Jack of All Trades and Master of None

Hope. Which Way?
All of my life, I have been a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. It starts with a fire in my belly. It may be an idea that I have stolen from someone’s words, or it could be one of those random eureka moments that happen from time to time. I start to blow the fire and it grows. I may write something. I might order some books on the spark of ingenuity. But generally I just talk about it, trying to pull other people into my imagination.

Then before you know it there is another fire lit inside my belly. It’s the same formula as the last, and I am now trying to fan both sets of flames in order to keep the pyres burning; keep my interest solid. Before you know it the first fire has been extinguished and it becomes a great idea that now rests in a pile of ashes known as the back burner. I move from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust, and that’s how I live my life.

I realise that I am being a little melodramatic. After all I should focus on my victories; I have plenty of them. But today I want to write from the heart, and I do this best when I focus on the negative side of my persona. This jack-of-all-trades personality has followed me throughout my life. It became all too apparent towards the end of my time on the iron road. Men whose future lay in my hands – like an unprotected naked baby bird – all spoke of this failing. It became particularly prevalent during the time I discovered Lean Thinking. I have a habit of thinking I have mastered knowledge just because I have read a book. Sometimes I feel like I am in control of a great big battleship. I know how to steer, I understand port and starboard, but I am going to destroy something because I can’t control this great big gun.

I had dinner in London with a millionaire the other day. I am reading a book by Gerry Roberts called the Millionaire Mindset and he suggested having lunch with a successful millionaire at least once per month. It wasn’t planned that way; in fact I read that idea the night before I planned to travel to London to have lunch with him. It was the Law of Attraction at work; well that’s what I am choosing to believe anyway. Before I heading to see this successful man, I knew what the name of my new EBook was going to be. I had taken an EBook course, read three books, 60-days of blog posts and interviewed three people all on the topic that I was set to write about. I was as researched, and prepared, as I could ever be and then this man set doubt in my mind. It was there anyway, like a tiny seed lying harmlessly on arid land. Then along came this guy and he poured water on it. By the time I had finished my Sea Bream the doubt had grown bigger than Jacks beanstalk.

The millionaire was a businessman. He felt that I would struggle writing an EBook about creating the job of my dreams. After all as difficult and liberating as I thought it was, I was hardly the only person in the world to have done so. I found myself giving him more and more of my ideas. They were all based on things that I know, tough times that I have persevered through. When I left the meeting I felt awful. It wasn’t the fault of the millionaire, because all of his points were perfectly valid. I felt awful because I had lost my way. I was thinking about the money and not the craft. I was writing to solve problems instead of just writing from the heart.

Then Steven Pressfield came to my rescue. The War of Art has made me believe in myself once again. Pressfield is an artist not a businessman. This man wrote for 10-years before receiving a single penny for his works of art. It was another 10-years before he found true success. He makes me feel small. He makes me hungry for pie. I need some humble pie.

So yet again I move from book to book, inspirational figure to inspirational figure. I am not sure how to cure this ill, but I am going to try the Steven Pressfield cure. I am just going to work and work hard. I am going to continue to do what I do best and that is to write. Let’s see if this jack-of-all-trades master of none can actually finish something for a change?

What bad habit do you have that impedes your progress?


Photo courtesy of Bixentro (cc & Flickr)

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  1. Lee, this process is more common than you think. The iron road does just that to you and makes you operate and feel like you do. I find I have achieved three parts of nothing, and when I look back and analyse why. It is easy.
    You have a task or project thrust upon you, with a deadline it is not possible or realistic to meet, in order to do the project properly, with the requisite level of planning and attention to detail which would ensure its success. You would plan in your head, then write a plan with key milestones and dates to complete tasks or research by, culminating in a target completion date which is achievable, so you can properly measure success or drive slower deveoping items which required a boost, and you can see progress versus plan timescale as you go.
    But you are being used to being asked to build a house in a week. without materials supply or a builder, or a set of plans. Youre aused to being given a copy of the phone book and nothing else, So it keeps failing and you become de motivated by perceived failure or deadline missing. During this cycle, when you are in day 5 of the 7 day build the house project, you are told to stop what you are doing, drop everything and given a bigger task just as rediculous, but 100 times more important in the persons eyes, and you are now unable to devote any time to finish the house, as that is no longer important anymore, the new task takes over, and on it this roundabout goes, and nothing gets completed, so you are never in a position to see the finished article, feel the reward of completion and satisfaction, but dozens of unfinished projects which mentally block your progress. This becomes the norm and you are in a cycle of unfinished business.
    However, that cycle is broken good style, your position now allows the plan, research, detail, action, measure, and finish to become part of your work cycle, meaning you can reflect on completed work pieces for the first time. This must surely drive a completely new self belief in you, because now you can present to prospective employers a portfolio of finished work. So the negative Lee surely must now wane away, as you have volumes of completed workstreams you can show others and yourself, that you can be proud of. The days of writing a book with 15 unfinished chapters inside has long gone. Welcome the potential novelist.

    • Hi Craig,

      Thanks for the comment. Have you spent time working on the railway before 🙂

      Send me your e-mail address to me via the contact form please.



  2. You’ll do it, Lee, because you are seeking. What impedes me is a fear of failure. If I don’t finish something, in my mind, I can’t fail.

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