Are You a "Jack-of-all-trades, Master of none?"

December 9, 2009 | Uncategorized | Written by: admin

Do you recognize yourself in these descriptions?

You are…

… Afraid that you’ll either have to settle into a career and stick with it for life (boring!) or pursue your many, unrelated passions that will leave you penniless and unable to support your family.

… Well beyond your college years but still clueless about what you want to do when you grow up. You feel like something is wrong with you.

…Often described as a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. You are quickly excited about many, completely unrelated topics and able to acquire new skills… rapidly.

…Someone with a zest for life and a love for new experiences.

… Very successful in your field, but bored to death and looking to change directions – again. To the horror and disbelief of those around you.

If this sounds familiar to you, chances are, you are frustrated. Or worse; you are desperate because you can’t seem to “get it together.” It’s even possible that, in your attempt to keep your options open, you make no choices at all. You know you have all this potential but lots of it is going unused.

If this is you; take heart. There is nothing wrong with you! This is very important and I want you to hear it.

So what IS going on?

People like you – and me! – belong to a group of humans genetically wired to be interested in many completely unrelated topics. Barbara Sher calls us “scanners” and Margaret Lobenstine refers to us as “Renaissance Souls” in their respective books on the topic. I simply call us modern-day “Renaissance Personalities” – multi-talented people trying to fit a million passions into one life time.

Whereas most people obtain satisfaction from digging in deep and becoming specialists, the Renaissance Personality is in her/his element during the steep learning curve a new skill presents. Once that hurdle has been taken, most Renaissance Personalities lose interest and are on to the next challenge or project.

The best news of all is that this a wonderful trait! It makes you a very versatile and interesting person.

And it IS possible to live a life that integrates all of your passions – whether it pertains to careers or hobbies.

In upcoming blog posts, I’ll share more on this topic, including tips and strategies. I’d also love to hear about your experiences as a Renaissance Personality. These could be your personal success stories or about your struggles, not recognizing there’s a name for this personality type you’re part of. I want to hear it all! Please comment below or email me at


  1. I found you on career cycles…fb

    Thanks for letting me know I’m normal.

    …. I love life more than most and try to live it with as much variety & zing as possible. I’m a freelance copywriter/art director in advertising and publishing (sometimes I work from home and sometimes I work at my clients offices). I am also a professional sailor & nomad. I dabble in TV production (documentaries). I’ve worked in many industries from being a DJ, to teaching, to financial planning. I get board easily.

    When I’m not at work I’ve got a bit of an adventurous lifestyle…I’m into caving, sea kayaking, parasailing, surfing, diving, rock climbing, canyoning, swimming, windsurfing, canoing, yoga, aquafitness…and I’ll try most other things too!

    I took a 3 year sabbatical to hitch hike across Africa, then I learned to sail boats and ended up delivering yachts all over Africa & Europe…came home…missed the sea so then sailed down the Caribbean chain….I’ve lived with all kinds of people in all kinds of conditions and cultures…I am now trying to live a “normal” life again…It’s a bit tricky for me!

    I have most recently run into a wall.


    Comment by creative nomad — December 10, 2009 @ 12:30 am

  2. Dear Danni,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Wow – you’ve truly made good use of your time…what an exciting life story is that!

    I particularly love the nomad life style and sailing in Africa part..amazing.

    What I’m curious about is whether you ever felt that you should conform to “standard life” or that you felt free to create your own.

    You’re saying you’re trying to live the “normal” life now and are running into a wall. Just curious: why would you want to live the “normal” life now?

    Feel free to email me at if you prefer. Also, if you’re interested – I’d love to interview you for a compilation of stories I’m doing.


    Comment by Ilona — December 11, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  3. Look forward to hearing more, Ilona. I’m on my third career (by choice) and excited about my journey ahead. I’m certain that a fourth and fifth careers are in the horizon…and I can’t wait!

    My best to you!

    Comment by allegresse — December 11, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  4. This is so timely and sounds wonderful. I’m looking forward to learning more about how to be ok with millions of interests.

    Comment by katherine moody — December 11, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  5. Wow…great article and this is how I feel..alot of the times. What do I want to be when I grow up? I love what I do but I’m always looking for another challenge, something that I can learn from and which I can contribute to, not just on paper. THANK YOU for a great article and for the peace of mind knowing that I AM normal.

    Comment by Tina — December 11, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  6. Thanks for all your comments! Allegresse and Tina: good to hear you are already doing things you love. What do you see as your biggest challenge having so many interests and talents?

    Comment by careerbranches — December 16, 2009 @ 6:29 am

  7. I think the biggest challenge is determining when to pursue a new interest. For me, I think after around 5 – 6 years, I feel the desire to acquire new skills and tackle a new challenge, whether at a new company or a completely different job function. It’s sad to leave a good team or a good company. Although I would not leave a job/career if I have not yet contributed or if I don’t feel that I’ve given it my all, I still would feel guilty at times. There’s also the element of risk since you don’t know if your new (ad)venture will work out. The question that plays in mind is am I ready for the change. Is it too soon? To determine if it’s the right time, I think of 2 things. One, are there other things I haven’t experienced in this area that I could look into? Two, if I change now, what’s the worst case scenario and would I be ok with the outcome? What will I do if it didn’t work out the way I had hoped? I always have a backup plan. Reflecting on these two areas before making any career choice helps me feel even more confident about my decisions. And so far, it has worked out for the best.

