wavy pattern

are you a jack of all trades?

(being well-rounded is overrated)

- Posted byHannah Miller

Hello dear reader,

It’s school report time of year.

What are your thoughts, your memories? ‘Talks too much’ was a phrase that I became well-acquainted with. I also know that for me, as I read the end of year report, I was driven by a desire to be top of the class in most things. In my school, you got told your year place ranking for each subject. I remember seeing the areas in which I was excelling, and the areas that I wanted to just nip in front of my nearest rival. And I’m not even the most competitive of people.

I’m a parent now, and I get the joy of my son’s reports. There’s a tendency to look at the grades that need a bit of work. Celebrate the super ones, yes, but let’s take a look at this one a bit more closely and do something about it. Now, this is no bad thing, we do need to grow in our areas of challenge (especially if those grades relate to behaviour and attitude!), but we need to be careful that we are not perpetuating the myth of well-roundedness.

The younger we are, the more important it is that we have an open mind to all possibilities, and a growth mindset to the stuff we find hard. How relevant is this at age 40? OK, I can take on a challenge like learning to row, or sew, or whatever you may choose, but what about how I spend the majority of my time? Should I still be obsessing over the stuff I find more difficult?

I think the answer to this question is a resounding no.

We need to know what we find hard, or what is more challenging and do one of the following things:

  1. Find a work-round. How can I use my strengths in order to find a way to do this that feels more like me?
  2. Find a colleague or friend. Who do I know who is really good at this, and would actually do it way better than I do?
  3. Get to a place, through practice and investment, so that this trait or skill is ‘good enough’ and then get right back on focusing on where you are strong. If I am awful at using Excel but I have to use it in order to do my job, I need a course or too. Eventually you might hope someone would take pity and take over, but I may need to get to a place where my use of Excel is adequate. Adequate will do. Then go back to the stuff you are good at.

You see, what you are good at, has the potential to be excellent.

What you find harder, is highly unlikely to ever be top of the skill set, or would you want it to be. We look at other people, doing their thing, wishing we could do that thing, and all the time that we do that, we are missing out on cultivating the expertise and talent that we have. We can’t all do everything. But you can do some things brilliantly.

So, yes, keep an open mind, grow in your areas of shortcoming, but spot and celebrate your talents and make them something outstanding. That way, everybody wins.


Hannah x



P.S. Perhaps spend some time thinking about the people you most admire. Both close connections and your role models. Were they well-rounded? I highly doubt it. None of my heroes are. Let yourself off that hook.

If you liked this you may enjoy...