When does an individual skill our skillset become ‘good enough’ to satisfy our desires? Does it ever?
Let’s say you are a learning Spanish. So you study it for months, or even years, and reach a point where you are quite comfortable speaking about everyday topics with random people.
You have clearly reached a point of proficiency with the language—enough so where it fulfills all your daily needs.
But with foreign languages there is always more to learn.
Can you read novels in the language without having a dictionary handy? Can you quip slang words with locals at a dingy bar? Can you utter romantic phrases to the Latinas that you are trying to bed?
The call of learning more is always there. Some accept the challenge, but most refuse. While some would say the latter are quitters, I would agree with their decision. For instead of pursuing Mastery, they’re pursuing a broad skill set or ‘talent stack’, making them a Jack of All Trades.
Mastery and The Law of Diminishing Returns
The reason most stop short of language mastery is that there is simply a law of diminishing returns to studying more of a language, or any skillset for that matter. Learning the first few thousand words of a language is more than sufficient.
If you sit down to a piano and play a few songs, you can wow people, even if you haven’t been playing for 10 years.
If you want to get strong or impress people with your physique a 300 lbs. bench press will be more than enough. No need to bench 400 lbs. or use a bunch of androgens.
Unless you’re willing to dedicate much of your life to something, or are making permanent changes (e.g. moving to another country, therefore needing to master the language), you’re never going to reach mastery.
Why A Jack of All Trades is Better than a Master of One
Studying foreign languages is perhaps the best example of why one should choose multiple pursuits instead of mastering one. If you’re someone who travels the world, having proficiency in 4-5 languages will be more useful than 2.
Sure, someone who has mastered Spanish will reap the rewards in Latin America. But if you know some Spanish, Russian, and French you will be able to interact with hundreds of millions of more people around the world. I would choose this any day unless I had a specific inclination towards one part of the world.
I also like the idea of being a well-rounded renaissance man. We should pursue philosophy, art, fitness, travel, sports and more. Not only does this help us live rich and fulfilling lives, but it will give you something to always take about with women you meet or people at cocktail parties.
Imagine having a conversation with someone who is a professional athlete in a minor sport—say rowing. The person has spent a big chunk of their life in a boat. Do you think they have a ton of interesting stories? Sure it would be cool to hear about how they almost made it to the Olympics, but their stories will start to sound repetitive after a while.
But imagine the man who knows how to Tango, and tells you about the time he went dancing in Bueno Aires, and how he used his Spanish language skills to woo some local women, who he then did an amateur photo shoot of. Now that’s interesting!
And while being an interesting man is desirable, it’s not as important as developing a well-rounded set of skills to be used together. Scott Adams calls this a ‘Talent Stack’. It’s essentially the concept of getting good at a handful of skills and packaging them together for the pursuit of money and power.
Check out Trump’s talent stack:
Trump has built up these skills over decades in the business world. He’s now leveraging them for political purposes.
You can do the same.
I’ve talked a lot about interesting skills like playing an instrument, but there are of course business and personal skills like public speaking, emotional intelligence, coding, copywriting, SEO, use of Microsoft Office, accounting etc. There are a ton of skills out there (Here’s a great list from Danger&Play).
Becoming a master of copywriting is not essential, for example, unless you plan on making a living off of it. But if you’re someone who wants to make money online, it is going to undoubtedly increase your sales and web traffic, and should therefore be added to your stack.
Pursue Mastery, but Stop Short
Though I’m partial to the concept of a Jack of All Trades, Greene’s Mastery and The Art of Learning shared a number of powerful ways to approach learning, retention and taking action. These concepts can’t be ignored and instead should be used for men in their pursuit of a particular skill.
Thus my approach would be to approach a skill, such as playing an instrument, with the intent of becoming a master. But instead of dedicating 5-10 years to it, I would spend 3-6 months.
3-6 months is plenty of time to learn the basics of a language, how to dance, to SCUBA dive, to shoot archery or guns, run a marathon, copywriting and more! This requires a ton of discipline and focus, but if you’re willing to put in the work you can undoubtedly make it happen!
- My Mental Model of the World from Danger & Play
- Trump’s Talent Stack: Systems versus Goals from Scott Adams
- The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades from The Four-Hour Workweek