You’ve probably heard this countless times — jack of all trades are a master of none.
But did you know that’s actually not the full phrase? The complete version actually goes like this — jack of all trades, master of none, but better than a master of one.
Growing up, it’s always been drilled into my head that I need to choose one thing to be good at and keep improving to achieve success. Teachers often quoted Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000-hour rule to instill in our minds that unless we focus on that one thing we are good at, we’re never going to make it.
And it makes sense, right? Wrong!
Debunking The 10,000-Hour Rule
A 2014 study by Princeton did a meta-analysis and found out that while deliberate practice is important, it’s not the only factor that contributes to success. In fact, they’ve proven that practice only makes a difference of 26% in games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.
That’s such a small amount of variance compared to the number of hours you’ve practiced!
So if hard work and practice aren’t enough, what can you do to achieve your goals?
Now, you probably already know what multitasking is. I remember being told in high school that it’s a bad thing to do — multitasking means you lack focus and are not taking things seriously. But what about slow-motion multitasking?
I first came across this term in a TED talk by Tim Harford called A Powerful Way to Unleash Your Natural Creativity. He defines slow-motion multitasking as this:
Slow-motion multitasking is when we have several projects in progress at the same time, and we move from one to the other and back again as the mood takes us or the situation demands.Tim Harford, A Powerful Way to Unleash Your Natural Creativity
Success Is Not Linear
In his talk, Harford introduces us to the idea that success is not one straight line and mentions various people like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Michael Crichton who achieved success because they multitask. The idea is that being exposed to different things at the same time helps us broaden our horizons, giving us a new perspective which in turn, leads to a eureka moment. Wearing many hats is actually a good thing!
Don’t start writing symphonies while crunching numbers at work, though. What differentiates slow-motion multitasking from regular multitasking is – you guessed it – the term slow-motion. Yes, you can be a bestselling author and a genius programmer at the same time but not literally at the same time.
Being Outside The Box Helps You Think Out of The Box
The technique is to be doing projects at the same time and going back and forth between them when you encounter roadblocks. It’s easier to think out of the box when you have many different boxes open at the same time and the ability to think out of the box is what gives us the ability to innovate and create change that disrupts the industry we are in.
In a nutshell, it’s easier for us to succeed when we are not obsessing over the problems we face and in order to not obsess over problems, we need something that will distract us from it.
Want to know more? Watch the complete Ted Talk below.