It’s time for another sample page from my book I published in April, called You Don’t Know Jack! Why the Jack of All Trades Triumphs in the Modern World. You can buy the book here, and if you could leave a stellar review too, well, that would be stellar,

The page is entitled ‘There Can Be Only One’ and it goes like this.

There can be only one regional champion, one national champion, one world champion. There can be only one team leader, one head of department, one chief executive. There can only be one political head of a region, one leader of the political party, one leader of the country. There can only be one winner of the prize, whatever that prize is.

Maybe you won prizes at something, and then you went on to the next level. Maybe you won prizes at that level too. At some point you start to analyse how you measured up against the people at the next level. At some point it gets serious. Really serious. At some point you come up against people for whom it’s always been serious. And it’s not fun anymore. You might come second, or worse. For there can be only one.

To take a line from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Vanity and bitterness is for those who are competing with others, for those who are specialists – or believe they are specialists – in whatever they do.

You should be competing with yourself. This is why our teachers, coaches and other bodies encourage us to be the best we can be, to do our best, to better ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with all of us striving to be the best, as long as we understand that it’s our best that counts. This way we avoid unhealthy, unproductive feelings like vanity and bitterness.

Thanks for reading!

I came across this picture recently. I can’t remember where I saw it. It was too late to be included in my book, which is available in all good booksellers – actually just one enormous online bookseller… I think I would have put it in if I’d seen it earlier.

I’m not sure when the picture dates from, perhaps the 1920s, or perhaps the 1930s is more likely. There’s something so sad about the picture, yet it sums up the whole reason for me writing the book in the first place.

I’m not sure it’s genuine; the bottom of the placard looks a bit too straight and clean. If it is genuine, then it’s not a great advertisement. What trade does he know? What job does he want? What does he want us to do?

In the book I talk about how we’re not really a Jack of All Trades, we’re a Jack of Few Trades. Three trades qualifies as a few, and I’m willing to bet in the pictured case they’re closely related.

The funny thing is, in today’s world and today’s economy we would prize this type of person, and they’d probably be doing fine working from home. Yet, back then, in dire economic hardship – the kind of economic hardship we might be looking at now for the next number of years – this basket of physical skills was not enough to land a single job.

There was little opportunity back then to craft your your own value as a specialised generalist. There is now.

If you’d like to know more about how we Jacks of All Trades can triumph in the modern world, you can buy the book here, or from the US and Germany Amazon sites too.

I think this is my first ever Sunday post. Feels good!

What’s the story, is it free rein or free reign? Something that has confounded me for a good while.

To me, both spellings and implications make sense. To give someone free rein is to loosen the metaphorical reins to the point where they can do as they please.

To give someone free reign is practically the same thing, though it sounds more regal, more majestic if you like, reflecting the meaning of the word spelled that way.

Apparently the former is the correct spelling and use of the phrase. See here from Merriam-Webster, whose US provenance doesn’t negate the conclusion for UK English I don’t think.

Somewhat tangentially, in fact totally tangentially, here’s a question whose answer you should file away for potential pub quiz benefit. What’s the only word in the English language which ends in mt? Answer – dreamt! Compound verbs featuring dream don’t count :-).

“Concurs 2014, Castellers d’Esplugues” by Castellers d’Esplugues is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s one of the first pages of my You Don’t Know Jack! book, which you can buy here.)

This book is for 99% of us.

This book is for the 99% of us you don’t see on screen, you don’t hear about on the radio, you don’t read about in the papers.

Who are we? We are the Jackies and Jacks of All Trades – the JOATs. We’re pretty good at a bunch of things, but not so good at one of them that you would know of us.

Yes, we work, we play sports, we do a bit of music, we talk politics. But we’re not the 1%.

We are the people who put other people in power. We are the audiences at sports, music and other cultural events. We are the powerhouse of the organisation that gets things done. We are the buyers and consumers of things and ideas. We are the economic provider for the rich and famous.

We are the unsung heroes. We are the people that matter. We are multi-talented, we have options, and we have control. This book helps us understand why this is so and how we can live to our fullest potential.

