Have you ever felt bombarded by negative comments and questions about your multipotentiality? I know I have. Here are a few I’ve heard (feel free to hear these in annoying, whiny, cartoon-like voices in your head):
- “Why can’t you just focus?”
- “When will you decide what you want to do with your life?”
- “Are you feckless or just scattered?”
And the usual suspect:
To combat this sort of negativity, I’ve started collecting quotes for inspiration. Here are some of my favorites.
1. “Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I thought I’d start us off with a quote by one of the most famous multpotentialites of all time – Leonardo da Vinci. What I love about this quote is that he’s saying that, in order to see connections, one must understand different areas of knowledge, and this is the domain of the multipotentialite. We connect the dots.
2. “All creative people want to do the unexpected.” – Hedy Lamarr
I’d never heard creativity described in this way before, but this quote immediately resonated with me. With so many areas of interest in our lives, what we do must seem unexpected to others, at least sometimes.
Personally, I’ve found that in wanting to create something new, meaningful, and lasting, I am really aiming to create the unexpected. Is this what you do?
3. “It was an initiation into the love of learning, of learning how to learn, that was revealed to me […] as a matter of interdisciplinary cognition – that is, learning to know something by its relation to something else.” – Leonard Bernstein
Upon returning to his alma mater – the Boston Latin School – to receive the school’s 1984 Man of the Year Award, this is how Leonard Bernstein explained the greatest benefit he gained from his teachers.
I have always loved the way Bernstein cut to the chase. He also said at that event: ”A known fact is like a dry, dead thing. But when those connections are made, wham! All those facts become fun to know instead of a drag.”
When I first read that, it was all I could do to keep from shouting: “Yes!” (Luckily I contained myself, as I was in the library at the time.) It is reassuring and exciting to read something that resonates with you so clearly. Bernstein understood the fun factor of learning and of making connections.
4. “I think a singular identity isn’t very interesting, and I’m a little bit more multifaceted as a person than that.” – Catherine Opie
While Opie said these words in response to being labeled with a rainbow flag, I feel her statement holds true for many different contexts, including multipotentiality.
We so often feel at a loss to describe our lives to those who expect a pigeon-holed answer. This is the perfect response to this sort of, “So, what do you do?” question. It is also one to consider internally. It encourages embracing a multifaceted life.
5. “Any man who bears the ability of a polymath shall not be interfered by specialty, he needs discipline to manage his behaviors and nurture his creativity.”* – Shawn Lukas
As multipotentialites, we do not let specialization interfere with our thirst for knowledge and range of interests and abilities. Rather, we have to learn to manage our behaviors to nurture our multiple talents.
Lukas is an inspiring artist from Johannesburg who works in the areas of design, music, and new media. Although it’s not reflected in this quote, Shawn Lukas has a passion for collaboration – another strength of many multipotentialites.
*apologies for the gendered language.
6. “Interdisciplinary communication is where truly great ideas emerge.” – Carl Seger
Seger is a Senior Principal Engineer in the Formal Verification Center of Expertise at Intel. He said this sentence during a sabbatical at Balliol College, Oxford, where he worked with others in engineering and physiology. Although he said it took six months before they could understand each other’s terminology, he said:
“I see it as working with Lego. I enjoy working with other people, and sometimes I see what they are working on, and give them a piece of Lego to help them build their creation. Sometimes, I take a piece away to complete something that I have been working on myself.”
What a wonderful image, this exchange of Lego among people in diverse fields, giving each other pieces they need.
7. “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – Julia Child
Although this can be taken as a more specialist statement, I like it, because this is exactly how I feel about all of my interests. When I find something that draws me in, I am passionate about it. Even if this is a sort of serial career passion, rather than a monogamous one, I am caught up completely. Is this how you feel, too?
8. “I think if you have ability and talent in one way, you have it in all ways. I’m not a jack of all trades; I’m a master of many. I don’t feel there is anything I can’t do if I want to.” – Evel Knievel
What a powerful statement from a man I had previously thought of solely as a daredevil who did amazing motorcycle stunts. It turns out that Knievel had many talents. This quote’s can-do attitude is up-lifting.
The next two quotes are by one of my favorite multipotentialites, Eleanor Roosevelt.
9. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This is true for everyone – multipotentialites and specialists. However, it could be argued that multipotentialites face more obstacles in pursuing their multiple dreams. This quote reminds us to keep believing.
10. “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Of all of the quotes here, this is perhaps my favorite. It reminds me of two things:
- Don’t let criticism keep you from following my dreams
- Follow your own intuition
11. “Getting past labels for me [was] really easy, because I define myself. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about, what anyone else says, or how anyone else would want to label you. No one can define you. Only you can define you.” – Serena Williams
This statement by Williams stopped me in my tracks. It also brought to mind the book a friend just gave me – The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight.
There is power in Williams’ statement that reminds me of the message in Knight’s book: don’t worry about what other people think. You get to choose how you define yourself, what you care about, and where you put your energy. As a multipods, we defy labels every day, and I love this reminder to be strong, because, “Only you can define you.”
Which of these quotes do you like best? Do you know of any other quotes that speak to multipotentialites?
Dr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.