By Kevin RR Williams
The modern world has preconceived expectations for mainstream society. Individuals should grow up in a loving household. Obtain a good education in a particular field of study. Afterwards, comes a lucrative career. Along the way, marry and have children. Those children produce grandchildren. Then enjoy retirement.
Such a mold does not fit everyone. Some deviate by choice, others by circumstance. For example, growing up in a crime-riddled neighborhood can derail educational opportunities. Too many females find themselves raising a child during high school, or shortly afterwards. A person might shortcut standard expectations to become a musician or entrepreneur.
What we find is that people think diversely, process options differently. Some have no aspirations. Others have more aspirations than they can pursue.
Harnessing Too Much Potential
Imagine awakening on Monday with a melody in your head. You brush your teeth and begin laying down tracts. Hours go by before you complete a satisfying composition. On Tuesday, your mind races with a fictional story plot.
After jotting down notes on a digital device, you sit in front of a desktop computer and begin typing in earnest. Within days you have a novel. On Saturday, you pick up the Bible and continue with your seventh time reading it from cover to cover.
These aren’t your only endeavors. You are an educator, programmer, architectural designer, movie buff, and great home cook. Every month, you produce more creative works than others do in a year.
Friends with other interests try coaxing you to get involved with their activities, like watching sports or going to the gym. Your only hesitation is that any new interest will become another obsession.
Specialists and people in general strive to establish one specialty, look askance upon people with so many interest. They may go further and belittle or scorn them. It sounds like a “jack of all trades and master of none.”
According to a study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, the “illusion” that many high-ability teens are “equally competent at everything” comes from their ability to do well in a variety of classroom subjects and their involvement in a multiple in-school and after-school activities.
Groups might categorize this as an attention deficit disorder. But contrary to inability to focus, your hyper-focusing ability leads you to excel in each endeavor. An educational or psychological term for such people is multipotentialite.
Some noteworthy multipotentialites include: Tim Ferriss, Emilie Wapnick, Martha Beck, Seth Godin, Kalina Silverman, Barbara Sher, and Belle Beth Cooper. More popular intellectually gifted people who manifest multi-potential include Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs.
Managing Creative Overload
Multipotentialites have many different interests and creative pursuits in life, without “one true calling.” They contrast specialists, whose interests are mostly within a single field. But some multipotentialites have one or more specialties.
The definition of multipotentiality dates back to 1975. Since then, there has been a doctoral dissertation, TED talk, online educational articles, and blogs devoted to the topic. People with interest in diverse career paths often encounter opposition from counselors, parents, and friends who prefer them to choose conventional specialized careers.
During 2015, Emilie Wapnick coined the term “multipotentialite.” She wrote, “Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.” —Terminology, Puttylike.
Advantages available to people who develop skills in multiple fields:
- rapid learning and fast skill acquisition (learn how to learn)
- contextual thinking
- translating between thought modes
- novelty and variety
- concocting new solutions
- idea synthesis
- fit well into leadership roles
- empathize with a broader set of people and cultures
Let’s get back to you, in your manifestation of multipotentiality. Where do you fit in? You could choose to create websites that catalog each of your endeavors. But how do you monetize them—you know, earn a living?
Satisfying Multipotentialite Jobs
You may struggle with boredom or burnout in a company that expects you to keep repeating the same task. A corporate structure may suppress your many ideas and chastise deviation. In a leadership role, you can oversee diverse departments, if you don’t micromanage and bog yourself down with performing all the tasks instead of delegating.
It is not surprising to hear multipotentialites becoming professional students or serial entrepreneurs. Others position themselves with enjoyable day jobs that don’t rely on their multipotentialite super powers. This leaves time to pursue passions outside of their work.
You might become a coffee shop barista in a neighborhood of musicians during weekdays. Then write songs in the evening and perform at various venues on weekends.
According to Wapnick, in order to be happy, multipotentialites require three things:
- Variety (not too much or too little, amount varies per person)
- Meaning (a sense that you’re making a difference in the world)
- Money (the right amount for you, varies from person to person)
Just as there are a variety of different specialists, the types of multipotentialites vary. Some find satisfaction with two unrelated disciplines. Others dive deep into successive professions, abandoning each for another. You might be content with simultaneously juggling many interests.
One suggestion for coping with multiple stimuli is to limit pursuits to related fields, if possible. Music, digital editing, video production, and programming, for example, share overlapping creative talents. But some people gravitate toward unrelated fields of study.
The number of people with multipotential is vast. But it is not something requiring registration. So the exact number is unknown. Most information, today, is funneling through one source, the Puttylike organization.
Emphasizing diversity within the community, not all agree upon one designation. Some prefer the terms multipod, multitalented, polymath, multi-hyphenate, or multipassionate. Others find deeper roots in the expression, renaissance man. This is someone who has multiple areas of knowledge and expertise, such as art, literature, history, and science. Regardless of the title, they have an all-rounded knowledge base that makes them highly valuable employees.
To eyes of disbelief, perhaps you list all your pursuits when someone asks what you do for a living. You might prefer voicing a specific specialty among different sets of peers. When people inquire about your field of specialty, it’s nice to know that your response doesn’t need to cause you stress or others confusion. You can provide a lucid reply—multipotentialite, multipod, or renaissance man.
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