Archives for category: Self-help

Almost a year ago, in the teeth of lockdown angst, I published a book on what to do if you’re a Jackie or Jack of All Trades and master of none. This page from the book is about seizing the day, seizing the moment, and it seems a valid now as it did when I wrote it. It’s a heavily pictorial, heavily putdownable coffee table book, as you can see. You can buy the book here, and, if you like it, perhaps leave a review of a 5-star-based nature?

“Seize the taco by the lake” by Ioppear is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here’s what the page says:

“We are JOATS. We have a lot of things going on, competing for our attention. Every day that we breathe a myriad of thoughts flash through our heads. Some of them stay a while, some of them we banish. Some of them are pure gold and we want to hold onto them, kick them around and develop them, but then the next thought or an interruption comes along and they’re gone, sometimes forever.

You must seize the moment. You have these great thoughts milling around and you need to harness them so that you can filter them later and act on the good ones. That germ of a great one-liner. That question you must ask someone. That errand you must get done by Friday. That idea for a great new band, book, business…

“Don’t let these thoughts disappear into the ether!

“If you’re at your computer, keep a window open that you can toggle to, punch in a bullet point, and go back to what you were doing. As I write this book, every single page fires a few synapses that lead to thoughts that don’t belong on there. They do belong somewhere else, maybe in the book, maybe in another area of my life, but they’re important, so I stop momentarily, add them to a list and come back to where I was.

“If you’re out and about, or relaxing in front of something, or going from a to b, you don’t need to worry about a notebook or pen to capture that gem for posterity. Learn how to use the audio memo facility on your phone, or leave yourself a voicemail.”

Thanks for reading!

I can’t remember if you’ve seen what an actual double page looks like in my coffee table-suited book, published back 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 buy it for your coffee table and like it, you could leave a lovely review too, please.

“pregnant woman” by Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Some of the pages are true double pages like this one, devoted to one topic. Some of the pages have an idea on each page, either a version of the Jack of All Trades phrase from another culture, or an autobiographical example of JOATness, or simply an idea. This page is called The JOAT Parent and it goes like this.

“There isn’t much of a job description for being a parent, and there’s not much training either. We pretty much get dropped into one of the most demanding and diverse jobs you can imagine. It’s a full-time job being a dresser, washer, teacher, funder, protector, feeder, carer, advisor.

“Yet, when you think about it, JOATs make great parents. Think of all the different skills we need to acquire. Think of all the different phases a child goes through in its upbringing, the steep learning curves and the hurtling emotions of the rollercoaster. Each phase presents a different set of challenges for them and us and each requires a different mix of those parenting skills than before.

“If you’re a parent and a JOAT, you’re bringing into the world a child that may not end up in the 1%. It may not end up being a specialist. In that case the chances are the child doesn’t know what it wants to do in life, nor may it ever find out during its whole life. Our vital role as a parent is to expose our children to as many different experiences as we possibly can, to see which ones stick. It sounds pretty daunting, but then again, there’s no better role model than us for the multi-faceted life well lived, is there?

Specialists are so caught up in and committed to being the best that they tend to get other people to bring up their kids for them. They don’t have the time, or they don’t make the time, or they’re not around. Which sounds best for the child to you?”

Thanks for reading!

It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t focused on the Jack of All Trades book I published 11 months ago for a good while. It has an indulgent title and subtitle – You Don’t Know Jack! Why the Jack of All Trades Triumphs in the Modern World. You can buy the book from all good booksellers – actually you can’t, you can only buy it from one enormous bookseller, which seems to consume everything in its path, here.

What got me thinking about the book again was that I decided in a rare break in the Irish February weather that I would dust off the bike and give it a spin within 5km of the abode, in keeping with the seemingly eternal restrictions that chisel away at our wellbeing on a daily basis.

I hadn’t been on my bike for years. It’s not a racing bike with narrow tyres. It’s not a push bike with a couple of gears. It’s a hybrid bike, with fat, knobbly tyres that kind of let you go off road and bash it about a bit and kind of are fine for cycling distances on roads.

Of course, it’s the classic JOAT’s – or Jack of All Trades – bike. It does a number of things well but doesn’t focus 100% in one area, like going fast, or carrying things, or being comfortable and relaxing.

So that’s what got me thinking about how I approach pretty much anything, and about the book as well. When we JOATs get stuck into a bunch of things there’s sometimes not room enough for all the ‘trades’ we ply, so it was nice to be reminded by the great outdoors and the ingenious engineering feat that is a geared bike to reconnect with one of my trades again.

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!

“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.