“A jack of all trades is a master of none”
I’m sure the majority of you reading this will have heard this saying. It is what I’ve been referred to for most of my adult life. I was a shop assistant, barista, barber, magician, actor, singer, designer, web designer etc etc. The funny thing about the saying is that the first half connotes hard work and knowledge. Being a ‘Jack of all trades’ and knowing a lot about things. But then, that meaning gets damaged with he next part. “Master of none”, implying that you are okay at lots of things but perhaps, don’t excel at any of them in particular. But, I think that having a decent knowledge of lots of things is essential to being successful in life. And that will actually HELP you become a master of your craft.
I’m a huge fan of podcasts and have a diverse pool of subjects to choose from. Comedy podcasts, technology podcast, performance theory podcasts, mental health podcasts, ghost story podcasts and lots of business podcasts. One common trend I’ve notice from successful business people is the willingness to do and learn whatever they need to get to the top of their game! Very early on in the digital download revolution in the early 2000’s, I taught myself how to design and edit PDF’s. Back then, PDF’s weren’t really that readily available and only a few magic stores had them. At the same time, I was using iWeb which was an old Mac software that allowed you to design websites, and I designed my first website.
At the same time, I was at school doing performing arts and going to a theatre school on the weekend. Having singing lessons in London as well as Piano lessons at my school. Without knowing it, I was developing skills that would serve me the rest of my life. Later, I wen’t to university and worked in a shop in the UK called Waitrose. Their customer service training was considered some of the best in the world and I have used those skills when interacting with most people including magic clients. When I left University, I knew I would need to learn a “trade”, something I could dip in and out of when I wasn’t auditioning for shows in the West End. Fortunately, the family of my partner at the time owned a hairdressers and barbershop. So, I trained as a barber and learned to cut mens hair. I was a barber Monday - Wednesday, a shop worker Thursday - Sunday, auditioning for shows when they became available and trying to start a little magic business whenever I had free time.
I did this for years… *insert sympathy here*
A lovely candid camera moment taken by Peter Nardi of me cutting Harry Nardi's hair... and he looks thrilled!
But, all of those things led me to have to learn other skills. Being a shop worker taught me how to interact with a wide array of people from teenagers to the elderly. I learnt how to use a professional coffee machine and create latte art. I learnt how to butcher different meats and prepare fish. I learnt how to manage small groups of people. I learnt how to deal with complaints, problem solve quickly and provide resolutions. Acting taught me performance skills. Basic lighting knowledge. How to structure and write shows and plays. It taught me how to deal with nerves. I could carry on going but i’m sure you get the idea.
But magic had led me down some incredible avenues. I’ve learnt website design, photography and videography, video editing, photo editing and photo manipulation, contracts, marketing, socials media, routine, drive and so much more. And now, because of those skills, I have designed several websites for friends and trick designs, design my own pulp banners and build my own props. I have made props for other companies and magicians, designed my own tricks packages and even formatted books.
The main point I want to get to is, I regularly have magicians and friends ask me to help them with things. It was so regular about 3 years ago and eventually, I had to start declining to help. Which sucked because I really like to help other people the most I can. But it was too much. Eventually, I thought to myself, “Why aren’t they just learning to do it themselves? I learnt how to do it so why aren’t they?”.
When you’re a performer or magician, every penny counts. Having skills not only makes you money but it also saves you money. If I wanted to, I could design things and charge for them. Using the skills i’ve gained to make money. But, if I am at a convention and need large roll us banners designed, that could be £100 upwards for a good design, plus the cost of the banner itself. A website designer will cost a small fortune which isn’t viable for a small business. Or you can use one of the many website builder but the end product probably won’t come out like you expect. Maybe someone hires me for a bespoke event and need me to personalise a trick for them. I could get someone else to design and make it for me, taking that out of the fee or, I could just do it myself with the skills I’ve developed.
In normal jobs CPD or Continual Personal Development is encouraged and sometimes costs a small fortune. When you’re a magician and performer, everyday is CPD. Udemy, Skill Share, Penguin, Alakazam Academy, At the Table and Masterclass are all websites where you can gain magic, business and other industry knowledge for very little. Youtube, Podcasts and Free online courses don’t need to cost anything to learn tons of new skills. There are actors studios and courses in London and no doubt near your hometown which cost £30 upwards and can teach you something specific you want to learn.
There is knowledge everywhere and the more you know, the more successful you’ll be.
Be a Jack of all trades and master your business!