How to Escape the Comparison Trap as a Multipotentialite
Photo courtesy of Raffaele Esposito.

How to Escape the Comparison Trap as a Multipotentialite

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Confidence

Most people fall into the comparison trap from time to time but I’d wager that multipotentialites are more prone to doing so than most. And while we know that comparing ourselves to other people is bad for us, sometimes we need to remind ourselves exactly why comparison is toxic.

First things first, it’s impossible to fairly compare ourselves to anyone else. This is because we only fully know what’s happening in our own heads, and we can only imagine what’s happening internally for others. This means we’re usually unfair on ourselves. It is impossible to make an accurate comparison… so why do it?!

Secondly, comparing ourselves to someone who’s better than us at something usually makes us feel bad; comparing ourselves with someone who’s worse than us usually makes us feel guilty.

Comparison makes us feel as if life is a race. Do you ever think anything like, “if I haven’t achieved this by the time I’m [whatever age], I’m a failure?” That’s a needless comparison! (Seriously, these thoughts are just fictional rules you made up. You can un-make them up if you want!)

The only conceivable benefit to comparison would be “inspiration.” But if our inspiration depends on being better than others, it is fragile; someone else will always come along and beat us in some other way.

In short, comparison almost always acts as a painful stick to beat ourselves with, and even the theoretical positive benefits are better obtained from elsewhere. We can obtain the benefits of comparison without the drawbacks by being inspired to become better for our own sake.

Multipotentialites and Comparison

Now that we’re agreed that comparison is bad for us, let’s consider how this might apply to multipotentialites in particular.

We multipotentialites have our fingers in a number of different pies. (Or perhaps our fishing rods in a number of lakes? Or our teeth in a number of sandwiches?! Use whichever metaphor you prefer…)

Spreading ourselves out across so many disciplines leads to a few tricky consequences when it comes to comparison.

Firstly, we are multiplying the number of people we’re “competing” with. Every field we work in has its own community, and we jostle for position in each one. Having so many extra people tempting us into envy can be overwhelming!

Secondly, each field has its leaders and stars. So we multipotentialites can compare ourselves with an endless litany of superstars that we’re nominally competing with: “I’m a worse author than Stephen King, a worse artist than Picasso, a worse athlete than Usain Bolt…”

Usually, of course, we don’t quite fall into the obvious trap of comparing ourselves to celebrities, but into the more tempting trap of looking at people on the next higher rung on the ladder – someone making that bit more than us from their similar business, or getting that bit more acclaim for their creations. And this can be draining to our motivation.

Each time we start a new interest, hobby or business, it’s easy to see all those who are already successful and think “I can never be as good as them.” But remember, we only have to be better at it than we were yesterday!

Finally, due to the very nature of multipotentiality, it’s usually true that we’re not quite as skilled at each of our many activities as we could theoretically be. There is a danger of comparison to an imaginary version of ourselves that chose to be a specialist: “If only I’d cut out all my other interests, I could be the best in the world right now.”

There’s no way of knowing whether or not that is true, of course, but that might not stop the critical voice in our brain!

How to Avoid Falling into the Comparison Trap

If you fall into the trap of wishing away your multipotentiality, then it might help to remember that we never had any other option but to be generalists. Perhaps specialising might have made us better pianists/writers/scientists/footballers, but it would have cost us our soul too.

(Or at least our happiness… Maybe in another universe I am the best in the world at something, but every day I unhappily wish I’d spent more time on my other interests!)

So, there are some comparisons that are particularly tempting for multipotentialites to make. And – as we’ve seen – all such comparisons are harmful to our happiness, and hence to our productivity.

If we catch ourselves falling into any of these traps, it’s a good time to celebrate where we’re at. We can remind ourselves that we made the choice to develop on as many fronts as possible and to be as rounded as we can possibly be.

We can look back at where we were six months, six years, or even six hours ago, and ask ourselves, “how have we grown in that time?” That’s a comparison worth making.

And we can always celebrate ourselves in the intersection of our interests; we might just be the best basket-weaving, French-speaking, computer programming, dancing horticulturalist that the world has ever seen.

If we can celebrate ourselves in our glorious variety, without needing to feel superior to others, then we have escaped these toxic comparison traps.

Your Turn

Do you ever find yourself tempted by comparisons to others? How do you deal with it?

neil_authorbioNeil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.

58 Comments

  1. Catherine Chisnall says:

    Yes, I compare myself to others all the time. Usually those with high incomes who focused on one career area and rose to the highest level and now live a life free of money worries. I can’t see how not to compare myself to those unfavourably because I have never earned much or got any qualifications in any career area. I just end up feeling useless most of the time and wishing I wasn’t a multipotentialite.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Ah, that sounds really hard, Catherine, but also totally natural. I do the exact same.

