The jack of all trades’ fear of mediocrity.
I’m usually very proud of being a jack of all trades. Like all of them, I take joy in acquiring knowledge from all the world has to offer. I like to dabble, and enjoy the fruits of the Earth without ever deciding that one is sweeter than the other.
Here’s a few juggling tricks, a quick fingerpicking on the guitar, a little jazz lick on the trumpet. How about a website? Photography? Video? Logo? A business presentation or a light spattering of a folk dance — you don’t like folk you say? No matter, out come the swing dancing shoes. How about English? Français? Papier mâché or a café? A rhyme or a Bloody Caesar with lime?
Now I’m just listing things, but fuck me if knowing a ton of shit isn’t fun.
Being this way got me through the hell that is business school, and I’ve successfully converted one of my many diversions into a job and hopefully will continue to evolve that into a full-on career.
Last week, however, I learned that Netflix is releasing a show called Chef’s Table which is going to be directed by David Jelb that directed the spectacular Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Jiro is the antithesis of a jack of all trades. Jiro has one trade. Jiro makes sushi. He did so for 70 years. He will continue to do so until he dies. The title of the movie is literal. The guy actually dreams of the delicious fish on a bed of perfectly steamed rice.
My first reaction to this movie was that of any jack of all trades: “I should really learn how to make sushi.”
I went to YouTube right away, looked up how to make sushi, saw what I needed and proceeded to Amazon to see how much all that shit will cost.
It’s not clear at what point it hit me, but something drove me to stop. I stopped and reassessed my life.
What the fuck am I doing calling myself a designer if I go to bed dreaming of how I’m going to bake the shit out of a red velvet muffin the next day?
Of course, I use articles about creatives doing better with multiple outlets as ammunition against internal crippling “you suck” thoughts, but then I see this ancient man’s smile looking back at his life with no regrets whatsoever. How do I compete with that? Come to think of it… do I even want to? Can I deal with a life that is relegated to a single trade? If I can’t deal with it, can I deal with a life where I find myself so broadly spread that I can’t experience that sense of satisfaction of seeing something all the way through to ultimate greatness? Was this something Jiro even thought — or dare I say it, dreamed of? I thought about the following question long and hard:
What makes a successful master?
This thought troubled me, and it didn’t quite leave me, even a few weeks after the movie. Throughout those weeks, I saw the usual stream of trending videos on the internet, including people that do small but amazing things and amongst them were a few pottery masters. I watched those old men as they lovingly caressed their clay, making bowls, teapots, cups and vases and a thought occurred to me.
These old farts don’t give a shit about most of the world’s definition of success. They just go about their lives doing what they do, and if that so happens to be one consistent thing, then that’s what it is. If that is many different and sometimes unconnected things, like it is for me, then I shouldn’t fret about it either.
The same goes for Jiro and his cute, little, remorse-free smile; the man’s an undeniable legend. Not because he became massively famous and got a 3 star Michelin rating, but because he couldn’t give less of a shit if he ever did.