Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Jack of all trades, master of none.
It's a saying we all know...but, hopefully not too well.
I, on the other hand, have embodied this "way of life" more and more over the past few years. Embodied, not embraced. Slipped into, not sought out.
So, what happened?
Part of it happened out of necessity, or at least what I viewed as necessity at the time. Part of it stemmed from my tendency to say yes far more than my tendency to say no.
When launching Helium Books, I took it upon myself to do it all. I thought since it was my brainchild and an idea I've been toying around with for a couple years, that it was my responsibility to take the reins...all of the reins. And, in part, it certainly was. Much had to be learned and implemented to succeed. But, in larger part, it was unsustainable.
For someone who could be described as a bit of a control freak, relinquishing control of duties, tasks, and responsibilities is difficult. Even if their being passed into the trusted and capable hands of my fellow co-founder and friend, Jacob.
But, I had a vision...what if something didn't line up with it!?
It's a question I've had to wrestle with since the inception of Helium Books. And, admittedly, I've grown better at ceding creative control. Yet, with a growing business, a full plate grew more full and with it came more trades to be the jack of...if that makes sense.
Starting a business begs of its owners the willingness to experiment. While fun in many respects, experimentation is undoubtedly time consuming. The learning curve to capture new skills and to craft and implement new initiatives can be steep. Now, I believe business owners owe it to themselves and their business to try new things and see what works, but there has to be a limit. For me and Helium Books, there really was no limit for a period of time.
Book club. Podcast. TikTok. Instagram Live. Instagram stories. Volunteer events. Email marketing. Pinterest.
The list can go on and on. Like I said, (mostly) everything is worth giving a shot. And, of course, a fully-fledged, resource-rich company would have well-defined strategies for, as well as time and energy devoted to, each of the above. We, however, simply cannot do it all. At least not well. And, it took trying to do it all to realize that.
Even with that realization etched in the back of my mind, it's been hard to abandon certain areas of the business. And, to be candid, until recently, I and Helium Books were still saying yes to too much. However, with the launch of our new B2B Library-as-a-Service program, as well as our upcoming implementation of a new pricing policy, we simply had no choice but to focus on mastery of few, rather than jack of many.
So, some things had to be pushed to the proverbial back burner. Left to be resumed later, for when we could put the energy into it required for its success. The Journeymen podcast has been churning out episodes less frequently. You haven't seen us hosting any Instagram Live chats in awhile. We've been posting less frequently on social media. When we have the bandwidth, these will eventually return to normal, but for now, our focus must be more...focused.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is all about priorities. While I've been discussing this in the frame of running a business, the same lesson applies to life outside of work, as well.
It's not fun being stretched too thin. It may keep you on your toes for a bit, but eventually you begin to suffer in every direction you're pulled. You may like being known as the person who does it all, but doing it all likely means not doing one thing particularly well. And, we all know of certain things that are important for us to do very well. These are our priorities.
Now, I'm not saying to avoid being a jack of all trades. Sometimes, doing so makes you uncomfortable and helps you grow, or it may even lead to discovering a new passion. What I am saying is that when the moment comes in which you feel overwhelmed by trying to do too much, as we all experience from time to time, you must focus on your priorities...
Do not let those suffer. Master them. The rest can wait.