Jack of all trades, master of none

Olga Putri Atsira

Medical student and a passionate freelance writer.


Jakarta   /  Mon, July 23, 2018  /  11:32 am

Being good at almost everything, I did not know what I should pursue upon graduating high school.(Shutterstock/File)

I was the smartest 5-year-old.

I could write a sentence way before the others even knew the alphabet. Growing up, I was told that I was so talented at a lot of things in elementary school that I couldn’t keep track of how many times the teacher praised me. I had amazing grades, I won a few acting competitions, I was part of an exclusive English club. I ranked first on graduation day, unsurprisingly.

Junior high school was not so different; it was even easier. People called me a genius; I slacked off quite a lot because I did not have anything to pursue, I was content with my “achievement”. Who would not feel that way when you have all the top grades, Olympiad trophies and teachers’ acknowledgment without any real effort?

Senior high school began with me being offered to join an acceleration class because my IQ was significantly above the average. I declined that offer since I hate rushing my life.  

I skipped class many times. I hung out with my friends every single day. The one and only thing that grabbed my interest in senior high school was debate. I definitely had a place among top high school debaters that time.

I was really arrogant back then, I felt extremely superior in comparison to my friends. No one hated me though, at least not obviously, maybe because I excelled in acting. Those days, I recognized myself as a high-class jack of all trades. On a scale of one to “master”, I was at the very least a seven in literature, music, math, biology, physics, common knowledge, sports, social life, personality – you name it.

Then, college admission hit me – hard.

I did not have any idea where to go in the first place. I was good at everything, I did not have any passion to pursue and I was never a master of anything. Suddenly, I felt envious of those who had one major they passionately wanted to focus on; I even envied those who had only one choice because that choice was the only major they could possibly enroll in.

That was the first time I hated to be called a jack of all trades.

I finally decided to enroll in the school of medicine. No special reason; it was just my pride taking control of both my heart and mind. You know, all that reasoning of “I’m smart and I have no passion, why don’t I just enroll in what people say is the most prestigious and most difficult faculty ever?”

I was also afraid people might see me in a different light if I were to be accepted at an unfamiliar major or university.

It might sound silly, ridiculous and childish to decide your life path by focusing on how people will see you, but if you had lived my life, you would realize the only thing that made you feel proud of yourself was how great people think you were.

You never had your passion, you never had your goal, and you never desired something so hard you were willing to sacrifice everything. You only had those titles people gave you to hold on to: genius, jack of all trades, smart, talented and all other flattery words.

Thus, you began to put less effort into everything, believing that’s what geniuses do. You begin to let go of anything with possible failure because you thought talented people will never fail. You become less and less of yourself.

Regardless of all those thoughts, here I am, enrolling in a school of medicine.

Being a medical student, surrounded by all those talented geniuses around me, I realized I had been blind my entire life. I thought too highly of myself back then and maybe the environment contributed a lot to that.

I gradually faced failure after failure. Once I almost failed to stand back up again. I just could not do anything right, the reality hit me hard. I kept on failing even though I put effort into things. I felt dumb. I seemed to fall behind the others in almost everything.

Jack of all trades. I was one before, but now? Not anymore. It was frustrating.

But then, after going through so many failures, I finally spent more time thinking about myself and how my life was going so far. I can proudly share with you five things I learned from this story.

First is that sometimes failure is the most effective way to make you have a clearer view of reality.

Second, titles are not always a great thing. It might become the reason why you lose yourself, most of the time.

Third, I’m currently frustrated and I think it is good. Be frustrated that you do not know enough about a lot of things. Be frustrated that you do not try hard enough. Be frustrated that you have yet reached your goal. That way, you will try harder.

Fourth, do not get frustrated for losing titles. Check number three for the reason.

Last, take time to learn about yourself; looking back is not always a bad thing. Do not regret your past; learn. (kes)


I’m currently paving my way to becoming a psychiatrist. I have great interest in human rights, human connection, mental health and books. I’m open to anyone who wants to exchange knowledge and ideas through my email olgaputriatsira@gmail.com and instagram @putriatsira.