Jack of all trades syndrome

Hello, my name is Ryan and I suffer from what I have termed “jack of all trades syndrome.” You know those people who know exactly what they want to be when they grow up, go to school, and then do it for 50 years until they keel over? Yeah, I’m not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of respect and admiration for people with that kind of laser-like focus. Those people get shit done. The world needs those people. But people like me, who suffer from JOATS, don’t think like that.

I like to explain it this way: I have intellectual ADHD. I just can’t imagine devoting my time and energy to learning or doing just ONE singular thing. My curiosity always gets the best of me. There are so many things to do and learn and try in this world, and I want to try as many as I can.

Here’s a perfect example. Right now, I have 27 books on my desk. Here’s a random sampling of them:

  • Essentials of Geology 
  • Astronomy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe
  • What To Think About Machines That Think
  • Caribou-Poems by Charles Wright
  • Spanish For Dummies
  • Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

All of those books represent a dream, interest, or curiosity in some way. And even though I have a “career” as a nurse, I don’t see myself being a nurse forever. Or even another decade. I’d love to try a lot of other things. And as my reading list here demonstrates, my interests are varied.

I’d like to teach. I’d like to be involved in some kind of research. I’d like to publish a book. I’d like to try my hand at some kind of trade. I’d like to invent something. I want to learn to paint. If I could, I’d go to school and get degrees in physics, linguistics, theater, Latin, and philosophy.

Obviously that isn’t practical (or affordable). And I’m fine self-teaching myself a lot of subjects or taking a random class here or there. But the idea remains the same: there’s so much to learn! I can’t commit to just one thing. It would seem almost a crime–nay, a tragedy!–to focus on just one thing.

I can’t imagine a life where I do the same thing over and over, day in and day out, for years on end. I can see the appeal of that kind of life for some, though. It’s safe, it’s predictable. And there’s a certain measure of pride in being a true expert in something. I get all that. But I like the idea of doing something, conquering it, and moving on to the next thing. I like the idea of always trying something new, of having a lot of variety in my pursuits.

I just like the idea of soaking up all that the world and universe have to offer. There’s so little time that we humans are gifted in this life and so much to learn, experience, and try. And I intend to embrace it all. I want to be a perpetual student of the world.



4 thoughts on “Jack of all trades syndrome

  1. The biggest downside (tongue in cheek) to being alive right now is how aware we are when it comes to how ignorant we are. To think a couple hundred years ago someone could pretty much know everything there was to know about a given topic. Nowadays, we’re so specialized my professors would almost apologize when they went into territory they didn’t explicitly study (and usually for good reason, they know a fraction of what is knowable about the subject). Variety is awesome and I’m happy I’m not so focused on one thing, but I sometimes get down on the thought that I won’t do a 10th of what I would want to do with my life, even assuming the perfect life. I try to keep in mind that as long as I do the best I can, I should be satisfied with that. I almost convince myself sometimes too.
    I’m rambling now, so yeah, anyway, good post and topic.

  2. I agree with your sentiment here. At the same time though I am one of those people who knew what he wanted to do since a very young age. Of course it was just meteorology and then in terms of being a professor or what area of meteorology I wanted to specialize in came later. I do think being a jack of all trades has value, as long as it doesn’t paralyze you into never really completing anything, because I think it does help to have a goal to pursue, that drives you to completion before moving on to the next thing. While there are now many more things I’ve become interested in and thought it might be neat to study that for a living, I don’t have regrets. There is so much learning that can be done independently and there is a difference between what you do for a living, and what you live for. There is no reason why one can’t continue to broaden their horizons. The fact that a lot of people don’t seem to do that is I think the sadder part than doing the same job for 50 years.

    1. Fair points. I didn’t mean to imply that doing the same job for 50 years is by any means sad or not admirable. It would just personally drive me insane lol.

      And I agree with the part about goals. I’m not THAT all over the place lol. I’d like the try something to the point that I accomplish a specific goal before I move on to the next thing 🙂

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