11 Inspirational Quotes for Multipotentialites
Photo courtesy of Randen Pederson.

11 Inspirational Quotes for Multipotentialites

Written by Brenda Scott

Topics: Famous Multipotentialites

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.”

Your Turn

Which of these quotes do you like best? Do you know of any other quotes that speak to multipotentialites?

brenda-bioDr. 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.

32 Comments

  1. Nicole says:

    I’m putting this in my favorite-list in my browser. I especially like 4 and 5, but 1 is great too. Thanks!

  2. Jill says:

    Great post! Besides acting, Hedy Lamarr was an inventor. Earlier, she designed an improved traffic stoplight. During WWII, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, using technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. The principles of their work are now incorporated into modern CMDA Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth technology. More details can be found in the book, Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes, which is one my always growing reading list.

  3. Lara says:

    Thanks for this!

    And 1 inspirational speech, which made me think of this community :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyBvbot3emM

  4. Nikki says:

    Haha “jack of all trades, master of none” – I always joked that this would be a memoir title if I ever became famous!
    Follow that up with a dad who told me at 19 I was “biggest waste of talent” he had ever seen (oncoming daddy issues alert!), due to me always changing hobbies every couple of weeks.

    A quote that always spoke to me:
    “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

    No idea who it was by, and the internet seems to be confused about the origins too!

  5. Alex says:

    These are great quotes! I particularly like #10 and #7. In general these remind me of this one, which is a personal favorite: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’-Oscar Wilde

  6. Kelsey says:

    I can’t seem to find the source of this quote, but I’ve remembered it for a long time.
    “If you know you’re significant, you don’t have to be spectacular.”
    Of course you still have potential to be spectacular.
    Another quote I like sometimes is from Rumi.
    “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”

  7. Shell says:

    1, but especially 4! I love that! So want to use it the next time I get a “So, what do you do?”, kind of question. I so hate that one. I guess it also has to do with me being more the Introvert and not being fond of small talk. Yuck! I also hate the kind of vibes or looks from people when I explain that I’ve had many jobs and tend to switch up a bit. That I don’t have this one main “goal” or “specialty”. Pretty smart aliky, but also nice wit to it. I’m not one to be quick with comebacks, so I’ll try my hardest to remember it. Thanks for this.???

  8. Julie Boen Evans says:

    I love #8 as I always felt that I was looked at as a Jack of All Trades, master of none because I liked to try and do so many things.

    The quote I feel speaks to me of multipotentialites.

    “It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, or what you do for a living. All that matters is that we continue to fan the flame of humanity by living our lives as the ultimate creative expression of who we really are.” ~Janine Shepherd

  9. Misty says:

    My favorite quote as of late is: “Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the same exact place next year as you are today.”

  10. Huet Landry says:

    I prefer “Jack of all trades, master of some.” I believe Robert Heinlein’s statement about competent human beings says it all.

  11. Chad says:

    From John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire:
    “You’ve got to get obsessed, and stay obsessed.” – Coach Bob
    Which is a statement about weight training, but it has stuck with me – and I apply it to any new ‘obsession’ because I don’t want to know one thing, I want to dig into everything time permits, because after you break the surface, so many things are worth being obsessed over.

  12. Alejandro Moreno says:

    As much as I agree with Serena Williams’ quote, if anyone is singularly focused, it is a tennis pro that wins Wimbledon and all the other cups (and multiple times no less). So perhaps it is the source, and not the quote itself that strikes me as strange in this context.

    The quotes I feel I most identify with are the interdisciplinary/polymath quotes by Da Vinci, Bernstein, Lukas and Seger. Perhaps because I’ve been told (for several years now) that one of my fortes is connecting the dots, seeing the big picture and interconnectedness of interrelated systems/issues. And I’d have to agree, as whenever participating in group projects, these are the insights I tend to contribute. A client of mine said to me about a year ago when talking about all the things I’ve done (and take on), he said ”you’re a Renaissance man”. I found that especially uplifting.

  13. Wen says:

    Thank you Brenda for the great list of quotes, and thanks Lara for the video of the graduation advice speech.

    I just came across this article on twitter — it mentions several themes that resonate with the above article/video.
    https://twitter.com/HealthcareWen/status/719610772293337092
    While it seems like the authors are misinterpreting/misrepresenting “ancient Chinese philosophy”, the ideas they mention are interesting in themselves to challenge assumptions about “trying finding yourself” vs. becoming the numerous possibilities that you can be.