      It’s tough because it’s tangled with so many other areas: how we value ourselves, whether we need ‘success’ to be happy, our desire for status…

      I don’t know you, but I have no doubt that you’re far from “useless”, so I hope you can learn to tune out that critical voice in your head and give yourself credit for the things I’m sure you do well :) And if monetary freedom comes, then great! If not… you still have a lot of value.

      (Not sure if that helps, it’s just my rambling thoughts pre-coffee this morning!)

      • Catherine Chisnall says:

        Thanks for your reply. I was definitely feeling the Monday morning blues when I wrote that but feeling more positive now.

        It would have been good if I’d known about Multipotentialism when I was much younger then I could have worked around it. I have made sure to tell my daughter about it in case she turns out to be a multipod too :)

    • David Aimi says:

      Hi Catherine,

      I just wanted to say I truly value and appreciate your honesty/bravery with your comment on this article. I think you really connected with Neil’s article here in how comparison with others can be quite painful.

      Being a fellow multipotentialite, I can understand how you struggle with being a multipotentialite. You’re used it being a negative thing in your life. You’re used to struggle, non-specialization, non-conformity, not agreeing with singularity (the aspect of choosing a singular career path, or specialization). The plus side here is that you know you’re a multipotentialite (that’s awesome, most people don’t). And part of that understanding is that you don’t belong in a singular mold. (Trust me, you will never fit in to a singular mold no matter how hard you try)

      If I may I’d like to give you some insight to myself if that may help you. I work a full time job that has a high income. I work in a singular career. I live what most would consider a “comfortable life”. I live comfortably enough where I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, and I can spend reasonably without having to open up my online banking and check things out. And guess what ? I HATE every minute of it because I am doing nothing that I enjoy. I loathe my career so much that I’d rather choose a life of passion with much less money, and I am working towards that goal.

      I’m not happy, in fact there times when I am downright miserable. I “specialize”. I hate working for other people, I hate being tied to a desk, I had even gotten to the point where it was destroying the integrity of my life and my relationships. With greater income comes greater responsibility. Higher bills, bigger houses, bigger credit cards. It doesn’t really matter how you look at it. Everything scales appropriately. Don’t be compare yourself with those with higher incomes.

      I guess what I am telling you here is to not idolize the almighty dollar. Secondly, don’t belittle your multipotentiality, embrace it. If you are a true multipotentialite you really will never have a singular focus of interest. Ever. Nor should you.

      If it’s one thing I’ve learned its that a singular focus or specialty will never bring happiness to those who are multi passionate.

      -Dave

      • Catherine Chisnall says:

        Thank you Dave, what a kind and insightful reply to my comments. I’m not sure what to say, but I will copy and paste your reply into a document so I can look at it when I need a boost. Thank you :)

      • Dania says:

        wow!!! Dave, your response made my day. You are such a beautiful soul!!! Thanks for shining your light this way :)

  2. Stuart says:

    Comparing my self to others often makes me feel a bit useless, like “what have been doing with my life”.

    But then I remind myself that even as a specialist, it is extraordinarily hard to be the very best at something. And even if you are the very best, it will be in an extremely narrow field that not many people care about.

    I’m encouraged by the fact that as a multipod, I have knowledge and skills in many areas, and that puts me ahead of 90% of the general population. And that means I have a huge mixing pot for all my ideas, knowledge and skills to mingle and merge and create something brilliant.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      This is exactly it :D There’s always a way to frame our ‘weaknesses’ that makes them into a strength.

  3. Stuart says:

    I stay positive in the knowledge that the genius is at the intersection. So being the best in a narrow field probably won’t do me any favours!

  4. Nela says:

    Yep, I compare myself to other artists.
    Art is just one of my many interests, and I’ve never been disciplined enough to practice drawing and painting daily, so my progress has been very slow.

    I compare my art to those of people 10 years younger and beat myself up for not being at a level where I want to be. I think to myself that I, too, might have had a successful career in illustration if I had only put in more work.

    It’s really the only thing that I still regret about my long, rambly path as a multipotentialite.

    I’m not sure I’ve found a way to deal with it yet.

    • David Aimi says:

      Nela,

      I think your art is amazing. I am not sure what you mean by comparing your art to people 10 years younger. Art is very subjective, and the level of artistic experience NEVER guarantees good art. In MY opinion art is not really about experience, but more about connecting with people.

      Me personally, I went to your site and I loved your illustrations. Electric Medusa, Into the abyss, You can’t own me, Allure, Nightmare, The Alchemist.. super freaking awesome. You may not even like those pieces for all I know, but I loved them.

      I think you work is great and you have a high successful ability to connect with your art. Also, I didn’t look at your art and make the assessment “wow she’s ten years behind her time”. Nope. Loved your art and made a connection with it.

      I think your art across your portfolio is very thematic – much of it carries your style, and that is a very good thing.

      Anyway, don’t belittle yourself because of younger generations, anyone can learn to be more technical but few can learn how to express themselves with artistic integrity like you can.

