Jack of All Trades or Renaissance Soul?

The GeekDad blog at Wired recently had a post by someone else who finally recognized herself as a Jack of All Trades. Except, she refers to herself as a Renaissance Soul, a term used in a book she read. I suppose this is the modern, PC version of “Renaissance Man.”

It’s interesting to read her story, especially the part about how after reading some books about other “renaissance souls,” she finally feels like there’s nothing wrong with this aspect of her personality. I’m not sure I ever felt like being a Jack of All Trades was a problem; it’s just the way I was. I came from a family of well-rounded individuals, so I don’t think I felt out of place.

I also enjoyed her observation that some people enjoy going to the same place for vacation every year, while others prefer going to new places. I prefer going to new places, but I don’t take many non-family vacations anyway. Our decision to take many long weekends instead of a few long vacations per year meshes well with my preference for the new. But more than anything, I don’t think we enjoy going on vacation unless we have a specific reason or an activity to do in the place we’re going. Travelling just to be somewhere else makes little sense in this day and age.

I previously came across other ways of describing the difference between people who prefer the comfort of the known and those who are entranced by the novelty of the new: neophiles versus neophobes. This clear cut dichotomy seems like an insufficient measurement. As I’ve written before, I have a fear of the unknown, which may make me a neophobe, but I definitely also have an affinity for the new, making me a neophile. I think I like new ideas, but prefer to have new experiences only after I have a chance to calculate the risks involved.

But what about the names: “Jack of All Trades” versus “Renaissance Soul?” I’d definitely prefer to be called a Jack of all Trades, Master of None. A Jack solves problems, sometimes out of necessity, but never out of vanity. “Renaissance Soul” sounds too highbrow for me, more like “master of others, giving me time to do what I want.”

  1. The neophile vs neophobe dilema was considered by Raymond Loewy when trying to design something along the spectrum of typicality vs novelty. He wanted to create things that were the most advanced, yet acceptable (MAYA) along that spectrum.

    As for which term, I'd pick "Jack of All Trades, Master of None", if only because the corresponding extension might end up "Renaissance Soul, Stone Age Spirit".