Go Ahead, Cross Those Boundaries


"A jack of all trades and a master of none." I've long hated this cliché.

We live in a world in which young people should be educated and inspired to be "jacks (and jills) of many trades and masters of several of them." Why accept such a suffocating binarism that creates a false choice between being a master of just one thing or average at many things? Really? Who says?

After all, the world's great challenges - climate change, energy, health care, cancer, food, water - require interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. This means challenging people to know a lot about some fields and a little about many other disciplines. In doing so, it also means breaking down the silos that confound the communication and collaboration so essential to cross-disciplinary achievement.

So too with the creative process, which by definition requires breaking down often-artificial barriers that limit human experience and expression.

The Italian jewelry titan Roberto Coin told the most recent New York Times Weekend Edition that, "We were born to create beauty; we were born to create new ideas." We saw a great deal of beauty, creativity and new ideas in London last week, much of it emerging from artists and entrepreneurs building upon their expertise and experiences across disciplines and professions. Yes, they are jacks of numerous trades and masters of some of them.

After all, Chiltern Firehouse Chef Nuno Mendes' approach to traditional English cuisine is certainly more effective because of his background in Portuguese cooking. St. John's Chef Fergus Henderson's whole-animal deconstructions and reconstructions must owe something to his study of architecture. We dined at both their restaurants last week.

David Parry's considerable background in opera can only help make him a better conductor and interpreter of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, which we saw at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.  And Burberry Creative Director Roberto Tisci's success with the launch of his fall line of suits and professional wear here borrows heavily from his background in streetwear and sportswear.

So don't let anyone place their self-imposed limitations on you. Learn and produce as deeply within and broadly across disciplines as you wish. The world needs no less.
Image courtesy of Psychology Benefits Society