The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the day “August 15, 2020”

Jack of All Trades

originally posted June 11, 2014

jack of all trades


“How hard could it be?” was my motto through life. I figured if one person could do it, in theory any person was capable of doing it, including me. And so I tried many things, curious to see how far I could go;  to what heights I might reach.

I was not blind to the fact that much of what others accomplished was a result of years of training and practice and hard work. I didn’t expect that I could simply decide to tame lions or do surgery or win a world class boxing match against the reigning champ   The people who did those things devoted their lives to becoming experts. But my point is, I never looked at those people and thought, “Oh, I could never do that!”   Rather, I’d think, “If I really wanted to do that; if I were willing to put in the time, I could probably do the same.”

Of course, the reason you devote your life to such things is because you enjoy it and it interests you. Or because you’re good at it and your own accomplishments bring you satisfaction. Or, sometimes because you have no other options. Or any combination of those.

I had zero interest in becoming a lion tamer or surgeon or boxer, but I did pursue many other interests, some to excellence, some to mere competence. Some things I found I had no natural affinity for, and decided that I wasn’t willing to invest the energy it would take to become good at them.  But I have to say honestly, I was far better at many things than most people are at one. I was a happy dabbler.

When I died, some people lamented that I’d never really done anything with my life; that I’d “wasted” my talents. I was never at the top of any career or profession. I’d never had much money. I wasn’t famous. I’d hadn’t won any awards. I was the kind of person they called a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”   They meant that as a bad thing, but I never took it like that.

Had I settled on one path early in life, and worked at it until I was the best (or at least one of the best) in my chosen field, I certainly would have been more successful in life by most social standards. But I would have had to sacrifice the constant joy of new discovery. I would not have had the time or freedom or mental energy to throw my whole heart into whatever caught my fancy. I would not have owned my possessions; my possessions would have owned me. There is a reason they are called the “trappings” of success.

Maybe another time, I will choose one thing and stay with it until full mastery, but I don’t think I have any regrets about not doing it this time. Others might have seen my life as wasted, but I see a life spent in freedom, following my own heart.


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