Jack of all trades, master of one

In his recent Zen Habits‘ article How Passion and Focus Will Rock Your Career, guest blogger Corbett Barr poses what he calls the “jack of all trades” question:

Is it better to be a Renaissance man or woman and be good at a lot of different things or to be laser-focused and really great at one specific thing?

My answer to that question: Do both and become a

jack-of-all-trades, master of one.

When I hear the expression “renaissance man”, the name that most quickly comes to mind is Leonardo da Vinci, that master of so many things. It would probably not be a stretch to say that he was a jack of all trades, and master of them all too.

But if you had had the chance to ask him what he was good at, what it was that he did, it is very likely that he would have answered with a simple, “I am a painter“. (Or, since he was Italian, probably “Sono un pittore” or “Ego sum a pictor“, assuming the online translators I used are accurate.)

Everything that Leonardo did was for the purpose of making him a better painter. His inventions, studies of anatomy, studies of birds in flight, understanding of light and shadow, and everything else he ever learned and did served a single purpose: to help him “see” the world around him so that he could put it down in paint.

In his article, Corbett goes on to recommend focus, to find your passion and become incredibly great at it. To that I would add, find those things that will make you better at what it is that you are passionate about and become good at those things so that you can become great at that one thing that matters most.