“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”
What does it mean to be a “jack of all trades”?
A man who can do a lot of different things.
What does the term “jack of all trades” mean?
When a sentence contains a name, it’s reasonable to wonder if the name belongs to a genuine person. Jack of all trades was a generic word rather than a live and breathing character in this case, as it was with many other literary Jacks – Jack the Lad, Jack Robinson, Jack Sprat, Jack Horner, Jack Frost, and so on. In fact, the list of phrases that contain ‘Jack’ outnumbers any other name in English, owing to the fact that, being a derivation of the common name ‘John,’ ‘Jack’ has been used only to refer to ‘the common man.’ This usage may be traced back to the 14th century, with an example in John Gower’s Middle English poem Confessio Amantis, written in 1390:
Therwhile he hath his fulle packe,
They seie, ‘A good felawe is Jacke’.
We now refer to someone as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” This wasn’t always the case, and the term “jack of all trades” didn’t always have a bad connotation; the phrase “master of none” was introduced later. Despite this, medieval Jacks were at the bottom of the social food chain. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name Jack has the following general meaning:
Jack – A man of the common people; a lad, fellow, chap; especially a low-bred or ill-mannered fellow, a ‘knave’
The derogatory Latin phrase Johannes factotum (‘Johnny do-it-all’) was used by 16th-century critics to suggest that a person was stretching their talents too thinly. Robert Greene, an English writer and part of the literary elite, published Groats-worth of Witte in 1592. In that, he speculated that a new writer on the scene was:
An upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you. Beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.
Jacks worked in a variety of trades, including lumberjacks, steeplejacks, and sailors, to name a few.
For no especial reason, I’ve included a picture of three of my uncles who were steeplejacks. For the record, none of them was a Jack outside of work; they were Gilbert, Frank and Verdon.
The name Jack was also used to a variety of utilitarian items that, in some manner, replaced a youngster or man, such as:
Smoke-jack (a roasting spit)
Jack-plane (a basic carpenter’s plane)
Jack-screw (a lifting winch)
Jack-frame (a carpenter’s sawing horse)
Boot-jack (for pulling off boots)
Jack-engine (a miner’s winch)
Jack-file (a coarse file)
There couldn’t have been any Middle Ages trades that didn’t employ some form of jack. In 1612, Geffray Minshull used the phrase “jack of all trades” to describe his experiences in jail in Essayes and characteristics of a prison and prisoners:
Some broken Citizen, who hath plaid Jack of all trades.
In the late 18th century, the ‘master of none’ addendum was introduced. Martin Clifford, the principal of Charterhouse School, wrote in a compilation of annotations on Dryden’s poems, approximately 1677:
Your Writings are like a Jack of all Trades Shop, they have Variety, but nothing of value.
“Jack of all trades, is seldom excellent at any,” according to the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1770.
The term “jack of all trades, master of none” appears in literature for the first time in Charles Lucas’s Pharmacomastix, published in 1785:
The very Druggist, who in all other nations in Europe is but Pharmacopola, a mere drug-merchant, is with us, not only a physician and chirurgeon, but also a Galenic and Chemic apothecary; a seller of druggs, medicines, vertices, oils, paints or colours poysons, &c. a Jack of all trades, and in truth, master of none.
Taking on the role of ‘jack of all trades’ may not have been the best idea, but Jacks were frequently great craftsmen in their chosen field. The Houses of Parliament were erected by Cardinal Wolsey and Hampton Court Palace was built by Charles Barry – don’t believe it, it was Jack.
Famous Quotes & Sayings Jack Of All Trades Master Of None
We’ve compiled a list of the best famous quotes and sayings regarding jack of all trades master of none.
“Except that, very rarely, when the sun shines on her in the same way the sun’s rays light up the inside of Stonehenge once a year, Jack finds Ruthy mesmerising.”
– Jonathan Dunne
“Nina Dobrev makes my job easy, its hard not to melt when she looks at you with those doe eyes.”
