Long ago I was posed a question. Do you think Life offers you so many choices? I mean the question was asked form a career point of you where the implicit suggestion the person who posed me that question was making was its better to stay focused on continuing in a current path than think of any alternative career paths. That’s really up to debate as we are free to change our career path any time we want and do what we wish to pursue but the society we live in puts a premium and rewards those people who stay focused and continue to tread on the same career path than those who continuously change lanes and move on to other career paths. This is not to say that success eludes those people who change directions but once they have found success after changing lanes so many times it’s hard to imagine they would continue to change lanes in their career path well there are all ways exceptions to the rule. But why? I will try to answer this question by asking another question.
What are the chances that any of us would have a job whose job description would be like this?
Monday: Work as a Physician in a ER facility in a hospital
Tuesday: Work as a Civil Engineer at a Multi Storied Construction Site
Wednesday: Teach Music at a Music college
Thursday: Work as a Master Chef in a Restaurant
Friday: Work as a Cop in the city of New York.
Well that’s heck of a job description. If someone were to advertise for such a job would any one even come close to the skill set required for the job advertised. Very Very unlikely. Why? This is because the complex society which we live in only expects us to be good enough to do a specific job or two but not good enough to do a different type of job every other day in our life. I tell you life cannot be more monotonous than that.
How did we come to this point where society rewards us if we are just good at one trade? Heard of Division of Labor. Yes that is the Phrase and the key to this article. Adam Smith’s considered the father of Economics argued for Division of Labor in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and saw the splitting of tasks as a key to economic progress by providing a cheaper and more efficient means of producing goods. Let me also share some other quotes by popular philosophers of their times.
In small towns the same man makes couches, doors, ploughs and tables, and often he even builds houses, and still he is thankful if only he can find enough work to support himself. And it is impossible for a man of many trades to do all of them well. In large cities, however, because many make demands on each trade, one alone is enough to support a man, and often less than one: for instance one man makes shoes for men, another for women, there are places even where one man earns a living just by mending shoes, another by cutting them out, another just by sewing the uppers together, while there is another who performs none of these operations but assembles the parts, Of necessity, he who pursues a very specialized task will do it best. -Xenophon
The power of the individual human being is not sufficient for him to obtain (the food) he needs, and does not provide him with as much as he requires to live. Even if we assume an absolute minimum of food.that amount of food could be obtained only after much preparation…Thus, he cannot do without a combination of many powers from among his fellow beings, if he is to obtain food for himself and for them. Through cooperation, the needs of a number of persons, many times greater than their own number, can be satisfied. -Ibn Khaldun
When every individual person labors a-part, and only for himself, his force is too small to execute any considerable work; his labor being employed in supplying all his different necessities, he never attains a perfection in any particular art; and as his force and success are not at all times equal, the least failure in either of these particulars must be attended with inevitable ruin and misery. Society provides a remedy for these three inconveniences. By the conjunction of forces, our power is augmented: By the partition of employments, our ability increases: And by mutual succor we are less exposed to fortune and accidents. This by this additional force, ability, and security, that society becomes advantageous. -David Hume.
So that’s brings it back to the question what type of a Jack are you? Jack of One Trade? Jack Of all Trades Master of None? Jack of all Trades Master of One. Most of us are Jacks of One Trade. There have been exceptions though Remember Da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin? Our Society values more depth of knowledge in one trade than the breadth of knowledge in all trades. This is more to do with productivity of the society than anything else. In the end to make a living it’s just enough to know one skill thanks to the vastness of the human population, that we through our skill set make a contribution to the society and in return enjoy the benefits of the other skill sets of the remaining human population. But again all different skill sets don’t give us the same wage; more number of people having the same skill set the lesser you are valued in terms of the value you provide to the society and more number of people who avail of your skill set the more valuable you are to the society. So if you were to choose that one skill set to make a comfortable living choose one where more people can benefit from your unique skill set and you are the one of the relative few who offer that skill set. Does that mean it’s not worth broadening the scope of your skills beyond your core skill set? If you have a deep enough expertise in a trade that a percentage of human population will always avail of your services you are in good shape. But if the scope of your acquired skill is limited and does not have the potential to feed you on a consistent basis it’s better to be a jack of few more trades. If you are the Master of One trade courtesy of which you are assured of living a comfortable life its worth pursuing other trades for the fun of it.