      Cheers,
      Dave

      • Nela says:

        Thank you so much for your kind compliments and words of wisdom, Dave! :)

        I’m so glad you connected with my works, and that your view on art in general is the same as my own (were it not for that pesky comparison we’re all prone to…)

        When it comes to other people’s art, I do pay attention to skill, but focus more on the atmosphere, meaning, and the connection I make with it.

        But I judge my own art more harshly.
        Maybe it’s because when I was just beginning my art journey, I was a member of creative communities where people were focused on growing their skill, and art critique was abundant.

        In those communities, people praised my “skilled” photo realistic renderings, and often ignored my imaginative work that had more flaws.

        I suppose what I need to do is unlearn all these things, and stop trying to impress people who don’t “get” my art :)

  5. David Aimi says:

    Hey Neil,

    Interesting article about comparison. I do agree with the majority of your points but I would like to interject and say I don’t think comparison is always a bad thing. It can be rocket fuel for success. One example of how we can use comparison with a positive initiative is when we choose mentors to compare ourselves to like you mentioned in your article. People like Emilie, Tim Ferriss and other successful multipotentialites. I think we know we will never be exactly like Tim Ferriss (because we’re not Tim Ferriss), or Emilie, but by selecting them as a motivational mentors we are following those who have already paved path to success. I think it really matters HOW you compare yourself. Another example I could provide is you’re chopping a tree down with an axe, next to you see someone pick up a chainsaw and cut the tree down in 6 seconds. Comparing your methods to that person’s methods in this scenario might be highly beneficial. I may be going a little out of context of your article but you get the idea. I think it really comes down how you choose to perceive yourself. Cheers-

    • Neil Hughes says:

      I totally agree with that, David!

      I think what I was getting at is that it’s possible to be inspired by somebody (or by their methods, like the chainsaw) without comparing yourself to them.

      Like if I see someone doing something I want to do, I can learn from them and do it too… or I can compare myself to them, which will probably make me feel bad.

      I think we’re agreeing here though and it’s just semantics, as I can see that what I’m calling “inspiration” could arguably be “comparison” by another name. In practice, I agree with your whole comment – thanks so much for adding your insight :)

  6. Rosalee says:

    Love this. I’m very guilty of falling into this trap, I call it my “comparison hangovers”. Like you said, it just makes me unhappy and wastes time.

    Such great lessons “we only have to be better at it than we were yesterday!” and to “celebrate where we’re at.”

  7. The way I avoid the comparison trap is to continually make progress on my various crafts, and stay focused on my goals. I also encourage and celebrate others achievements.

    This statement your made is truly wise:

    “We can look back at where we were six months, six years, or even six hours ago, and ask ourselves, “how have we grown in that time?” That’s a comparison worth making.”

    • Catherine Chisnall says:

      That is indeed a good statement.

      I also find it hard to set goals, I just kind of do a few things here and there. Maybe someone could write a post about how to do that.

      • Gabi says:

        There are lots and lots of places out there to find goal setting plans. I love my passion planer, created by a young student wanting to have her own business. It has places to brainstorm and plan goals and then checks in with you on a daily, monthly, and weekly basis to see if you are focusing and making progress. And you can keep track of your life too!

        • Catherine Chisnall says:

          Thanks for that, Passion Planner looks really good. I think I’m more of a drifter actually but I could see how it goes :)

          • Mark says:

            Catherine,
            I’ve spent my whole life being Helter/Skelter, but always managed to have great jobs and finally about 12 years ago a really awesome business but I’m really bored of it right now, but GOALS have always kept me a very grounded multipotentalite, albeit not always a very focused one. I’ve always sucessfully used Anthony Robbins Goal Planning Workshop which has helped. I hope that this info helps you a bit
            Mark

          • Catherine Chisnall says:

            There wasn’t a reply button to Mark so I have to reply to myself, lol!

            Thanks for that info, Mark, I shall take a look. People are so kind!

            I just feel like after I had a baby, my health declined and I stayed at home to look after her, I lost sight of where I was going and how to get there. I had great jobs I loved pre-motherhood but they all seemed to go nowhere :/ I am also not money focused in any way, I prefer community, love and happiness, so everything I’m attracted to earns me little money.

            I was thinking of drawing a mind map, I love those, with all the different areas I like as lines going off it.

  8. Helen says:

    I’ll be honest, both ways: Most of the article sounds a bit too general and we’ve all had these thoughts, quite probably without being able to use reasoning to solve the issues…
    However, the notion of “celebrating ourselves in the intersection of our interests” is surprising and amazing! Will it work? I’ll know in a few days!
    Thanks

  9. Dinandrea Vega says:

    I have a full-time, professional, “day-job,” as a licensed clinical social worker/supervisor un the federal government (I also have a separate clinical specialization, as a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider); a part-time “career” as a licensed cosmetologist/commerciail hairstylist/makeup artist; I speak three languages (and am working on two others); I also do beauty/fashion photography and am working on writing a book No, I’m not kidding.

