A couple of months ago, one of my classmates brought up this question in a group discussion: Is it better to be a jack-of-all-trades or a one-trick pony?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these terms, I’ll define them for you. A person who is a “jack-of-all-trades” is said to be someone who is adept in many areas of expertise, but cannot be considered an expert in one field in particular. On the other hand, a “one-trick pony” is a person who is an expert in one very specific area. However, they might not know much about anything else.

A jack-of-all-trades in camping may be able to pitch a tent, start a fire, identify some poisonous leaves, and tie knots. However, while they may be good at performing all of these tasks, they don’t know much about any area in particular, and thus, aren’t great. The jack-of-all-trades casts their net broad and narrow.

A one-trick pony in camping, on the other hand, may be the world’s expert on being able to differentiate between safe and poisonous plants in every terrain around the world, but put them in charge of pitching a tent and we’re in trouble. They’re absolutely superb in one area, but completely lacking in everything else. In other words, the one-trick pony casts the net narrow and deep.

This brings us back to the question: Which is better?

If we’re using the nets analogy, we would say that we would want to cast our nets both broad and deep. However, we know that this is realistically not going to be the case. As much as we would like to be able to do so, we don’t have the time and resources to be experts in everything. We need to try something else.

If we’re going back to our camping analogy, we have to keep a few things in mind. First, we have to keep in mind that there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when going on any camping trip, and everyone needs to be able to handle those factors to a certain degree. Everyone must know how to pitch a tent, start a fire, filter their own water, and avoid attracting the bears because they all need to be able to help themselves. Second, we have to be prepared for absolutely anything that nature sends our way. That means we have to be able to determine what to do if our tent collapses and how we are going to survive in the wilderness in the event that we run out of camping rations.

In those “what-if scenarios,” it helps to have someone who knows a lot about plants, another person who knows about emergency knot-tying, and a third person who can extract water from any source. These three people are experts in three different things, but they can survive their camping trip. They each know how to perform routine camping tasks, but they’re all willing to work together to help each other whenever possible.

Based on our speculations, a jack-of-all-trades is not better than a one-trick pony, and vice versa. When you’re working in a group, or doing anything in the world, for that matter, you should be able to perform a variety of operations and know about certain areas. However, you will be able to bring a lot to the table if you are able to provide your own expertise about something and connect it with general knowledge.

What do you think?