– Ian Somerhalder
“I’d rather be a Jack-of-all-trades than master of one. If I became an icon, where my whole life was music, I would probably have become a vegetable. I wouldn’t be able to have all these talents I have today and be an interesting ‘character.'”
– Dick Dale
“The door partly opens, and Deacon rests his hip on the frame and looks me up and down as if he has no idea who I am. He’s wearing gray sweatpants with CORVALLIS UNION HIGH SCHOOL printed up the leg, his hair all askew. He’s shirtless, whether for effect or for comfort I’m not sure.”
– Suzanne Young
“I’m not one for walking the beaches humming a melody. I love the discipline of sitting in the studio, writing and listening. That is my domain.”
“The characters and events depicted in the damn bible are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
– James Madison
“I always liked acting in school and drama classes, but when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always told them I wanted to be a singer. I didn’t want to be a jack of all trades. I wanted to master one.”
– Eliza Doolittle
“Remember one thing about democracy. We can have anything we want and at the same time, we always end up with exactly what we deserve.”
– Edward Albee
“My purist comedy friends accuse me of being a Jack of all trades and master of none.”
– Marcus Brigstocke
“If you’re starting out or trying to get to the next level, surround yourself with people who keep you motivated and energized – people who inspire you to achieve your best every day. When you do this, you can’t lose.”
– Anthony Famiglietti
“Regardless of how dead we feel in a crowd, we cling to the uniquely American assumption that associating is good and necessary and solitude is suspect.”
– Laurie A. Helgoe
“The trouble is that after nine years as a Jack of all trades and Master of the Dominican Order, I have no expertise on anything except airports and exotic foods.”
– Timothy Radcliffe
“Just as one can compose colors or forms, so one can compose motions.”
– Alexander Calder
“You should sit,” I tell Cal, finally growing tired of his vengeful intensity. “Unless you plan on wearing your way through the floor?”
– Victoria Aveyard
“Jack of all trades, master of none…He’d always thought knowing many things gave him strength. Now it made him feel vulnerable.”
– Rachel Caine
“Jack of all trades or master of one? If you’re a master of one, you’ll soon be a master of none. Times are a changin. Be a jack of all trades. Or better, master of many!”
– Richie Norton
“I wouldn’t say that I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but I wouldn’t say that I’m brilliant at any.”
– Noel Clarke
“Jack of all trades, master of none, though often better than a master of one.”
– Adam Savage
“When Thurgood Marshall became a lawyer, race relations in the United States were particularly bad.”
– Constance Baker Motley
“A generalizing specialist is more than just a generalist. A generalist is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none, whereas a generalizing specialist is a jack-of-all-trades and master of a few. Big difference.”
– Jan Jursa
“I like the collarbone, a very clean collarbone. I think there’s something also very delicate and balletic about that part of a woman’s body, and I’m not really a cleavage person, but I do like a back or a shoulder; I think there’s something very alluring about backless dresses.”
– Gugu Mbatha-Raw
“Each and all, we are riding into the dark. Even living, we cannot remember half the events of our own days.”
– Loren Eiseley
“I know something about everything and everything about something, a jack-of-all-trades and master of one.”
“As a person of color, you’re in a PhD level racism class, every day. Every day, I’m in a deep racism seminar. And I’m not saying that white people aren’t taking that class, but they don’t show up that often and they’re auditing it.”
– W. Kamau Bell
“I think if you have ability and talent in one way, you have it in all ways. I’m not a jack of all trades; I’m a master of many. I don’t feel there is anything I can’t do if I want to.”
– Evel Knievel
Read Also: Tighter Than Quotes
As a startup founder, you only need one skill set: jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.
Being the glue is now a slang term for being a jack-of-all-trades.
My co-founder and I were more than simply entrepreneurs when we established our first company together.
