The Curse of a Jack-of-All-Trades

5 03 2008

I’ve always been a jack-of-all-trades, never afraid trying to do something on my own, and always watching and learning how to do things.  I can’t help it, was raised this way. 

From a young age I pushed a toy lawn mower behind my dad as he mowed the lawn, in elementary school I spent afternoons with my grandfather who taught me about woodworking and tools as we built (yet never finished) a rocking chair, in junior high I hung out with carpenters and contractors everyday after school as they remodeled both my grandparents and my parents houses.  I was an early adopter of HGTV, yet This Old House remains my favorite home improvement show.  In high school I, like most teens, was infatuated with cars, and as a result I can, and have done just about everything on a car, short of body work.  Through all of this, I learned and did even more as I became an Eagle Scout.  I watched, I learned, I did.

I loved these aspects of my childhood, and these aspects built a foundation for me to know how to do an extreme variety of things, and as much as I love (and Mary loves) this about me, it’s a curse.

I constantly have internal struggles as three aspects of my life make it nearly impossible for me to make a decision on any variety of things.  These three things that alone are great, seem to deeply conflict each other.

  1. I’m a DIY type of guy, born and raised, for the sake of being constructive, and seeing a finished product that I created, saving money is just a bonus.
  2. I’m Frugal.
  3. I’m a perfectionist.

As the saying goes, “jack of all trades, master of none.”  I’m a perfectionist that can’t do any of the things I love to do perfectly, yet I hate the concept of paying someone when I can do it myself, but since I know how things should be done (even though I can’t do them perfectly) I monitor to make sure things are being done right.  As Fat Bastard in would say “It’s a vicious cycle.”

This internal struggle is one of the major reasons that Mary and I decided to build a new house instead of buying an older home and having projects.  We’d rather move into a house already done the way we want it than have to live with imperfect DIY project after project.

JD at Get Rich Slowly, posted an interview with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.  I have not read the book, but in the interview the concept of a “low information diet” is brought up.  Tim explains that the people who excel with this type of lifestyle don’t overload on information.  Instead they outsource what they can, and don’t feel the need to stay caught up.  Tim calls them “selectively ignorant,” not really knowing more than they need to.  In other words, they are the opposite of me.

I am going to try being selectively ignorant because in many aspects of my life I feel that because I know how something is done, I should do it myself.  As a result I have a handful of half finished projects, and quite a few that would look much better if I would have paid someone else to do it.

What it comes down to is focusing on the things that you truly thrive in.  If you can focus on these things, and outsource/outchore the rest to others, in theory you’ll be doing quite well in your career and in your life.  This concept is one that was first brought to my attention in the book Strengthsfinder 2.0, which has the reader take a personality test and then tells you the 5 things that you thrive in, and what type of people to surround yourself with in order to be most successful.  It is a great test/book and I highly recommend it, as it was the first publication that I read which focused on strengths and not weaknesses.

I have to begin accepting that just because I can do something myself, it doesn’t mean I should. I am excited that I won’t have any large or highly visible projects once we move, and I’m looking forward to being able to focus more on what I’m good at (like looking towards the future, advising, and teamwork), and getting better at a select few things I truly enjoy but am not great at (like writing). 

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5 responses

5 03 2008
Emily

wow, you are so much like my hubby. Only difference is that we went with the ultimate fixer upper and there is very little he doesn’t attempt to do himself. The way I see it is that nobody is perfect, whether a builder builds your house or you fix it yourself with a few mistakes. Embracing imperfection, is, I think a huge favor a person can do for themselves. I do appreciate what you are saying though. We’re expecting to move sometime soon and either rent out or sell our fixer and we hope to move somewhere that huge projects aren’t part of daily life. There is something to be said for just filling afternoons with hobbies instead of things that NEED to be done to live comfortably.

6 03 2008
danielb

Mary and I seriously considered, and put bids in on, houses in a historic neighborhood. While I’m still somewhat torn that we won’t be living in a cool craftsman bungalow, I feel the same way as you stated. I’d much rather be filling my afternoon with little projects and hobbies I can tuck away instead of things that need to be done and have a direct effect on our lives.

I’m sure your husband and I would get along just fine. I still want a project house, but I want it to be just that, a project house, not my main residence.

6 03 2008
Emily

THAT I totally get. For us, starting out living in one was the only way we could do it financially. We’ve finally gotten to a place that we are going to be able to move to a home that isn’t full of projects and hubby intends to buy one in the historic area as his project that we don’t live in.

I think your plan is a good one. Living in the middle of a project is hard. And it’s almost impossible to relax. I have to take hubby physically away from the house and go visit family on the weekends because if he’s here, he can’t sit still while seeing stuff that needs to be taken care of.

8 03 2008
Weekend Roundup - The I’m Sick Edition « Remodeling This Life

[…] an excellent article from over at Young and Frugal about The Curse of a Jack-of-All-Trades. I had to check and make sure my hubby didn’t go starting a blog it sounded so much like him […]

9 03 2008
Sharon J

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to have a go at something new but when I know I’m really not up for a job I outsource. I see it as helping keep somebody else in work while freeing up some of my time to do the things I can and enjoy doing.

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