Jack of all trades, master of some!

The tree of knowledge has its roots in libraries! (Photographer: Apoorva Nagendra)

From time immemorial, children, teenagers and young adults have been advised to find their greatest strengths and to work on them more and more until they can achieve some sort of perfection. In education, that usually means finding a field of study and mastering it. But does this mean that you are inching more towards perfection in that field, or are you narrowing down your brain’s ability to expand?

The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” is not exactly complete! Originally it said, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” So does it matter if you are a master of one rather than many? Yes, it absolutely does.

I strongly believe that you need to know much more than just your fair share of modules. An electronics engineer will need to learn how to write a few lines of code to check if his circuit works fine. A mechanical engineer will need to have some idea about the electrical systems he will interface the hardware with. I can give several such examples of how making an effort to know more about another field will give you better insight into how to improve yourself. Does learning end after we graduate? Surely not!

Learning more should not (and usually does not) end with just your field of study or your department at work. It goes beyond all that and percolates into our everyday lives. This applies to people from all walks of life.

Your brain is a muscle, and it too needs exercise, a healthy diet and a break from its regular routine once in a while. Exercise could come in the form of problem-solving, inventing, planning, executing and designing something new and creative. A healthy diet should include not only good food, but also new information as well. Having a “No-Social-Media Day” and reading a book instead can be greatly beneficial. A break from routine can be anything from rearranging the furniture at home and building weird aliens from LEGOs to composing songs with your friends about that horrible room you shared in college. I guess I can compare it to Sheldon Cooper’s “anything can happen Thursday”!

Take the example of the legendary physicist Richard P. Feynman who did a bunch of crazy things like trying out a sensory deprivation tank, learning to play bongo drums, learning to crack his colleagues’ safes, figuring out methods to get a girl to go out on a date and lots more while working on the Manhattan Project (construction of the first atomic bomb), coming up with mind-blowing theories in Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Electrodynamics, winning the Nobel Prize and so much more.

If you feel that this is all too much, and you are just one tiny human and not a machine, I think it will help to remember that the computer processor was designed keeping the human brain as the ultimate processor. Sadly, it has been over four decades since the first processor was made, and here we sit thinking that we are less awesome than it is.

We have completely forgotten that the limitation that restricts technology does not restrict us. It is understandable that being solely focused on one thing can seem like the logical way to become the best at anything, but branching out and learning new things is more helpful.

“Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland


Apoorva Nagendra

(Study programme Electrical Engineering and Information Technology)

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