big-picture generalists who will predict, innovate, and rise to power fastest. There is a reason military ‘generals’ are called such.”

He also added that being generalist can solve boredom that is actually can cause depression or failure, and  it boosts confidence due to diversification that counter the fear of unknown.  Ferris also emphasized that ‘master of none’ is artificial in this term because generalist can also master their skills like specialist.  Furthermore, Ferris shared its fun to be a jack of all trades because they learn and enjoy many things. For him specialist boxed themselves in pursuing impossible perfection.