    Enjoy!
    Wen

  14. Sherry says:

    These are all wonderful (Eleanor Roosevelt rocks)! Nonetheless, the following quote by Erma Bombeck is the one that helps keep me going:

    “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

  15. Marie-Anne says:

    Just awesome !
    They are on my favorite lists ! And Eleanor Roosevelt is the more inspirational to me, so 10 it is !
    Thank you so much for sharing it…

  16. Kimberly says:

    I really like the Eleanor Roosevelt. They are so empowering! I also love the quote by Serena Williams about getting past the labels put upon us and defining who we really are on our own. Very powerful! But yet, on the other hand, I feel that although it is wonderful to have a wandering mind, body, and spirit… it often leads us to times of constant over-thinking. Always rushing to get everything done. Not wanting to miss one moment or lose one idea. Here’s a few quotes that I found that may help settle the mind.
    “The world belongs to the Enthusiast who keeps cool.”
    William Mcfee
    “Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, it is the only time we have. ”
    ? Art Buchwald

    “Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”
    ? Louis L’Amour

  17. Miriam Mwanga says:

    I like the very first one. “We connect the dots.” It’s a relief to know that all the knowledge from different areas did not go to waste, all that knowledge connects the dots!

  18. Margherita says:

    “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes”.

    This is taken from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and I have had it on my bedroom’s door since I was 15 years old or so. That is, ages before hearing about multipotentialites!

    I think it describes very well the way I feel when I try to describe myself as a person with different interests and attitudes, who has always found difficult to stick to only one “self”.

  19. Subratha says:

    Awesome post mate. Totally makes sense.

  20. Olivia says:

    All of these quotes are amazing! I am very curious to read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight, has anyone else read it?

    My favourite quote is “Embrace the glorious mess that you are!”

  21. Ray Milidoni says:

    Follow your passion they say… I can get passionate about anything. Really I can, so now I just do what makes me happy, it feels better that way! – Ray Milidoni

  22. Kevin says:

    Thank you. With a society that is biased towards extroverts, it so comforting for people like Emilie and her predecessors to recognize those of us who are contemplative and prefer to make a point with a velvet hammer.
    The double edge sword is that many of us don’t seek the limelight. But if you are so inclined, please be encouraged to do so for the rest of us.
    Adios!

  23. Rebecca says:

    These quotes aren’t about multipotentialites exactly – more about encouraging potential in general.

    Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.
    -Stephen Jay Gould

    The great contribution we can make is to prepare the oncoming generations to think that they can and will think for themselves.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo

  24. Ivan Ivanov says:

    Hi! I am a multipotentialites. I have about 10 interest. Where and how do I find a job for me?
    It seems to me at work are valued by professionals, not multipotentialite.

    P.S What usually work Multipotentialite?

  25. Nono Noire says:

    I like to think that diamond are multifaceted! :D

  26. Carolyn M says:

    Love #2, having been born into a creative, artistic family, though I missed out on the artsy side. I would actually say that creative people DO the unexpected.

  27. Sourav Saha says:

    That’s really nice post on putting all the motivational quotes together. Great job.

  28. Simply nice and awesome. These quotes are simply great and motivational one. Thanks for publishing it here.

  29. Kerstin says:

    When it comes to labeling…in my case it is actually different. I! usually put labels on myself and I desperately tried to find the perfect label for me.
    Everywhere I saw those groups of people when I was younger – you had the skaters,the goths, the girly girls, the hippies, the sports people and so on.
    I wanted to belong somewhere and thought the only way to do that is to find my group…my label.
    Every year I got more frustrated as I thought I finally found something and that quickly changed again, leaving me in my own lonely box. I usually described myself as a chameleon as I could adapt easily to different groups of people, I always found something I could relate to or found interesting.
    But I was never satisfied as I believed strongly that you have to find the one thing for yourself, pretty much which defines your identity. After all that was what I saw everywhere, that is the norm.
    During the last years I started to work on my outlook on my life. That it is ok that I don’t find one thing that fits me completely. I am too diverse for that.
    It is still hard for me to find my place in this society, as I still want to belong and haven’t found my people yet.
    But the more I accept it, the easier it gets to sort out the things that don’t work for me.