What does it takes to thrive as a multipotentialite? Not survive. Not accept. THRIVE.
Accepting and embracing your multipotentiality are wonderful steps along the journey. I get a lot of emails from people thanking me for informing them that there’s nothing wrong with them.
That’s great, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Not only can you be okay with your multipotentialite nature, you can actually make it your competitive advantage. Your multipotentiality can be the reason people want to work with you, be around you, learn from you and interact with your creations — whether they know it or not.
In this article, I’m going to share with you four cognitive and emotional skills that can dramatically increase your ability to thrive as a multipod.
The beautiful thing is that anyone can develop these skills. Of course, the earlier you begin, the more time you have to hone and implement them. (It’s the reason that parents and teachers should really pay attention. If you can get your children/students thinking this way at a young age, it’ll really set them up as adults). But anyone, at any age, can learn this stuff. It’s just a matter of practice.
Skill #1: Self-Directedness
Thriving as a multipotentialite often means stepping outside the linear trajectories that make up the specialist life plan. It often means forging your own path or “choosing yourself” (to borrow a catch phrase).
Got a project you want to start? If you’re self-directed, you will initiate the project on your own, without waiting for permission or waiting to be selected by an outside person or organization.
Got something you want to study but don’t have access to courses (or perhaps courses don’t exist)? If you’re self-directed, you won’t let this stop you. You’ll do some self-study and research the topic yourself.
That’s not to say that a self-directed person won’t seek out support or accountability to help them stay on track. In fact, if they’re smart, they will seek out as much support as they need. They will work on coming up with a productivity system for themself, which may include daily rituals, strategies to get around resistance, mini-deadlines, breaking their projects up into smaller chunks, whatever it takes.
How to become more self-directed:
- Start experimenting with daily work/creative rituals. You can begin with a short practice in the morning, like a 15 minute writing practice or meditation. Think about crafting your day, as opposed to being swept away by it.
- Tell a positive, trustworthy friend that you are going to complete some small portion of a larger project and send it to them by a specific date and time. When I was writing my 30 Rock script a few years ago, I would send my accountability buddy a few pages twice a week. She knew to expect it and I knew I would get a (lighthearted) scolding if I missed a deadline.
Skill #2: Comfort with Discomfort
So many adults I know are afraid to try new things.
We are terrified of being wrong in our culture, afraid to look stupid or be incompetent, as though it might say something about who we are deep down.
In truth, being bad at something is a prerequisite to becoming good at it. It’s not a sign that you’re a failure, you just need more practice.
Multipotentialites are going to be beginners again and again over the course of their lives. If you can get used to that early stage of stumbling around and feeling like a moron, at least long enough to begin to feel a sense of proficiency, you’re going to be far more likely to thrive. You’ll have a richer, more exciting life, accumulate skills faster and be exposed to a greater number of ideas and opportunities.
Although not all forms of discomfort are desirable (some are obviously dangerous), the kind I’m talking about here is the good kind. It helps you grow and evolve.
How to get more comfortable with discomfort:
- Try something new. Sign up for a drawing class, attempt to solve an algebra problem, take a mixed martial arts class, book a room and put on your first live seminar. Look for pursuits that sound both completely terrifying AND exciting.
Skill #3: Pattern-Spotting/Analogy
“Creativity is just connecting things.” -Steve Jobs
Want to be an innovator or artist? Want to stand out and create something new? Well then, you’d better get good at pattern-recognition and drawing analogies between unrelated ideas. These skills are the foundation of idea-synthesis, which we’ve talked about before.
I define innovation as taking knowledge from one area and using it to solve a problem in a totally unrelated field. That’s where the new ideas come from. They don’t come from textbooks.
Multipotentialites have a lot of dots to connect and a lot of areas of knowledge to draw from. However, they need to know how to integrate that knowledge into what they’re working on by seeing how disparate fields are related.
Pattern-spotting and analogy are highly lucrative skills that pay well and lead to inventiveness.
How to develop your ability to spot patterns and draw analogies:
- Start looking for ways in which unrelated things are in fact alike and what your various passions and pursuits have in common.
- Here are some exercises I came up with for my upcoming presentation in Colorado. Tell me how the following things alike:
1. Architecture and love
2. Movies and the human cell
3. Electricity and freedom of speech
4. Pirates and cooking
5. Cinderella and mold
6. The periodic table and a wheel
Hint: ask yourself what qualities each one has and what it does. Then see if there’s some overlap.
As an example, lets take Butterflies and Fire. These two things are alike because they both spring to life, they are both colourful, the flapping of wings resembles the flickering of fire, fire in a fireplace warms you while butterflies might make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, alternatively, your house on fire might cause butterflies in your stomach.
Try these out for yourself when you have a free moment. They’re fun. When I posted them in the Puttytribe, people came up with some really creative answers. There are no wrong answers.
Skill #4: Self-Knowledge
The more you know about how you like to work, what kind of life you want, what sorts of people you want in your life, and what changes you want to affect in the world, the happier you will be.
Self-knowledge is one of those skills that aids with everything. It helps you understand your motivations and allows you to make better decisions.
How to develop greater self-knowledge:
- There are a variety of ways to develop greater self-knowledge. Most involve journaling and/or thinking a lot about what you care about. What in your background has made you feel alive? What gives you energy?
- Think about your Why(s). Who do you want to help and why? Do you want to empower people, educate people, inspire people, entertain people? What issues do you care about?
I truly believe that multipotentialites are the innovators of the future. The idea that a multipotentialite needs to cobble together odd jobs or have a dull “good enough job” in order to survive is an outdated notion.
Your multipotentiality is hugely in demand and will become increasingly valuable throughout the 21st century. But being a multipotentialite alone isn’t enough. You need to know how to harness and use your super powers. Start by working on becoming more self-directed, getting comfortable with the beginnings, spotting patterns and developing a deep sense of who you are and what you care about.
What did I miss? What skills do you think are important for thriving as a multipotentialite?
Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.