I remember sitting in my college statistics class and the professor giving this advice, “If you’re smart, you will learn how to do one thing and do it well.”

The reason this quote sticks out for me is how often I heard it during my youth.  Becoming an expert at one thing is what college is all about: pick a major, get an entry level job, hone your skill while you climb the corporate ladder, and retire by being an expert in your field.  Fast forward to today, and the advice I hear is no different.  Pick up a book by famous author Malcolm Gladwell and he’ll tell you the same thing: extraordinary people become extraordinary by devoting 10,000 hours to one skill.

I’m going to go against all this “common sense” and give you new food for thought:  Forget learning just one thing.  Be a Jack of All Trades.


…Because you’ll satisfy more of your curiosity in the world by trying new things.
…Because learning new things keeps your perspective fresh.
…Because, contrary to popular belief, not all extraordinary people focused on just one thing.
…Because you’ll meet different people in your pursuit of diversity.
…Because not all passions have to be all-consuming.

Since graduating, I’ve taught English in Japan, worked as a market analyst in telecommunications, wrote for video games, and started Avalon Labs.  On the side, I dabble in a lot of things like social media, novel writing, and project management.  I may never become The Expert in my field, but that’s okay.  I enjoy learning a lot of things and finding new ways to apply them to different opportunities.

And the funny thing is, I’ve never had trouble making money.  I’ve always managed to find jobs that interest me or create work for myself.  In fact, I find that in much of my entrepreneurial work, being a Jack of All Trades is more of a positive than a negative.  You need to wear multiple hats in order to get a new company off the ground.

So sorry, stats teacher.  I didn’t take your advice, but don’t worry.  Sometimes the best “common sense” is the kind you make yourself.

-Deborah Fike

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