    Juggling all of these interests can best be described as being married to two people and cheating on them both with three other people. Life passions, interests and takents can all be very jealous and demanding mistresses.

    I, too, have looked over my shoulder, sometimes at people who started out in commercial hair/makeup AFTER I did and become frustrated because they’re now working on-set in films that are shooting in L.A., Louisiana, Georgia and Virginia, while I’ve continued (for years) with the local, small projects because I want (and need) to keep my full-time, “cash cow” job.

    Comparison, is a cruel, demoralizing beast.

    Thank you for your article, Neil.

  10. T Michael Salter says:

    Neil,

    Thanks for the comments on comparisons. I know it is an area where I struggle and, I would guess, so do many other multis. Having discovered “what was wrong with me” at an older age than most, I often see my chronological peers at the peak of their career and earning power. The hard truth to swallow is that is not where my life has taken me. As I move forward into a better understanding of myself and the forces that continue to shape me, I hope to wean myself off the comparison roller coaster.

    That being said, it is rather liberating to realize that my wiring is the key behind my multiple loves of teaching, writing, working with my hands, and the many other interests that can fill my day (and hopefully earn a buck or two). Of course, sometimes my struggle is to choose which of my loves will get my attention at any given time. But this journey is now more enjoyable for the knowledge I have gained on so many levels.

  11. Keith Kehrer says:

    Actually I do the opposite thing. Early on and to this day, I endeavor to be strange and different and unlike anyone else. I have actually been accused of having no soul in my music, but I think I just have taken the Frank Zappa/John Coltrane and been like a scientist, uncovering new things and doing musical experiments. I do it in my prose writing and screenwriting as well.

    I am usually just competing with myself most days. Maybe that is more of the same because I am comparing myself to others to find out if I am doing something different

    Keith

  12. Jose says:

    Great article! I think the most important thing here to remember and that I just learned from the book, “Think & Grow Rich” is that we must all have a desire to do something. Whether that’s doing one thing or multiple things. If you have enough desire or passion for whatever it is you want to do then comparing yourself to others will be a thing of the past.

  13. jimothi says:

    My friend just went to her 50th high school reunion.
    She said, for the first time since she graduated, no one was bragging and comparing what they had accomplished. They were simply glad to be left among the living.

  14. Morgan says:

    Really needed to read this today, thank you! Comparison has always been a killer for me, as a person with ridiculously high standards of achievement for myself. Been feeling a bit down on myself lately (as I do every now and then!) for not having achieved as much as a writer as other writers I know ..but when I think about it, these writers are not multi-potentialites! And usually write only in one field of writing! Its so obvious to me now :) Feel encouraged. I would rather have a day in which I play my ukulele, sing, dance, write, mother my son, connect with nature, and support others through my paid and unpaid work than one in which I JUST write. Grateful! Its a lot of fun being a multipod.

  15. Jose Siandre says:

    Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

    – Steve Jobs – 1955-2011, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Apple

  16. Drew Nelson says:

    “Comparison is the thief of joy” — Theodore Roosevelt.

    Great article and very inspiring to know others feel so similarly. I always try my hardest not to compare myself to others, but I feel that it is inherently human to do so. I don’t have a whole lot to add to the conversation — just wanted to say thanks and to share that quote.

  17. M Jay says:

    I just saw Emilie’s TED talk and had an epiphany. All these years (36 and counting) I thought I was just a useless flake with no ability to concentrate or commit… or perhaps I am! Is this multipotentialite thing just an excuse? Are you all members of some intellectual cult? I have yet to decide.

    In the meantime, I’ll spill my guts because it might be good therapy and, after access to porn, the only other thing the internet is really good for is therapy. This must be true because there are so many people on internet forums and social media who are constantly searching for it, whether they realise it or not!

    My interests run from biology to anthropology, ancient and modern history to boat building and carpentry, voxology and narration to writing fiction… I think I better stop. Lately I’ve been trying to teach myself music, but I’m blowing hot and cold on that one. Either way, I’ve got enough knowledge of all of them to work in those fields, but am scantily qualified in only one or two areas.

    For the last ten years I’ve been trying to break into life as a professional writer, where professional is defined as ‘makes his living doing it.’ I’ve spent those ten years honing my natural talents but still can’t get past the gatekeepers (agents and publishers) and get a book deal.

    Someone might be thinking ‘self publish’ but that has it’s own restrictions, namely money. I can’t even afford to commission a book cover design (because you need a good cover to shift even a handful of copies – don’t ask me, I don’t make these rules. The readers do. They don’t buy books with cut-and-paste photoshopped covers).

    What is the source of my money trouble? Well, as a multipotentialite (apparently) I have never devoted myself to a single career and thus, struggle financially and probably will for the rest of my life. In the UK perhaps even more so than the US or anywhere else, we labour under a culture of specialism. You cannot get a job as a gardener without three (3) separate certificates of competence. And if they don’t ask for paperwork, they always use the fatal words: “proven experience”. In other words, they intend to hire someone who just came from another employer where they did the exact same job and, thus, require no training.

