We multipotentialites can appear weak when we judge at our talents in isolation from one another.
Oh, I’m not as good a musician as he is.
I haven’t put in as many hours as her. How could I ever compete?
Viewing interests one at a time is a perfectly valid way to look at the world. Judging people’s abilities separately, in each distinct field, seems to be a natural way of doing things. (The tendency has nothing to do with nature, but we won’t go into that…)
But multipotentialites are strong when our passions intersect. And we’re strongest when we create new intersections by bringing together previously unrelated interests.
Specialization for multipods
A multipotentialite is as capable as anyone else of become a highly skilled expert in a narrow subject. Perhaps your only desire is to become the greatest violinist in the world. So you put in your 10,000+ hours, become a violin specialist, and express your multipotentiality elsewhere in your life. Perfect.
But let’s just say you’re also passionate about circus skills and speaking French. One day, multipotentialite inspiration suddenly strikes! You realize you’re the best multilingual circus musician anyone has ever seen. Your act stuns crowds and soon copycats are reciting French poetry while playing the violin and riding unicycles in every town on Earth.* In this case, your specialty is the intersection of your disparate passions.
* Okay, I share your doubts that this act would be especially successful, but a) success is relative and b) you get my point, right?
Feel stuck? Examine your intersections
Your strange intersections may be unexpected. They may be unwieldy at first. But the fact that they are authentically, totally you can help motivate you and make you stand out from the crowd.
A few years ago, I was coming out of a very anxious period. I started to write my story down, hoping it would help others who struggled with anxiety. But it didn’t feel right. Somehow it lacked the essence of me. It read as another dry tale of I was anxious and these things helped.
Then I thought about what other passions I had that might intersect with my mental health story. I thought of both my standup comedy experience and my degree in physics. I ended up using the math of non-Newtonian fluids to write a humorous book about my anxiety.
Now, when I tell people I wrote a comedy book about anxiety, their interest is immediately piqued. I found an unusual intersection—a unique crossroads that allowed me to play to my strengths. I’m not the best non-fiction writer in the world, but I just might be the best custard-and-physics-based humorous mental health writer.
How to find your intersections
Your brain is amazing at finding links between concepts. Seriously. Open up two books near you, pick a couple of words at random, and try to explain how they’re linked. You’ll find it’s relatively easy to come up with a link, no matter how ridiculous the pair of words is.
I just tried this and got distortion and umbrella. It’s almost too easy! The umbrella distorts the path of rain to keep me dry.
Let’s try it again: courage and fuel. I can think of all the things that fuel my courage. Or I could write a short story about someone finding courage to steal fuel and visit their family over Christmas. Or anything. The point is that our brains have incredible pattern-finding skills, which we can take advantage of in order to find our intersections.
Scribble down some of your passions, interests, hobbies, and skills on a piece of paper. Don’t do it as a list; instead aim to randomly scatter them around the page. Put them all over the paper.
Then pick a couple (if you want to be truly random, drop a coin on the paper and choose the word it lands on, and then repeat) and think of links between them.
Stitching and chemistry… Maybe I could make elements-themed wall hangings to sell on Etsy.
Dancing and social media… I could post a different dance move on Vine every day!
History and making friends… What if I started a meet-up in my town to talk about a different period of history every week?
Your ideas will be better than mine. I’m just throwing out whatever my mind throws out!
Can you mix three interests together? Four?
Many ideas you come up with this way will be terrible. That’s fine. But a few will feel exciting. Maybe one will be exciting enough to get you unstuck and on to your next project. Maybe one will be your Super-Horse!
Have you ever combined diverse interests to create something new? What ideas have you always dreamed of putting together?
Neil 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.