Seven years ago, I stumbled upon a TED Talk that changed how I saw the world. “A journey through the mind of an artist | Dustin Yellin” was just published by TED, and his work instantly fascinated me, but more importantly, his accidental progression. (You can watch the talk here)
At the time, I was known for my dancing career and my gymnastic background, but as time passed and I tried to branch into new territory, my skills were being placed in a box by everyone around me with sentences like:
“A Jack of all trades is a Master of none.” — I kept hearing when people checked what I was doing online.
“Why try to sing or act when you are so good at dancing?” — Said one of my closest relatives, looking at me awkwardly.
These people were not wrong, I was great at dancing, but to me, some people are meant for more, and their limited beliefs were placing my talents into one box and making me insecure about my growth journey. We are so focused on specialisation that we forget how quickly the world changes.
How many Graphic Designers have lost their jobs due to Canva being so easy to use? How many jobs are going to be replaced by AI this 2023?
As humans, we try to place things within a box for the sake of “easier understanding.” We are taught by society not to trust people who can do too much because they are probably not good at what you need them to do for you. Each of us can do a limited amount of things well, stick to those, don’t disrupt the game…
But what if this concept is simply wrong and those Jack of All Trades are actually way more competent than a person specialised in one thing only?
A polyglot develops the skill to master many languages way faster than others in ways a bilingual person can’t achieve. With every new language they learn, their neurones can memorise words faster and comprehend more complex sentences in record time. That means, with every new skill you learn interconnected to your leading talent, you actually become better and more advanced at your core expertise than a person doing the same for many years.
Don’t get me wrong, a person who has worked the craft of one thing only for their entire life will be unstoppable at that, but due to the lack of external challenges and completely different skills, that person will be useless once the world advances and will just be able to create that specific thing.
Back to Yellin’s art, during his talk, he explains the progression between creating art within a small frame to all the minor accidents and decisions which led him to ultimately end up crystallising his creations to create an entire universe that looks like a humanoid form. Upon close inspection, you can see hundreds of stories in one of these cubes, but when approaching the piece from the side, you simply can’t see anything else other than glass.
Each gigantic cube has dozens of glass panels with thousands of stickers in each. It is a crystal box, but it contains an entire ecosystem.
I stopped listening to people and chose to place all my talents in my own massive box, the result was outstanding:
. Instead of focusing on one dance style, I won Awards as one of the most versatile dancers.
. Instead of creating one type of choreographies, I ended up earning thousands of dollars for pieces which contained all kinds of talents.
. Instead of depending only on my physical skills to make an income, I branched out and learned video editing, sound production and Marketing.
. Instead of focusing on one music style, I created my own unique library and got to half a million streams.
The list goes on, and ultimately, people stopped trying to put me in a box, they were forced to comprehend that my identity would be the Jack of All Trades, and the fears they projected upon me had no effect anymore.
No, I wasn’t the best at specific skills, but since there is always someone better than us, I chose to be as fluent as water. I taught my neurones how to connect any new talent with those I currently have, I taught myself to love the chaos of wanting to do everything.
Now, I see myself as a gigantic box hosting many skills interconnected to each other. An ecosystem that people are being forced to understand.
“Work endlessly, create without limits, let your world become a universe… Force those people to expand their minds instead of become small for them to understand you.”