Last summer I volunteered as a mentor at a two-day event to introduce youth to business and entrepreneurship. Each mentor got a table group of four high-schoolers, and part of the program was to get the members of the group to select one of the four roles that made up each team - something like a creative person, a strategic person- you get the idea.
I was working with the kids to explore their strengths and interests, coaching them to self-select based on what they liked and what they were good at. One of my group kept saying he was versatile, he could do any of it, he could do it all - that he was a “jack of all trades”. So while the rest of the group self-selected, he ended up with the leftover role.
About ¾ of the way through day one, I was trying to get him engaged, and I asked him to choose what role he would prefer, thinking maybe we could rearrange the team or somehow work to get him involved. He and I were doing this across the table during a presentation - by whispers and passed notes. He slipped me a post-it with “jack of all traits” written on it. At this point I was unsure if he misspelled, misspoke or simply misunderstood the idiom - regardless it got me thinking.
Trait is defined as “a distinguishing quality or characteristic”. How many of us try to be good at everything, instead of being good at what we’re good at? And when we do that, what’s our motivation? What are we trying to accomplish?
Is it fear of disappointing someone? Or fear of missing an opportunity - FOMO? I’ve seen plenty of both in my work, and to be very honest, I’ve been guilty of both in my personal and professional life.
I’m not talking about embracing your limiting beliefs. I’m not talking about avoiding opportunities to grow or challenge yourself. What I am talking about is embracing what you are good at. It’s leveraging your natural talents, your abilities, your strengths -- “distinguishing” that’s a powerhouse word, distinguishing is what sets you apart from everyone else.
There’s a second clause to that expression that I hear less frequently - Jack of all trades, Master of none. How do you think that fits here?