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Jack or Master?

No doubt, you’ve heard the adage “a jack of all trades, a master of none,” referring to someone who can do a lot of different things but no single thing well. Benjamin Franklin reputedly corrected that misquotation of the adage, saying that it originally was “a jack of all trades, a master of one.”

I just finished reading a delightful little book that addresses, explains, and illustrates just what that corrected version of the saying means. The book is Master of One by Jordan Raynor. I wish that that book had been available to me when I was a young college student, repeatedly changing my major as I tried to figure out who I was and what God wanted me to do and who He wanted me to be. (Looking back, however, I realize that all that shifting and turning was actually a preparation for what I eventually latched onto, and that’s another point of Raynor’s book.)

I had read an earlier work by Raynor, Called to Create, a book written primarily for writers, artists, musicians, and other creative types. I enjoyed that book, so when I learned that he had written another book, I preordered it and, when it arrived, devoured it in a couple of reading sessions.

In the book, he debunks the myth of multitasking, showing that although one might be able to have many irons in the fire, one cannot do all of them well, or with excellence. Rather, one must focus on one, becoming a master at it. He buttresses his argument with examples from real life: the lives of such exemplars as Tony Dungy, Hall of Fame NFL coach; Antoni Gaudi, architect of Barcelona’s cathedral la Sagrada Familia; C.S. Lewis, famed Christian author and teacher; Fred Rogers, beloved children’s TV pioneer; Sherron Watkins, the woman who blew the whistle on Enron; and numerous biblical characters, including Jesus Christ Himself.

The whole thrust of Raynor’s new book, however, is that every person has one or more gifts that will bring him personal and professional satisfaction once it is discovered and applied in the right job and if one uses it not for self but for God’s glory and the benefit of others. To do that, however, one must first become a master at that job, doing one’s best and producing excellence in it.

To produce excellence as a master requires not only passion but also focus, commitment, and hard work. Success is not putting self and one’s dreams and goals first. And success is the by-product, not the goal, of serving other people first. After all, in the long run, it is doing our best at what we do to help others that brings glory to God. And a result of that is our own happiness and fulfillment.

I don’t agree with everything Raynor says in his book, but I would recommend it to every young person, especially college-age people who are just setting out to find their right career path. I only wish I could have read it when I was their age. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.

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