Originally Posted by Eagle Mum
Whilst society often celebrates and rewards those who are at the top of their game, it can be personally rewarding to be a �Jack/Jill of many trades & master of none�. A more positive term which my son uses is �polymath�. He�s never had a competitive spirit, it�s always about PBs and self improvement and so his progress is largely self determined and with access to digital resources, less prone to being thwarted.
I have been that person, to an extent. I always wanted to be able to learn and do things on my own, to a large part because I was self-aware that I was simply not getting appropriate instruction, and I really did not want to stagnate. To be honest, it's nothing special, but I did learn math, could write quite well on my own, figured out table tennis by playing with friends although I didn't really have an athletic talent, learned how to play the piano, and there's a bunch of stuff I don't list because I just passively keep up to date with stuff like psychology or philosophy or some random thing I didn't know I knew until it crops up in conversation. I would say I have a rather passable understanding of philosophy, for example.

It's really hard for me to assess my own ability when it comes to a field, though, and instead, I tend to assume the worst. After all, there's hordes of people with 4-year degrees out there, and it almost seems insulting to them to imply that I have a comparable understanding, so I assume by default that I don't. It's kind of hard to explain -- it's easy enough to read research papers in many fields, and psychology in particular, I find. Since I don't put in effort, I don't feel like I've learned anything, but I probably know more than I let on. I feel more confused than anything about why certain things feel difficult to people, and I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that there is indeed perhaps some part of it that I'm missing by nature of me not having formally studied that subject, which might make it hard.

What I mean to say is that I feel, at least subjectively, that I can pick up most college textbooks, and read and understand them just fine without trying too hard. And constantly reading about stuff online makes it so that I have a certain passive knowledge base and certain skills. I'm rather confident that I can pick up a new subject and sort of learn it pretty fast.

But it doesn't feel like "real learning". College most certainly doesn't feel like real learning -- I am doing a Masters' degree and it's pretty damn easy. Well, I don't quite know what hard is supposed to feel like. But I can get an A in the classes by going through the slides and assignments a day before the exam (in computer science) without having attended classes. But perhaps college courses are supposed to be easy. I know several others who seem to leave their studying for the last day and still do fine, so maybe the course is indeed very easy.

So, being a polymath of sorts, I start to feel like I haven't done anything with my life, because if only I could dedicate a serious amount of time and study to something, I might be "actually" good at it, and that might feel meaningful. Being a jack of all trades feels kind of pointless. Sure, you could add one more "useless" skill to your toolbox: so what? You could speedrun any number of Coursera courses (which is something I've kind of done before), and you have new "information", but later on you realize that in order to improve yourself, you need a higher level of challenge, not just more of the same. It feels like you're atrophying, like how it would feel if your elementary school teacher simply gave you more instances of a problem you had mastered as extra work to keep you busy.

I wonder if others here share this experience.