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Being the proverbial 'Jack of all Trades' actually sucks. It might seem nice to know that no matter what you try, you'll be good at it; but in reality in the end you just feel like 'second best'.

It's been like that my whole life - I've done really well in everything I've tried, from drawing to programming to singing to chemistry. But I just can't seem to do better than 'really good'. In the end, I just try something else.

Maybe one day I'll find something.

Or perhaps I just need to concentrate on one thing. I'm already dividing my time between being a 'logical' IT person and a 'creative' art person.

Maybe I'm just being too arrogant to think that I could possibly be the best at something. I think what I'm feeling is that I would like to do something better than all the other things I do? Like I wish I was a better artist than a programmer, for example. Then I would really know what to focus on.

Please don't flood the comments with 'oh but I love your comic you're so great', that's not what I need. I'm just sort of musing here.

How did you find the one thing that you were really good at?


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 11th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
Looking everywhere I can and fidgeting with things that seemed interesting along the way. Some I was good at, some I felt strongly about, but it took a lot of trial and error to come to the right combo. Now I take pictures, and revel in it; and I use my techie side to fund it. If I was ever really struggling with the idea of something being fulfilling or not; I'd just ponder and talk it over with some trusted folk. And if it came right down to it, moving on to something else was better than sticking with something that I wasn't satisfied with.

Mar. 11th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
I find that being a multi-talented person, frequently the best thing I can do is to help coordinate and take advantage of overlaps in things I'm good at. I'm not the best biologist, and I'm pretty good but not olympic-quality at computer graphics, but I do know enough that I can talk intelligently with biologists, have them help me understand their work, and represent it in computer graphics. In some ways, the crossover is a rarer (albeit less easy to "sell") talent than just being good at one thing in particular. I have no idea if this is something you'd want to do, but as an artist and a programmer, you certainly have the opportunity to bridge the common gap of artists who say "I wish these programmers understood what features we artists really want" and the programmers who say "these artists are all vague and confusing, we don't know what they want." That's just a specific example I made up, of course, but the general approach of "be best at seeing things from different perspectives" seems to make me feel like I'm best at something. (If only I was better at finding people to pay me for it, I'd be really happy.)

$0.02 from a random reader
Mar. 11th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Speaking as someone who does the Jack of all trades thing as well, and has similar thoughts on a regular basis, here's my advice:

You will not be happy if you only focus on one or two things. Period. If you would be, you'd be doing it already. If you really want to improve on one or two things, do focus on them more; I know that early on there's a fast imporvement that slows afterwards, and so it can seem like you're not getting anywhere. It can be very discouraging, and can lead to you abandoning it for something else. But sticking with it WILL lead to large improvements, though you may not notice until sometime after these improvements have arrived. If you ever feel you're getting stale, take a step back and do something else for a while - you may return to whatever it is you were with a new outlook and therefore the ability to have another steep learning curve. (One of the things about being a 'natural' at most things, is that once you hit a certain point, it feels like you're not advancing anymore - you are, and if you continue with it, you will eventually become much better than you were; but not at the speed you want and are used to. It can be very frustrating.)

The other thing to remember is that in very broad subjects, there really isn't a 'best.' There are people who are top-ranking, certainly - but who was the best? Pythagoras? Or Fermat? Leonardo? or Raphael? Or someone else?
People who are 'the experts in their field' are often the experts because they're really the only one who studies what they study. (ie; he's not the expert in the field of classics, but if you want to know about the construction of boats from Cypress, he's the best.)

Finally, the thing to remember is that most people aren't the best, or even the second best. Being the actual best would mean devoting your life to something - and even then you still might not be the best.

My point, long and rambling as it is, is that being really good is really good. No, it's not perfect, but unless you really feel you WANT to devote your life to one or two things, I'd just take being a Jack of all trades for what it can be: Fun.
And if you decide that you want to be perfect at one thing, that can be fun, too.
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
You hit the nail on the head :)

I really do feel a lot of the time as though I'm not advancing any more in the things I do. I watch other people doing the same pursuits as me, and see them consistently getting better and better, surpassing me, and it feels like I'm not getting anywhere no matter how much I work at it. I wish I could improve at that same initial rate :)
Mar. 11th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
This sounds really arrogant to say, but I know how you feel. Being generally good at lots of things can be hard. It gives you the ego of someone who's good at things, without the focus to make you great.

Even if you were only good at one thing, though, bear in mind that the 'best' is really, really hard to get. As in, no one gets it. If you were only good at art, for example, and your art were divinely, spectacularly glorious, and people wept with joy every time they looked at it...someone else would still be better. Someone is always better, sometime, somewhere, in some way.

The important thing is not to try to be better than everyone else, but to try being better than yourself.
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
I guess what I was trying to say is not so much that I want to be 'the best in the world' or anything like that - I just want to feel like I'm personally focusing on the one thing that I do better than other things.
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Thanks ^_^
I don't really have an answer for this one, but reading your entry actually brightened my day. I'm a relatively recent fan of your artwork, and have suffered from the same feelings of "good at lots of things" but I feel as if I always know someone who does everything better than I do. It's reassuring to know that other people feel the same way. I too divide my time between being a logical accountant (profession) and personal creative pursuits (reading, writing, knitting, etc.)

