A shoutout to all my multi-talented people with enough talents under their belts to earn the often cumbersome title: “jack of all trades.”
I’m talking to those who hear the question, “What do you do?” and suck in a breath like Jim Carrey in an Ace Ventura film to prepare a detailed soliloquy that will inevitably fall short of everything they “do.”
I see you.
Jacks (and Jills) of all trades go by many titles: Generalist. Multipotentialite.
I personally like “multi-hyphenate.”
Whatever you call yourself, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of some type of shade for your lack of a niche.
I’ve been disregarded as a DJ, actor, host, and keynote speaker since I don’t stick to one category. I must not be serious about any of my specialties.
It’s not true. I’ve made a successful career as a host, a working actor AND an accomplished touring DJ. I’ve made a thriving career out of being all three.
So let’s get into it: Is being a generalist an asset or a detriment?
How do you succeed as a jack of all trades?
Master of None?
The origin of the phrase “jack of all trades” isn’t clear-cut. However, if someone accuses you of being a “master of none,” let me encourage you with the modern second half of the poetic couplet:
Jack of all trades, master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one
Look, there was a time when generalists couldn’t be successful. In the not-too-distant past, you needed to be specialized in one field to really stand out.
However, today, it’s the opposite. Now, you have to be a jack of all trades — a multi-hyphenate — to really excel. Before a cellphone was only that – a mobile phone. Now they’re cameras, gaming devices, televisions, and so much more. Time and technology have changed and adapted and so should you.
A niche is great. But then you must learn to be a marketer and a salesperson. Because if you can’t sell your product or idea, what is it worth? Peter Thiel, author of Zero to One writes, “If you’ve invented something new, but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business – no matter how good the product.”
In fact, a jack of all trades is often a telling indicator of a great entrepreneur. When you’re starting out, you’re doing your own audio & video editing, managing finances, and juggling your calendar to keep the business running smoothly.
Jacks of all trades definitely have the advantage in the age of the entrepreneur.
Jack Be Nimble
When I lived in Orlando, I could say “I’m a performer” or “I’m an entertainer” without any raised (or confused) eyebrows.
A multi-hyphenate performer made sense to that city. Orlando is home to Disney World, a heap of theme parks, and ALL the entertainers who make those places magical.
That changed when I moved to Atlanta. Suddenly, I said “entertainer,” and after some brief introspection people thought “stripper.”
It’s frustrating that people put on blinders when it comes to defining a multi-range of talent. I think it’s backward that multi-hyphenates must declare a single marketable specialty before they’re “allowed” to branch out.
I would love to change that.
For instance, Lady Gaga is an exceptionally talented performer. However, she first had to find (wild) success within a singer/songwriter niche before diversifying into acting and launching her business ventures.
When Michael Jordan retired from basketball and pursued baseball and golf, people couldn’t handle it. Leave “your lane,” and they can no longer figure out where to put you.
That’s why I came up with the Charismatic Advantage®. The framework defines how you can learn to operate as a jack of all trades. A creative and energetic means of positively aligning your thoughts, words, and actions.
To me, a jack of all trades is about curiosity and satisfaction, preparedness and adaptability, passion for the consumption of knowledge, and importantly, application.
Niche as a Process
We have to rethink what it means to be a multi-hyphenate. A jack of all trades is a master but in a specific way.
A jack of all trades can master a specific process that can apply to different fields of talent. Or they are — as the Wikipedia entry explains it — a “master of integration,” uniting knowledge and skills from several disciplines in a cohesive way.
For example, a CEO is not an expert in every department of the company. Rather, they know enough about each area to direct the entire operation.
Similarly, Charismatic Advantage® merges creativity, public speaking, communication, and affective leadership into a similar energy that I use across acting, hosting, and DJing.
My gift is allocated across all of them. Ultimately, all three use the same process of connecting with an audience and inspiring an emotional reaction within them.
Curiosity over Grasping at Status
Some people claim a multitude of skills as a status symbol. Rather than pursuing passions with genuine curiosity, they collect “talents” like they collect the newest iPhone.
I’m looking at you, Influencer Du Jour.
There’s a visible difference between grasping for opportunities and passionately honing a range of talents. True multi-hyphenates are rarely satisfied and have a desire to learn and apply what they know.
“Doing” is action, which leads to “becoming”. You don’t become something without actually doing it.
You can’t just declare a list of talents. There’s no shortcut. Multi-hyphenates put in the work to become better at their range of skills.
Take the Leap, Jack!
Most of the advice in the world tells us to declare a niche. Making a leap into the multi-hyphenate wild can be a daunting undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be.
How do you know when you have the curiosity and dedication to become a jack of all trades?
During college, I was presented with two unique but juxtaposed opportunities. The first was 1 of a coveted 36 seats within a prestigious Professional Selling Program.
The other was with Wright Entertainment Group.
I was good at sales (more so, good with people), but to me, that wasn’t enough. My intuition and intrigue gravitated me toward the entertainment industry.
Why would I take away an opportunity from someone who was crossing their fingers and whispering to the universe for one of those 36 spots — someone who was vehement about a career in sales?
My decision to turn down the opportunity with the Professional Selling Program, even though I know I would have excelled with high honors, started me down this multi-hyphenate path I still f*<king love today. (Pardon my typographical French)
Learn to listen and trust yourself. Everyone has that passion that lights them up and makes their heart sing. Your own special gift – one that feels easy when you get into a flow – is out there, waiting to be discovered.
It’s tough to know exactly what your multi-hyphenate specialty might be until you begin pursuing it. If you trust yourself and commit to it, it’s going to reveal itself.
So… Are You a Jack of All Trades?
Being a jack of all trades isn’t for everyone.
If you’re content with the routine of working your 9-to-5, sippin’ a post-work beer at home while watching Friends re-runs, and repeating the cycle the next day, then you don’t need to be a jack of all trades.
If you are interested in upward moves…
If you’re ready to go against the grain, disrupting the status quo…
If you’re tired of blending in and seeking to stand out…
If any of this resonates with you, then it’s time to take the leap away from being a Master of one and run toward becoming a Master Multi-Hyphenate.