    A multipotentialite, as far as I can tell, will probably always require training. Maybe they’ll learn fast, but never fast enough when a fully trained candidate already exists.

    You cannot do anything in the UK without paperwork. And to get paperwork you must either have deep pockets to pay for the training course, or have devoted yourself to a single-focus career, working years for a single employer who will then fund your progression. Usually you will start at the bottom of the ladder – office boy or equivalent – and at 36 I am never going to be considered for such a position. Not when most of the managers interviewing me are 26 or younger, who have spent their educational careers since the age of 15 training to become managers.

    In my educational life I moved from english to biology, graduated and sold toilets for a while, then answered emails for a software company, then got into teaching (which I thought was finally my career) before the paperwork culture really exploded after the recession and suddenly, thanks to new legislation, I wasn’t highly qualified enough to teach nor able to qualify to get onto the training course for the new, higher, qualifications! So I defaulted to editing fiction, just at the time when the publishing industry began to implode thanks to the self-publishing revolution and all the work was drying up.

    I have a natural talent for editing, it seems. It’s a shame, then, than I hate editing. I feel like I’m enabling other people to achieve their dreams at the expense of my own, because I’d much rather be writing, myself. And if I could, I would write in a dozen different genres in both fiction and non-fiction.

    Writing, you see, is the only activity I’ve found that can fuse all of my interests into one, and the only activity I’ve found that never gets boring. There are no limits.

    But there’s also no room for someone like that in the publishing industry, and while you can (and many do) use multiple pseudonyms to write on multiple topics, every time you publish under a new name you’ve gone right back to square one as though you’re a new, unminted writer all over again. You have to jump through all the same hoops, run the gauntlet of all the same commissioning editors and agents, and start from scratch each time. You never get to build on your success!

    So, am I a multipotentialite? If that means ‘perenial pauper with no prospects and no money and, as a direct result, no ability to pursue my passions’ then yes, I’m afraid I probably am.

    From where I sit, all my monomaniac, focused, specialist friends have mortgages and are paying for them. So I remain to be convinced of the message at the end of Emilie’s talk: that what I am is good for the world.

    Sorry to be miserable. Like I said, therapy.

  18. Adam Hofmann says:

    In the last 20 minutes I watched Emilie’s talk, found this site and have been consuming the articles. SO. EXCITED. TO. BE. HERE and thanks to everyone who has already shared a story.

    I’m in the middle of a massive transition and this week has been particularly challenging. Something interesting I realized this week was related to my behaviors around “comparisons”. Being in San Francisco, I’m constantly comparing myself to other entrepreneurs, especially ones my age or younger. Here’s what I do when I start making comparisons…

    1. Compare myself to others
    2. Read about what they did and think, “well I did about the same, why didn’t I end up there”
    3. Decided I need to focus, get to work and make things happen
    4. Isolate myself to “focus”
    5. Get lonely, stop making progress
    6. Beat myself up for not making fast enough progress
    7. Open back up and try to reach out to people for help or inspiration (grasp for support and appreciation)
    8. Get inspired or hear something good/positive/make a connection
    9. Start down the path of inspiration and
    ….start comparing myself again

    The cycle continues. Most of our lives are filled with these behavior cycles. Sometimes it can be incredibly challenging to see these cycles when you’re in them, but if you take the time to notice them, become aware, you can more than likely “break” it. So that’s my goal for this week. Ease up on the isolation, reduce the comparisons, do the things I know I can do and appreciate myself.

    • Morgan says:

      This is exactly what I go through! Thank you so much for putting it into words, Adam… it is why my progress with product creation for my business has been so.painfully.slow…. that sometimes I want to give up, but then the inspiration comes again and I feel it, and want to do it, do it for 2 days, then feel isolated and want to connect with others, or do something else…then beat myself up and avoid the work because I dont feel good about it…and so it goes on. I do get there eventually, but find it a lot easier with outside pressure of deadlines…I managed to do a degree and a diploma with no problem because of this, but with my own projects its much harder!

  19. Terri says:

    I couldn’t help but compare us multipotentialites to a snowflake. We are all different in our combination of potentials, so comparing ourselves to another snowflake is, well, comparing apples and oranges. We’re just different. So if we could shift our comparing to noticing, then we can embrace all our beautiful differences and learn to enjoy. May not easy to change old habits, but very possible for we multipotentialites who like to learn new things.

  20. Faith says:

    I am a multipotentialite too. But I feel moderately successful if I don’t start comparing myself to my peers.