Are you one of the 99%? If so, I recommend the book. But then I would, I hear you say, I wrote it. You can buy it here, or from the US and Germany Amazon sites too.

 

Are We Following the Wrong Role Models?

Here’s one of my favourite pages, and one of my favourite images, of which there are over a hundred, from my recently published book You Don’t Know Jack! Why the Jack of All Trades Triumphs in the Modern World. You can buy the book here, and if you could leave a review too, well, that would be awesome – to me.

The page is entitled ‘Are we following the wrong role models?’ and it goes like this.

“Who are our role models? Whose posters adorned the walls of our bedrooms when we were growing up? Film and TV stars? Music stars? Pop stars? Sporting heroes? Fighting heroes? Sex gods and goddesses? Cartoon or comic book characters? Business icons? Entrepreneurs? World leaders?

Do we look to them for inspiration? Or do we strive to be like them, to take their place? And what happens next year when their star fades, and we lose interest in them, and their posters are replaced by those of the new gods, the new heroes? They’re still doing what they do best, aren’t they? They haven’t changed their tune, tried something else, started again, like we have.

These are unattainable dreams, to all but the very few who knew from very early on that this is what they were born to do, what they wanted to do. They have one dimension, one direction, one dream. We don’t.

Who ever had a poster of their parents made and put up on a wall? The people who spent their adult lives helping to make us the people we are today? Who scrimped and saved, sweated and worried for us? Who we have to thank for putting up with us? Who we took for granted as we got older and who we wish we’d done more for now they’re gone? Who, actually, we strive to be like, kind of?

They’re in the photo frames on our table, but why aren’t they in the posters on our walls? And why not our teachers, coaches, mentors too?”

I hope you like it. Actually, I don’t mind if you like it or not. I’m more interested in whether you think it’s good, whether you think it has value.

 

JOAT! Book front cover

You Don’t Know Jack! is available in Kindle ebook and paperback

I’m beyond excited – and actually a little giddy – to announce that I have published my first book. I hinted at this when I completed my 1,000th blog post earlier this year. I feel like linking to my book every other word, but that would be silly, and probably annoying to you, the reader, and potential buyer. I’d be super grateful if you shared this post with your network. If you do buy it, a stellar customer review would make an oldish man very happy.

The book is called ‘You Don’t Know Jack! Why the Jack of All Trades Triumphs in the Modern World’. It’s the so-called self-help genre, where you might find Messrs Ferris, Gladwell, Godin and Pink, to mention but 4 in alphabetically democratic order. Here’s the back cover blurb:

“Ever wondered why the phrase ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’ is always used as a negative and never a positive? It’s as if being pretty good at a good few things is some kind of burden! It applies to a staggering 99% of us, yet almost nothing is written on this overwhelmingly large part of the human race that will probably never be a leader in its field. You Don’t Know Jack! is the first book to explain the vital role the Jack of All Trades, or JOAT for short, fulfils in society. It tells us why it’s OK not to get into the 1% and how our thirst for variety and ability to adapt give us the perfect platform for us to live richly, generously and happily. This is the first book of Paul Dilger, a dyed-in-the-wool JOAT who threads his own experiences through this thoughtful and original publication.”

This project started in 2015, and it’s fair to say it began as it ended, as a side project while I pursued my paid job and a bunch of voluntary roles. I began writing it in 2015. I finished it in 2018. I then spent a year trying and failing to get editors and publishers to take it on, before deciding to self-publish. The following year I spent sourcing the photography for the book – it’s heavily photographic, and is designed to be coffee-table ‘putdownable’ – and cajoling a designer friend of mine to take on the project as a side project of her own.

So here we are, 5 years later, and it’s on digital and in print. I would be touched, and not just financially, if you bought it. You can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited, it’s £5.99 as a Kindle ebook and the paperback is a reassuringly expensive £19.99. Why so much, I hear you say. Well, the on demand print cost alone is almost half that, since almost every page is in glorious photographic and typographic colour. Then there’s a lifetime of personal experiences, thoughts and advice in it. Amazon takes a big chunk, and the remainder I split between me and the long-suffering designer.

Here’s my brand promise to you. If you are a generalist, a Jack or Jackie or Jacquie of All Trades, and, as you’ve read, I think that’s pretty much all of us, you’ll get something out of this book. You’ll certainly know me better than you did before.