Honestly, I've found the best way to deal with this is to pursue my many hobbies and enjoy them to the fullest. Accept that I'll never be "the best" and enjoy the skills I've accumulated. After all, the more diverse a person's background skills, the more interesting they are. And personally, I've decided I'd rather be interesting. ^_^
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks ^_^
I'm so glad there seem to be many other people with the same problem (especially ones who have managed to find a solution ;) )
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 24th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
I think people who are talented or best at something isn't necessarily gifted at that particular subject, it's just that their interest leans towards what they're considered "really good" at and they pursue it with that added interest and hone it until it's hits that level above.
Mar. 11th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
I looked really hard at all the things I really really loved, picked the one I was best at (and not just mediocre/good at) and concentrated on it.
Now I'm a full-time photographer and I own my own business and support myself on the income. It's really consumed my life, but I'm good at it. :P
Mar. 11th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
i try to hone a lot of things at once, in order to enjoy myself and make myself marketable in multiple fields, but i choose to strongly pursue the interests that I actually enjoy and don't feel like work to me.
Mar. 11th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
I came across my one thing a bit by accident. I took a Linguistics class in school to cover a prerequisite, and found I had a knack for the stuff. Everything else I'm pretty much rubbish at. I seem to have even hit a ceiling in my Japanese Language study--which is bad considering that's what I was planning on majoring in. T_T
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
"How did you find the one thing that you were really good at?"

I haven't. Almost everything you wrote here, I've written before when I think about it.

I've decided to reassign my goals to finding something I enjoy doing that I can make enough money at to live comfortably. That's it, and all I want to ask for.

Now if I can just get into school to pursue it.
Mar. 11th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
what you become really good at, and make it your own, is what you are passionate about. Well thats what i have been told before anyway.

Find a craft and make it your own, then you are the best at it.

my two cents.
Mar. 11th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
I haven't found the one thing I'm best at, and I doubt I ever will. I'm in art school, studying to be animator, which in itself has a variety of different forms. I could also go into fine art, if I felt like becoming a starving artist. On the other hand, what I want to do most is write and publish sci-fi/fantasy novels. Though I have brilliant stories, I'm don't think I'm that great at the writing itself.
I love to sing and took two years of choir class, but I'm only decent, not great. I enjoy modern dance, too, but again, it would take a lot more practice to become great at it.

I'm positive that it's quite common for people never to find their one true talent. In fact, I'm glad that if my art doesn't work out after all, I have other things to turn to.
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
I`m still looking. There are many things I`m good at, but nothing that stands out as what I really want - but not everyone finds that one thing early, sometimes it takes a bunchload of years before something sticks out. You`ve got plenty of years to sort it out for yourself still.
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
I'm usually surprised when people seem to instinctively know which specific career path is best for them early on, stick with it, and do well. It seems more unusual now for people to be specialists.

For me, I somewhat randomly decided to take a graphic art course; which led to my pursuit of graphic design as a career. And I randomly took a cartooning course in college (and still wish to publish my own comic). I've long been interested in knowing something about all sorts of things -- How does that work? How do they do that? How can I use this?

I think I chose design because of the potential for variety. Illustration, as part of that, is something I really enjoy and how I feel most expressive. I majored in that, despite it being an unpopular choice, because it was right for me.

I don't do a lot of illustration at work now, but being an in-house designer gives me the freedom to work on a variety of projects and I get a fair bit of creative freedom.

Some days, I think in-house designer is really just another term for "jack of all trades." In the graphic design industry, people seem to expect a larger skill set (it's practically expected for designers to be well versed in both print and web-based design, for starters). There are certain things that should be left to specialists; but companies seem to expect the multi-talent more often (which isn't always practical).

I think that as long as you feel happy with what you're doing, you're fine. There's nothing wrong with trying something new now and then, but you probably have a short list of things you want to continue doing long term.

You may not fully focus on any one thing; but that's fine. What's important is what works for you.
Mar. 12th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
"How did you find the one thing that you were really good at?"

Um, the one thing I'm really good at? Or the one thing I want to be good at? Or the one thing everybody else thinks I'm good at?

Sorry, I guess I don't find simple questions very simple. :p

Anyways, I think it's more a matter of what you want than what you're more skilled at.

I mean, if it turned out you were a better singer than you were an artist, but you liked art more, would you still concentrate your efforts on improving your singing rather than your art, just for the sake of being 'the best' at something?

Being the best at something is rather lofty and subjective anyway, not something that can be easily measured (unless you count public opinion, and even then that's not always reliable).

Being your best at whatever you want to do might be a better goal, if a bit more vague since your best is defined by you.

Personally, I find trying to reach my personal best to be much more fulfilling whether it's in music, art or writing. I'm my own best competition and I enjoy surprising myself when I exceed my own expectations. ^_^

As for finding the one thing I'm really good at, I don't think I've actually found it. Like you, I'm a bit of a 'jack of all trades', but despite not being the best at anything, I enjoy being able to 'switch hats' whenever the need or mood arises. ^_^
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