    In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I took up Physical Therapy. On my second year, I knew I hated it but I stuck it out and told myself I’d shift careers after I graduate. I even got me a license in Michigan! After practicing a few months at a general hospital, I couldn’t bear it anymore and took a job teaching high school biology. It was fairly easy work, so I started taking classes. First I took enough education units, to get a teaching license. I then enrolled in a master’s degree in marine science but it did not feel right because I did not see myself successful doing that kind of work. I also got a license sharing life insurance at some point. Then I applied to law school and I actually finished in the top of my class. I loved the intensity of the grueling workload. I was recruited by a law firm straight from law school, passed the bar and slaved away for about three years practising law before I realized my life was becoming a prison sentence. So I then took an MBA from an Ivy League school. I am now on my way up in the corporate ladder but I have to start from the bottom.

    By all accounts, I should consider myself successful. Sometimes, I do.

    But when I start comparing myself to my physical therapist friends who own their own physical therapy practices, former teacher colleagues who are now principals or district supervisors, lawyer friends who are junior partners, MBA friends who are now CEO’s of their startups — the envy makes me want to slap my face many times over. I’ve had so many opportunities to be a specialist but I wasted them all.

    Multipotentiality is both a gift and a curse. But I can’t change it, I just learn to live with it. 80% of the time, I hate myself for some of the choices I’ve made though. Thank you for building this website and all the helpful therapeutic articles in it. It has almost instantantaneously made my regrets much less intense and most of all, I am happy I am not the only one who is like this.

  21. Jose says:

    Faith,

    I have felt the same way you do about wasting away some of our careers/ventures and not sticking with it.

    However, you also have to think of all the specialists out there who are just miserable with what they’re doing just because they want to be like their peers.

    Nevertheless, there will be those specialists that have found their true calling and that’s what we are all probably envious of the most.

    That’s okay though, we’re much more well rounded than they are.

    Here’s my mission statement:

    “I’m an unrepentant generalist finding my way in a world of specialists. I’m an innovator, a creator, an explorer and an adventurist. I know a little about a lot.

    Which kinda makes me somewhat of a master. I’ve mastered how to achieve the minimum effective knowledge on any topic quickly, easily and elegantly.
    Some will say, that being a jack of all trades is like being a master of none. I say, Learning how to learn is one of the main things that makes a good business person into a great thinker.

    Being a multipotentialite as I like to call myself — is often considered a weakness until you become a credible specialist in being a generalist.”

    Stay strong,
    Jose

    • Catherine Chisnall says:

      We should remember though that the full version of the saying is:

      Jack of all trades
      Master of none
      Oftentimes better
      Than master of one

      A jack of all trades was very valuable on a sailing ship in the past, which is where the proverb came from- if the captain had a jack of all trades on board, he was extremely happy :)

  22. Keith Kehrer says:

    Well,
    I have not found a way to make a good living off my creative diversity. I just feel fuzzy and unfocused and being the sole bread earner at this point in my life, there is pressure to make everything pay and pick the things that I do fairly well that will generate income. I am re-reading The War of Art to try and get perspective because I am ready to give up and relegate myself to just working a job I hate and coming home and catering to my needy partner and going to sleep and starting all over again. Sorry. Just a bit whiny here. I have my music catalog rejected by two companies and feeling sorry for myself.

    Keith

    • Catherine Chisnall says:

      Keith

      I actually wrote a very similar post to yours this morning but didn’t submit it to this page! I thought it sounded moany and everyone would jump on my head to tell me to ‘be more positive.’

      I feel exactly the same. I need to find a way to make money asap, and haven’t found a way yet. I am also looking for a job that I can do simply for money and relegate my passions to just hobbies. Its hard to make a lucrative job out of a bunch of passions IMO, especially if you have a family to support.

      What is the answer…

      • Keith Kehrer says:

        Thanks for responding Catherine.

        I have the income thing taken care of but I just barely pays the bills. My wife had to stop working because of some medical things so it was up to me to pay for everything. I can make a good living as a web developer but it’s sort of a trap and in my off hours, there is a choice between paying attention to my relationship or my musical career. I just starting teaching again as I moved my studio into a spare room when my stepdaughter moved out. We are still catching up and I am trying to find a way to upgrade my equipment and hire an engineer to mix and master my tracks so they are competitive in the licensing market. Placing some tracks in TV and commercials could solve my money problems if I can generate on going residuals. Just so much to do and so little time. Sigh

        I don’t consider it moaning. I am just asking for help and advice.

        Keith

        • Catherine Chisnall says:

          Well you obviously did consider it moaning because you put ‘Sorry. Just a bit whiny here…feeling sorry for myself’ in your previous post :P

          It sounds to me like you’re on the verge of doing well with all those things going on, I bet if you give it a bit more time it’ll come together. I’m not just saying that, I think it.

          I do wish I’d found out about Multipotentialites many decades ago, but I suppose at least I know now!?! I need to find a way to make money from helping, advising and supporting people which I do all the time it seems.

          • Keith Kehrer says:

            Well, not to sound too metaphysical, but you usually find things when you are supposed to.

            Yeah. that is what people tell me. I have this sense of pressure and urgency that is not going away. Some of it external and some internal. At 57, I feel the time ticking away.