If you get a chance, have a quick gander at the Jack!Books website, and you might give the Jack!Books Instagram and Twitter a sneaky follow too.

The publishing name Jack!Books is plural because I’ve already written a sequel to this book. I promise it will be out quicker than the first one.

Thanks for reading! The post, that is, not the book, yet…

We’ve all seen those quarantine memes – either the before/after video of the girl bouncing up off her beach towel and flick-flacking her way down the beach into the sea, followed by the ‘after’ shot of the larger lady rolling down sideways and sloth-like, or the ‘day 31’ shot of someone enormous who has eaten the contents of their house – and in fairness some of them are very well done.

This idea that when you’re stuck indoors you eat more, either out of boredom or as a comfort palliative to anxiety, is a common one and one that people who are not used to being in the house all week can fall prey to.

Now is the time to buck the trend and strive for that inverse quarantine meme where your after is way better than your before.

Now is the time to grow that experimental beard, hit the yoga mat or get your kids to devise some indoor circuit training, safe in the knowledge that the only people that will see you are well used to you in a state of mild undress, or with bed hair.

Now is the time to recover those lapsed new year’s resolutions, with minimal distractions, and make a change for the better.

Now is the time to focus on that beach body, even though it might be July 2021, or December 2020 if you live south of the equator, before you can show it off.

Now is the time to resist the cookie jar. Go make a cup of tea or coffee instead, just the way you like it, rather than the awful cuppa Dave in accounts used to make.

Get that quarantine quest for greatness and fitness moving. Remember: when they zig, you zag. There’s cohesion and strength in small numbers, especially when that number is one.

The current climate has brought out my public spiritedness in the form of writing some good cheer. I’ve been making good use of the time I would have spent blogging these last 2 months to progress the publication of my book, but now is time for another post.

Here are 25 positives I can think of to an enforced and lengthy period of being at home.

You’ll have plenty of time to remind yourself how totally awesome the people – and their partners – on the front line and in the caring professions are, how they continually put other people like you and your sick rellies before their own, and how lucky you are that they chose to directly serve the community they live in

You can be safe in the knowledge with your young kids that if you can parent through this, you can parent through anything and you might actually be a record-breaking, all-time, Olympic podium-clinching parent

You get to spend more time with your immediate family instead of being like ships passing in the night

You can re-discover the undiluted joy of doing large jigsaw puzzles and playing with other toys and games

You can help your kids with their homework and generally parent in a proper fashion, like you wish you could have done when you busy out gallivanting

You can take a perverse pleasure in the fact that your elected representatives are finally earning their crust and fulfilling what they signed up for

You can take box set bingeing to a whole new – and hitherto unachievable – level

Your lack of outside activity, mixing with your fellow humans and not making enought stuff is allowing the planet to take a massive, deep and well-earned healthy breath of air

You finally get to run down the food in the freezer and defrost the damn thing

You can be thankful for that enormous mortgage you took on to move into a bigger house, which is still worth less than you paid for it years ago, because now your family has some breathing and personal space for the long haul

You get plenty of chance to hug your partner and offspring and remind them you love them, unless you’re self-isolating

You can share your diary, blog, and social media posts as a pick-me-up to the population

You get to practice cooking, baking and other life-handy skills

If you do have to head out, you can be astonished by how friendly, tolerant, helpful, community-focused and pulling-together the vast majority of people are in the face of adversity

If you’re managing people remotely, you get to practice several times a day your skills of empathy, concern and ‘it’s OK to take your foot off the gas abit, these are unique, surreal challenging times’ words of comfort to the people who depend on you for a good portion of their financial and emotional wellbeing

You can finally get to that long list of things to do around the house; the list that until now never seemed to get any shorter

You can spend time writing and sending physical letters – the ones that used to go in an envelope with a stamp on – to your nearest, dearest

Failing that, you can take time to text, email, SnapChat, WhatsApp – and so on, other delivery mechanisms are available – your entire circle of friends and acquaintances, individually, to wish them well and let them know you’re thinking of them. Copy, paste and some subtle but judicious editing works a charm here