We were also the product designer, marketing director, financial lead, and human resources manager for a while at our firm. While having a dedicated employee for one—or all—of these jobs would have been ideal, we just couldn’t afford to recruit those sorts of specialists.
My partner and I, on the other hand, immediately understood that we were the glue. Until the firm could afford to recruit more personnel, each of us would have to fill the gaps between particular jobs.
Being the glue is now a slang term for being a jack-of-all-trades. Fortunately, I was able to rely on a variety of business experiences and apply my wide skill set to different jobs, which has been crucial to my company’s success.
Even as Amp Human grows, the ability to do various roles has proven to be important. I can be a better innovator, team player, and leader if I understand every area of the business.
As an entrepreneur, you must have a diverse skill set to guide you through the early phases of your company’s development.
Being a jack-of-all-trades may assist any business entrepreneur.
The masters of learning are the jack-of-all-trades.
They are problem solvers and creative thinkers who thrive in a constantly changing and demanding environment. They frequently possess a diverse set of talents that enable them to fill a variety of positions.
My current approach is strongly inspired by my stint at UCLA’s business school. I wasn’t forced to focus on a single area of study, which allowed me to acquire a diverse skill set. I had the opportunity to study classes in finance, management, and accounting, as well as decision sciences, organizational behavior, and economics.
Following college, I worked for McKinsey & Company as a consultant. While it was an excellent learning and training environment, I frequently felt compelled to concentrate in one field. I found myself resisting.
Following the completion of each of my studies, I would return to the list of clients to choose a new project in a completely different area, such as oil and gas, government, or sports. I didn’t want to discover a single skill that I could perfect.
I aspired to work as a generalist.
That mindset is one of the reasons I chose to start my own business. I wanted to use the diverse expertise I’d accumulated over the years to build something fresh with a big effect.
Adaptation is crucial in the turbulent world of entrepreneurship. According to research, the majority of specialist-owned firms reach a revenue plateau far below $5 million, and those that reach this level take substantially longer. Experts who flourish in ideal settings have a hard time adapting when things change. Being multi-talented benefits you both personally and professionally.
A diverse skill set fosters a learning atmosphere.
When you start your own business, you won’t feel at ease in every position right away. As a result, you may naturally avoid doing what you’re not excellent at.
For example, it’s a common adage in the entrepreneurial sector that startups have shoddy bookkeeping. Perhaps this is due to the fact that many business owners do not have a background in bookkeeping. It is tough for them to learn the work since it is not intuitive to them. As a consequence, they will not concentrate on how to improve it.
However, knowing that you will know very little about a lot of topics is an important element of becoming a successful entrepreneur. It’s critical, then, that you actively try to close the knowledge gap by asking very good questions that aid your productivity.
This was a lesson I learned while our team was launching our first product. It was the first time I’d seen the production process from beginning to end. I’d pick up the phone and be befuddled by phrases and industry jargon I didn’t understand. Instead of going along with it, I had to get the courage and humility to say, “Hey, I’m not sure what that phrase you’re using means.” “Could you maybe take a minute to explain it to me?”
In those situations, I had to be at ease recognizing my knowledge gaps and working to improve my skill set. And I accomplished it by asking questions to step by step understand a new procedure.
Even now, my approach to project management and leadership is to ask as many questions as possible. We just submitted for a government small company innovation award, for example. I was unfamiliar with the method, so I used my network to find people who had seen successful applications and asked a lot of questions about what makes a good application.
And, although I’m relying on my overall skill set to get me through this, I’m also learning and growing on it as I go.
One thing I’ve learned is that there will always be entrepreneurs who choose to be information specialists, focusing on knowing everything there is to know about a specific subject. While specialization offers several clear advantages, it isn’t necessarily the ideal approach to manage a business in its early stages.
Being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t the same as being a master of none. It transforms you into a master learner, which is something that every business founder should strive towards. Because you’ll be able to expand your business even if your resources are limited if you can develop a diverse skill set.