The phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none", is generally viewed to have a negative connotation. When I first decided to make this post about this phrase I did some internet searching and found a few interesting facts.
- Some people say this phrase is misquoted. None of those people I found were able to reference what the "real" quote was.
- The first part of this phrase, "Jack of all trades" is a term used as far back as 1592 by Robert Greene in his 1592 booklet Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit,
- Later when the second part of the phrase was added, master of none, is when it started to get its negative connotation.
- The term 'Johnny-do-it-all' was used in the 16th century to mean the same derogatory way we use the jack of all trades phrase now. (The Phrase Finder)
What did the phrase mean when it wasn't the derogatory meaning that it is now? Well first lets define what the phrase means now, just so we are clear.
OK. So, what did it mean, before that? Well before the master of none was added it was just Jack of all trades, so:
Jack of all trades may be a master of integration, as such an individual knows enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring the individual's disciplines together in a practical manner. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist.
I like the old meaning. I think that seeing someone who is good at many things and is able to wrangle it all together to in a practical way is amazing. People like that are the folks who are shaping our future and planning and executing projects. Their minds are broader and think outside the tiny box we live in. Maybe we need more Jack's in the world.