The wise philosopher (and fellow Culture Shocker) Tino Bratbo recently wrote of an identity crisis he has struggled with for years- “to be a Master or a Jack-Of-Many-Trades.” The Master, Tino claims, is the product of years of sacrifice and dedication to a field. The Jack, conversely, lacks this sacrifice and dedication. Following the path of the Jack is “the easy route.”
In terms of the admiration he gives to the Master, I agree with Tino. Someone willing to sacrifice so completely for his or her craft, be it medicine or art or journalism or baseball, deserves respect. There is something eye-opening about watching a Master at work, even if you have no experience or understanding of the field. You can feel something in a Mozart symphony that you certainly would not in a Jeff Fox symphony.
But I also respect the Jack because being a Jack is not easy. Being a Jack, in some ways, may be harder than being a Master, because the Master’s singular focus can protect him or her from a more terrible world. By trying new things, Jacks are constantly making themselves uncomfortable, and therefore growing, in ways that Masters can never emulate. Burying yourself in something “at the expense of everything else” insulates you from both the good and the bad. Living without this protection leaves a Jack at risk. He or she may never find a place to belong, whereas a Master has a “club of people with whom [he or she] can identify.” But with the risk comes a significant reward. Jacks have more chances to connect to different kinds of people, since they can understand so many perspectives. Jacks, also, can reference this broad base of experiences to be more successful leaders than Masters. Would you rather have a president who knows everything about international relations, or one who has a bit of experience in many domestic and foreign issues? The Jack’s life is more varied, and thus potentially richer, than the Master’s.
It seems that Tino’s identity crisis comes down to where to focus his love of learning. Should he acquire deep knowledge, or broad? I don’t think either of these paths should be criticized, because both require sacrifice and dedication. It depends on your priorities: do you prefer safety and deferred respect or complex, diverse life experience?
I think that rather than an either/or between Master and Jack, there is a third option, the real easy route: the Joker. It’s reasonably easy to access knowledge today, but that doesn’t mean everyone goes looking for it. Jokers don’t show any real sacrifice or dedication. They don’t work to learn. These people are spoon fed talking points masquerading as information and borrow others’ opinions as their own. Plainly, Jokers are lazy. This is the easy route.
There is nothing easy about being a life-long learner, I think, whether this learning leads one to supremacy in one field or the fundamentals of many. Either way, both Masters and Jacks are worthy of my respect.
What do you think, readers? Do you think that the route of the Master is more respectable than that of the Jack? Or, do you see them as two cards from the same deck? To the comments we go!