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Jack of all trades, master of one…

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I may have mentioned (ok, definitely) that I am a technical writer. A technical writer is actually a few things, but to sum up, he (or she) is the person who writes your user manual. Televisions, telephones, and just about anything that is put together or has a use…has a technical writer behind it. Oftentimes, the actual engineer or project manager writes the documentation to their product and that where misunderstanding comes into play. Writers basically focus on what an audience needs to know about technology, and satisfying that need.

As humans tend to be, I am always looking to add something – be it knowledge, experience, material – I need to constantly be in motion. Now, this attitude has led me into many, many pursuits. Most of these having to do with communication (writing, poetry, singing, travel). I remember thinking of myself as a sort of renaissance man, until that is, I read a story where the title of this post was spoken derisively by one of the characters. I immediately identified myself as the object of scorn directed toward me by the author. Of course, this made me think…

I have been an entrepeneur all my life. I hate to be dependent on others, so basically I arrange things to have as much freedom as possible when making decisions. What tends to happen is because there being such abundant opportunity in the world to do – things – I take as many as I can. Sometimes its called a short attention span, but actually I am more the one who tries to master any particular pursuit. Essentially, that is what I do as a technical writer; I become an expert on the subject of my writing and communicate this to users. This means more than one thing…

In my thirst for the new, I am constantly drinking of the age I live. Languages, family, entertainment, business, technology and cultures all areas I would consider myself an expert. I read an account of a business man who had finally ‘made it’. He recalled working as a freelancer (here it comes) and thinking to himself ‘am I a flake?’

So now with doubt firmly entrenched in my mind, I then began to justify my existence, and this is what I came up with. The jack of all trades, master of one is exactly what you imagine me to mean. You can call it renaissance man, or street smarts, or just common sense even. In contrasting the jack of all trades and the master, I find that one can be a specialist in life, but must master many things to survive. Take child-rearing for example. A parent must be an expert cook, a teacher, and transportation expert to a certain degree or their life will be a chaos or sickness, poor decisions and chronic tardiness. Children on the other hand are specialists at one thing: playing, but are just barely capable of surviving without an adult.

There is also another aspect to the multi-faceted man in that the analytical capacity is increased with every new skill or body of knowledge. No news there, but that is one of the fundamental points of humanity. The ability to remember, compare, and make a decision. Sometimes you must compare apples to oranges, and doing that you draw upon similar experience. Now its great if you have the exact experience in a particular area if necessary, but breaking an event down to its basics and understanding, is a very valuable skill. This is the analysis of the jack of all trades, master of one.

Written by lionoah

July 16, 2010 at 13:04