            Well, I’d say, just start doing it and hang out your shingle. I started my music biz in AZ with just a few students like I am doing now and then my reputation grew and I had 50 plus clients in about a year.

            Go for it.

            Keith

  23. oh how cool to have a web gathering place for those who thrive from multiple passions.

    i completely agree that the tendency to compare (to see what is similar/equivalent) usually does not end up being a neutral thing.

    curious about what we can illuminate in times of comparison. like when we’re comparing, what are we wanting to get out of it. do we want to be better able to see what we’re doing? know our place better in a context? or, the place of our work/projects etc.in a broader scheme? do we need appreciation/approval from someone we respect? are we looking to be able to enjoy where we’re at?

    musing if we could find ways to give ourselves whatever it is we’re seeking in comparison. and perhaps take it less seriously. there’s no ‘there’ really to get to right? after one goal reached another sprouts up such is life.

    i like what terri writes about shifting to ‘noticing’. Even though still our perceptions are probably never going to be ‘accurate’ whatever that is. from comparison to differentiation. seeing how original/one of a kind each experience and scenario and individual is.

  24. ahmed ossama says:

    yup

    it is truly harsh , the worst thing that when I m trying to separate myself from this tricky trap , I found peers and people around you provoking you and stimulate your egos

    in other meaning when I concentrate in my own interest own world , people or society penetrate that with negative intrusion by comparing for instance family,friends,relatives,coworkers

    not only that but also when you sit in a place you find other person all their sound related to comparison with each other , too harsh

  25. Amy says:

    When I am tempted to compare myself to others, which happens a lot, lately I have been utilizing the image of Durga, or a multi limbed tara/ goddess. I realized a while ago that this “habit” of mine, my multipotential-ite-ness, was who I was…something very foundational about me. It was how I work, and it was different than most of my peers. When I was frustrated at my lack of focus, or wished that I was further along the road of mastering a skill that someone else seem to have mastered, I would think about all the arms.
    In order to wield a sword or a pen, a tool or an instrument one has to get it into ones hand and practice…plain and simple…I happen to have more arms than most folks, so I have to spend more time learning to wield my tool/sword/pen/instrument..it is understanable, because I am fundemental built differently than a two armed person (specialist)
    This also finally helped me feel more peaceful about my habit of mastering a skill and then “putting it down” for stretches of time….now I know I am practicing with a different tool/sword/pen/instrument or training another arm and it doesn’t need to mean I am lazy, unfocused, or wasteful.
    I am new here, and deeply touched to find a community of people who are also oriented in the world in this multi limbed, multi dimensional way…

  26. Amy says:

    Hi, I am new here, and find myself deeply touch to find a community of people who are oriented in the world in a similar way as I am.
    I feel compelled to comment on this post because comparing myself to other people is something I have struggled with my whole life..I am the youngest of four kids. When your older sister is the states best tuba player, and playing in the youth symphony you end up figuring out that in comparison, everyone loses.
    A couple of years ago I took a yoga teachers training, you know, like you do cause a little bell went off in my head telling me it was what I needed to do next in my world.
    I loved it, and, having very little experience in yoga prior to the training, I saw how far I had to go until I really mastered it. It became this kind of crisis for me, because I was also in the midst of starting a career as a jazz vocalist, as well as an artist (massage therapist, plant science educator,photographer, volunteering with the local co-op cooking classes, you understand) and I saw that there was just not enough time in anyones life to DO IT ALL, all the time.
    I fought with myself, regarding the time and effort and resources required for all my many interests, and grudgingly concluded that I was never going to be “done” with my schooling/learning/growing.
    I hold a nearly sacred spot in my heart for peoples ability to specialize…I almost worship peoples abilities…the ability to master a certain skill set is really the most beautiful thing to me…that is how much I have aspired to sit with a skill and learn it top to bottom…and maybe an indication of how well I have been trained to see specialization as the ultimate goal.
    And I realized that was never going to be me. I was fundementally, foundationally not built that way. Sure, I have passion and enthusiasm in surplus amounts initially, but once mastery is in sight, I find myself moving on.
    This was hard for me to accept. Right about the end of yoga teachers training my frustration with myself grew, and one day I was in a funk about this lack of focus, lack of specialization thing.
    I went to a restorative yoga class and in this class I had an epiphany.
    It came in the form of an immense wave of sadness/compassion for myself….and the shape of a seated, multi limbed ‘goddess’ in my minds eye.
    When I considered this ‘Tara’ initially I was surprised. What was this? Why was I seeing her? What did this have to do with me…and then I understood.
    I am this.
    This is me.
    I am not a woman with two arms and two legs. I am multi limbed….and beautifully so…and rather than spending my time comparing myself to all my two armed specialist friends and mentors,
    I needed to realize, I needed to enjoy and celebrate that I was a Durga…a multi limbed, multi faceted person.
    Now, when I am tempted to compare, I tell myself that I have 8 arms to their 2 and if I am further behind than they are, or need to set down some other tool/instrument/skill set to train a different arm, well then thats ok…not only ok, but how I roll.
    I am grateful for this new community.
    Thanks for reading…amy

    • Morgan says:

      Wow, Amy, your comment has blown me away… I also trained as a yoga teacher some years ago, and watched as other teachers went on to build communities and established classes while mine never really took off – because I didnt focus on it and my passion for it already started to wane shortly after training, as I found other interests and followed them. I have compared myself harshly to these other teachers but realised that to be like them – ie specialists – I would have to be someone else! I LOVE your image of the Durga – the 8 limbs – YES! Totally. I will remember this, thank you.