    Comment by allegresse — December 21, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  8. First of all: Happy New Year!

    That’s so funny – Ian Sanders mentioned in his book “Juggle!” that people tend to go in 7-year cycles. (The 7-year itch!)

    Personally, I haven’t experienced this 7-year thing – I simply haven’t stayed in any area that long – except for my current business!

    I like your approach to evaluating your next sounds like a very thorough way of going about it. I’m not surprised this has worked well for you!

    Hey – if you’re interested: I’m doing a series of stories about this and am looking for people to interview. If you’re interested, email me at

    This offer is for anyone who identifies with the renaissance personality and wants to share the story of their life.


    Comment by Ilona — January 4, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  9. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I heard myself says this throughout 20 years of secured jobs until recently when I was made redundant. And so the dilemma of looking for another secure career or setting up my own business and thus doing the things that I have passion for and doing them my way.

    Comment by Alan — March 20, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  10. […] Career Branches. Helping Modern-Day Renaissance Personalities Fit a Million Passions Into One Lifetime. And Make a Great Living. […]

    Pingback by Top Write-ups About Being a Jack of All Trades « Jack and Jill of All Trades — November 11, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  11. Really a big help to be able to relate to a lot of things that you just said. I never thought another human being feels exactly the same way, thinks the same thoughts as I. I’m sharing your blog, probably to a lot of other Renaissance souls through my own post(…-of-all-trades/).

    Comment by Jack and Jill of All Trades — November 11, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  12. Thanks for this great blog and these great comments. I’m the author mentioned above who calls us ‘Scanners.’ I’ve spotted 9 different types of people who are subject to ‘hit-and-run obsessions,’ from ‘Serial Masters,’ who stick with something for years, to ‘High-Speed Indecisives,’ who discard passions in a matter of days. There are ‘Sybils,’interested in many things, and always returning to them again and ‘Samplers’ who get what they came for and are finished for good.

    All types (and combinations of types) can have great careers. A Jack-of-all-Trades, for instance, should be called ‘Most Valuable Player’ on any team because he’s good at everything and a great problem-solver.

    I’ve met people who follow what I call the ‘LTTL’ career path: ‘Learn, Try, Teach, Leave.’ Jim Clark, for example. He’s the inventor of Netscape and initiator of the dot-com boom (who eventually shorted that process to one even briefer: ‘GDL,’ (GetAnIdea, Delegate, Leave.)

    There are good career solutions for every configuration of interests and durations. One High-Speed Indecisive got a job talking up new products to a sales force. He was always so excited about the latest thing that the salesmen in the audience bought the items for themselves! A few days later, he was interested in something else. The company loved him.

    There was a time when it wasn’t considered at all odd to be interested in one thing after another, witness Ben Franklin. That changed in the U.S. 1950’s and it’s changing back again as we speak (according to economist Richard Florida and author Daniel Pink).

    If you, like most of us, are incredibly relieved to find out you’re not alone, that means you don’t know many of your fellow Scanners. Head over to to read client reviews of ‘Refuse to Choose.’ (I’m not trying to sell my book or I’d go find that link for you :-)) and you’ll see just how many people feel exactly as you do. Once the book hit the shelves, I started getting letters that made even me, a Scanner-on-steroids, feel surprise and relief that there are so many of us out there.

    I got this email the day the book came out: “Hi Barbara. I’m parked in my car outside Barnes & Noble reading Refuse To Choose and I’m crying. I’m a guy. I don’t cry…”)

    It’s time to stop thinking there’s something wrong with curious people who love learning. No one ever said, while watching a bee go from flower to flower, “Bad bee! Make up your mind!” As stupid as the human race can be, you can be sure we always assumed there’s a good reason bees do what they do. There’s a good reason we do it, too: we’re wired that way. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

    Sorry for the length of this post. This subject runs away with me.

    Comment by Barbara Sher — November 12, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  13. And that’s why we love you Barbara!

    Comment by Nancee — November 12, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

  14. hi ilona (and thanks for your tweet about your comment, barbara, that’s how i found this info) ~
    this is so fun to read and see comments by people who understand this wild desire to try to everything, explore, change, switch and discover. it IS nice to know so many people feel this way! we’re in good company as renaissance personalities and we have SO much to celebrate.
    thanks ~

    Comment by julie doane roberts — November 12, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

  15. Barbara! How wonderful to have you stop by my blog…and thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. Your work has paved the way for many people – scanners and non-scanners/renaissance personalities alike.

    Just as the folks you wrote to you, you’ve made an enormous impact on my life (together with Margaret Lobenstine) by writing “Refuse to Choose.”

    It really IS a huge relief to find out this is simply how we’re wired…not something that needs fixing. And I get the same reaction from people I speak/work with as well.

    Thank you for all you do – and have done. In my book, you need a Nobel prize! : )

    Comment by Ilona Vanderwoude — November 19, 2010 @ 11:44 am

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