Jack of all trades versus a specialist, my lessons

What I saw or learnt from being a jack of all trades to a specialist

In the past I was a jack of all trades. Now that I look back I wonder how I even got through the day. I tried to do so many things along the way. Now I am big advocate of specialising, find that one thing that you can do so well. Why have I turned my back on being a jack of all trades. Well, I can only share what I have experienced and learnt along the way.

Breadth but little depth
When you are chasing a lot of things whether it is projects or goals, it is not easy to keep your eye on the ball. Sometimes you are reduced to maintenance or administrator mode. This is a mode where you are reduced to maintaining the status-quo. You are now the administrator who ensures that nothing breaks. How do you fulfil your dreams if you are going to look after the status quo, that is a contradiction. Our dreams require us to move beyond our comfort zones. At the end of the day I realised that multi-tasking which is very similar to being a jack-of-all-trades leads to a great deal of breadth but unfortunately very little depth. There is simply no time for depth, for getting into the nitty-gritties of something until you know it inside out.

The cost is excellence
Now if you are not able to get really deep into a topic, field, task or job, what are the chances that you are going to really master it and excel it? Slim I bet. Being an expert in something does not come by chance but lots and lots of practice, thousands of hours. Spending that much time on one things simply means some things will have to be excluded, sacrificed.  That it what it takes to perfect a craft. Please note by other things I am not saying you should not have a life but you should reconsider those things are on the same level as what you are pursuing, not important things like family life. That is on a whole different level.

Caught in a trap
When you are multi-tasking or chasing many things, it is very easy to get stuck. You see you are juggling many balls in the air and there is no time to focus on any one of them. The minute you start to focus more on one particular ball chances are you drop the others. The price you pay for keeping all the balls in the air is that you are stuck with it.

Fail fast versus delayed process
If you are going to fail in something you might as well fail fast so that you can get the lessons and move on. A long delayed process is not only agonizing but can leave you with deep scars. Doing many things at once makes it difficult to assess or see what is really working and what is not. This means that sometimes we only get feedback very late in the process instead of early on. Specialising makes it easier to see if you are on the right path or not, it gives you a chance to fail fast, try again or move on to something else.

That said some people have done incredibly well as generalists. They have mastered the craft. However, in my case I think I will stick to specialising.

Author: Bruce Mubayiwa

My key interests and passions are Chess, Technology and Writing. I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. My goal is to get more people playing chess in Africa.