Now that you’re working from home, but with a family audience, you’ll be so much more productive because they’ll see first hand how often and how long your breaks are

If you’re laid off, you can use the power of internet-based devices to let your entire network know that you’re available for hired help, no job too small. ‘Essential supplies’ providers can’t get additional people fast enough and you get a new experience for a few months

You can get your kids to design home-based exercise and nutrition plans for you

If you’re like me, a veteran home worker, you can give tips and tricks on how to stay productive and sane in the home office, even if your home office is a shared room, and not really an office at all

If you’re OK for cash, and you can earn money from home and you live alone, there has never been a better time to lock yourself away and pen that first novel

You can amuse yourself with the hundreds of hilarious memes and videos, created by people who are lightening your load, going round the social universe and making laugh out loud and in an unrestrained manner, thereby releasing good-time endorphins

And finally, you can use the word ‘carnage’ to describe the world you see without a trace or irony

I’m going to stop now, as I think I could go on forever. I’m sure you have a million more you could add, and that’s probably mot much of an exaggeration.

Paul Dilger 1000 blog posts

1000 blog posts

This, folks, is my 1000th blog post since I started a regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday thing on the 2nd of September 2013. It will also be my last, at least in this 3-times-a-week cadence.

Have I run out of things to say? No, I don’t think, fortunately, that will ever happen, otherwise what’s the point to anything? It’s simply that I started blogging to generate the discipline of regular writing, writing in a style that I enjoy both doing and consuming. I wanted to write a book. I wrote the book, and a designer is currently putting her magic touches to it, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It’s almost finished, and then I’ll publish it.

Of course, with 1,000 posts under my belt there is held, within this blogroll, at least another book or two as well, anthologised versions of my ramblings. The best ones put together if you like, although some of you might argue that if it’s only the best ones that make it in, they’ll be pretty short tomes.

I’ll still be blogging from here; after all I’ve a book to flog and some of you have been good enough to check in fairly regularly to read what I’ve had to say. Perhaps you’ll buy a copy. It’s on the subject that I’ve only briefly touched on over the last 1,000 posts, but the savvier among you might have an inkling as to the subject matter, especially since I’ve written small bits on a very wide range of topics.

Speaking of which, thank you. And thanks also to Seth Godin, who has done this sort of thing for longer, more frequently, and far better than I, but whose example got me kick-started.

So, 1,000 blog posts, over and out, until the next time. It does feel odd to be finishing mid-week, though. I don’t know what I’ll do come Friday…

It’s blog number 999 for me, but this is not an emergency. Instead, as I stand on the precipice of a 4-figure blog post career, I want to share what I’ve learned about this art form, or is it a science?

Of course, I’ve never been an example of the classic blogger, someone who writes to build a following. That was never my intention; rather, I’ve revelled in the joy and discipline of a regular write-up. This means that I’ll offer none of the lessons on acquiring readers, SEO, ideal blog length, influence, following people that follow you, that kind of thing.

No, this is what I’ve found over the years on the content alone, these 5 observations:

  • The one-off posts that come from something I come into contact with take longer to do, but are more fun because I don’t know where they’ll end up
  • The work-related blog post series on things to do with marketing, sales and general business are less fun because I know where they’re going but they’re more valuable to the readers
  • The blog post series which are not really series but posts grouped together to get me over a creative hump are the least valuable, and I apologise if you’ve had a sub-standard experience wading through them. At least you never have far to wade
  • If you sit down in front of your laptop needing to write a post but you don’t have a topic, it can be tough. The best thing to do is to let your mind wander where it wants and something will emerge. It doesn’t always have to be the light bulb moment that you must jot down for a future topic; sometimes you have to grind them out, crank them out
  • Fifthly, and perhaps most importantly, every single blog post is a mini product, a mini product of you, even if you’re not trying to sell your products, or services, or company. It’s your output, so it’s you. You’re giving away yourself, and in the course of repeatedly doing this you amass a body of hopefully honest work that can become something greater than the sum of each individual post. Even though sometimes you’re a slave to the schedule, to that standard of discipline I talked about, try and make every one a good one, the best it can be in the time you have