  27. ahmed ossama says:

    you are welcome anny

  28. James says:

    Comparing myself to others who have been successful, especially online has prevented me from being successful.

    A friend of mine gave me a hint to go to a convention some 15 years ago. I didn’t go, and regret it ever since.

    That friend has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the field. Known in the field and regarded as a mentor.

    Chasing other people’s dreams, doesn’t work. You need to forget those and chase your own.

    But with nearly everything accessible at your fingertips, it’s difficult not to see the results of other people.

  29. Amy says:

    You are welcome Morgan :) I have really found it to be a useful analogy.
    I had a hard time getting my phone to play nice with the website which is why maybe there are two versions of my comments…I think I wrote it out 5 times…oh well :)

  30. Kg says:

    I have a “good enough job” which pays reasonably and doesn’t exhaust me completely. I have some energy left most weekends to do bits and bobs. It’s utterly depressing to compare my lack of career to my peers – but ultimately there’s nothing I can do about it. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have stumbled across my good enough job. Everything is running well for now and in life I think that’s all I can ask for. In the future I hope to take some bigger risks, but not yet. It’s been a struggle to get here and I intend to relax and enjoy it for once instead of pressuring myself to move on to “something better”. As a multipot I think our millions of ideas are a blessing and a curse. It’s an achievement for me to just focus on enjoying what I have right now! Barbara Sher has several ” life models” in her book and I was dismissive of the “day job” model until I landed my current job. It won’t stay this way for ever but I intend to enjoy it while it lasts :)

  31. Shekhar says:

    I think this is a high concept / big idea for brands to adopt. Even when i discussed this concept with my colleagues they either find it too deep or too loserish.

    I want to pursue my clients to take this concept and show the world that its absolutely ok to be a multipotentialite. Can u help me sell this argument?

    We have a beer brand Tiger and their positoning is UNCAGE YOUR PASSION.

    In Malaysia they address different passions of people via different campaigns – music, football, and food. Is there a way to stitch the above concept with these passions

    Pls help. I want to spread this message via a global brand like Tiger beer

  32. Raheel says:

    I am comparing myself with my finance teacher, he is the best at it. This comparison gives me positive vibes so that I can continue learning from him and be like him.

  33. Scot says:

    This is an interesting post for me. I just discovered this site and am still sorting out what kind of multipotentialite I might be. I am a scientist that also did some engineering in pursuit of my science degree and I recently completed an executive MBA as well. I used to- ok still do- find myself looking at those I work with and marveling at their expertise while feeling a bit down that I am not nearly as good as they are – in science, or engineering, or business. This comparison used to bother me a lot until I looked at a few resumes of people I had been comparing myself to and I saw that they had spent all their education and careers focused on one thing- either science, or engineering, or business. No wonder they were so much better at their field than I was! I have breadth; they have depth.

    The only other nagging comparison, then, is do I have breadth and not depth because I lack the ability to be deep, or because I choose not to. I have accepted that is more the latter: my Ph.D. and subsequent science work shows I can go deep, but I kind of prefer to go broad and see how I can mesh new ideas together in ways that others typically don’t see. OK- so maybe this multipontentialite thing is me, after all!

    Anyhow, thanks for the thoughtful post.

  34. Amy says:

    Welcome Scot :)

    • Scot says:

      Thanks, Amy. I see you beat me here by a couple weeks, so you’re probably ahead of the game in figuring out how to apply these new insights into your self mode. :)
      scot

  35. Zoya Ahmed says:

    In school I used to love Maths and Biology equally. I was the best painter and good in sports, dance, singing!! Then it was time to choose a career path. As I got good scores in Biology and Mathematics I though of getting into Scientific Research. Now I’m a Pharmacologist. When I made that decision I was equally interested in pursuing Architecture or Fashion Designing! But how can one student sit in three different classes???

    If possible I want to go back and try my skills in Fashion Designing! I don’t know whether it has any intersection with my current skills, but in an imaginary world where money is not a limiting factor, I’d want to learn Fashion Designing and rediscover my creativity.

    I hate choosing between subjects. I cant see any difference. I like evrything equally. I wish to master everything!!

    Its frustrating!

    :'(

  36. ahmed ossama says:

    where are you live zoya and whats your nationality ?