Ever heard the phrase, Jack of All Trades?
Typically this is followed by the finishing phrase, Master of None.
It’s not typically given the credit it so greatly deserves. Sometimes it’s said with such a negative connotation that nobody wants to associate him/herself with the title. I’ve even heard people refer to themselves as this and again, not always in a positive light.
Lately, it has really bothered me, to a point it has made it to my Path. My dad was a Jack of All Trades. He mastered the heck out of a ton of things!
His occupation title was being a frame man. Sounds like one job, right? It wasn’t. He worked on cars from the time he was 12, until he passed. His specialty was frame work, but let’s face it…a car guy is a car guy. Typically they know the ins and outs of so many parts of a car. Dad was a body man, mechanic, frame man and everything in between on a car. But that’s not all he was.
He was a dad, a husband, made phenomenal stainless steel belt buckles and jewelry. He was a plumber, an electrician and a heck of a mathematician. With four girls…although the creases in his hands were forever stained with car grease and you would never guess it, he could make a mean pony tail for a basketball game too.
Now if he was alive right now, he would tell ya that he wouldn’t claim to be great at anything. He was humble, so he never thought was a master at anything. He had buddies that excelled in the areas he didn’t. He complemented them with his own expertise in other arenas. Together, they would master the rebuild of a project together, no matter what it was. In the process, they developed friendships that lasted through the years.
They relied on each other. They trusted each other to see something to fruition. They mastered the idea of teamwork. They mastered the key to lifelong friendships.
Mom was a stay-at-home mom. Talk about a jack of all trades. No way anyone can tell me she didn’t master a multitude of things. There are five of us. All stair step in ages. I would have probably mastered opening a bottle of wine per day to deal with that many babies, but not mom. She was too busy mastering so many other tasks in a day’s time.
She wasn’t a teacher by trade…but she taught. School for five kids, at five different levels of classwork had to require that her knowledge base expanded and contracted based on need – the ability to interpret homework assignments in a multitude of ways and a multitude of subjects to boot! No way am I anywhere up to that challenge.
Making sure we all got to ball games and birthday parties required mastering time management. Communicating with all the parents, dad’s customers and anyone else required the mastery of interpersonal relations. She mastered the laundromat philosophy without ever leaving the house. Multi-task wasn’t a term, it was a way of life.
Mom and dad both were jacks of all trades and mastered just about everything.
Think of our school teachers. Many of them are not just teachers. They are bus drivers, coaches, quasi-nurses, amateur psychologists and a plethora of other vocations that require attention, for all of our kids. I can’t begin to address all they master in day. They may not have giant certificates on the wall that state, “I taught a child with dyslexia to read today” or “I brought a child the knowledge of their self-worth” but they’ve done it, and most likely all behind the scenes. Not the craft of a master? Think again.
Call them trades or professions, skills or talents, they all boil down to what you have learned and what you are willing to bring to your day. Chances are, what you do for a living isn’t all you have in your quiver. I know my actual job may require a certain skill set but that unique blend is something only I can bring – just like your set of skills, experience, knowledge and passion is specific to you. I guess in that way, we have all mastered one thing…knowing ourselves. A bit of self-awareness and appreciation for the folks you meet in a day will allow you to see them as masters also.
Jack of all Trades? Maybe not ALL trades, but a Jack of a bunch! Don’t ever use that term in a less than heroic fashion. Because it deserves a crown.
Heck, I am not a copier repair person, but I’ll bet I can fix any number of jams if ya need me to. I don’t claim to be a zoo keeper but I have managed to keep Bob and Linda, our hermit crabs, alive for almost two months now. I haven’t written books on parenting or being the perfect wife, but I’m workin’ on those too, learning something new with every single breath I take. Truth is we all wear a lot of hats…we have a lot of trades if you will.
The picture we paint each day is never the same as the one before. We continue to learn and grow and present that with a little more accuracy…growing with every relationship we have. Whether it’s a book, a person, a show, a facial expression – we are mastering something new every time we commit it to our person.
Master of None? Absolutely not! We each master so many diverse pieces, we just don’t realize how much it actually takes to do it. The very idea of mastering the concept of being a Jack of All Trades is pretty much what we do from the time we get up in the morning til we go to sleep at night.
It’s impressive how we create communication, good or bad, to resolve an issue. It’s amazing that we run into so many people unlike ourselves and manage to find common ground most of the time. It’s absolutely incredible that we continue on our own paths of enlightenment, accumulating and categorizing such a variety of information – yet we don’t call ourselves a master of anything.
Oh we are Masters alright. We are masters of our own contribution to this world and that mastery evolves constantly.
So If anyone ever tells you that you don’t know Jack. Just smile at them and say, “you’re right. I don’t know ONE Jack…I own Jacks of many trades, and I am their master.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have known Sandy and her siblings since we were children. I am proud to know them and to have the had the priveledge to spend time with the Welch Family. If space allowed, I could write many memories I have with them, but unfortunately, it does not. So I will just say this:
When I was first asked about running this column by Sandy, I thought it was a great idea because she was a local girl and this would help add to the hometown feel I wanted the paper to possess. However, I quicky realized that it wasn’t the hometown feel that made her column special, but the sheer talent in her writing.
It seems that the apple really does not fall from the tree. Her dad was truly one of the most talented men I have ever known. There was simply nothing he couldn’t fix. My dad used to say that Jim had more talent in his little finger than he had in his whole body. I agree with Sandy that we are all jacks of many trades. The most important of these I believe is the business of making and keeping friends. Without a doubt, the Welch family have always been a clan that can claim to an have abundance of trades in which they can call themselves jacks. But when it comes to friendship, they can only be called masters.
C.L. Harmon