How to Get People to Take You and Your Interests Seriously
Photo courtesy of Tara Lehman.

How to Get People to Take You and Your Interests Seriously

Written by Emilie

Topics: Guest Posts

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexander Heyne of Milk the Pigeon.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

– Steve jobs

Help! I’m a multipotentialite and nobody takes me or my interests seriously.

I was talking to both of my parents over dinner about what was coming next.

I just moved back from living in China for a year, and was slowly re-assimilating myself back to the “real world.”

I didn’t know anyone.

I had no job.

And I was living with my parents.

“Maybe I’ll start a blog, I mean, I see a ton of lost people around me who want to travel the world, pursue their dreams, and build a business but they don’t have the support or resources, the “it’s ok to not live like everyone else in the ‘real world’”, I told my mom.

“Besides, the smart guys are making 6 or 7 figures from their blogs.”

“Oh, uh huh, is that right?” She took a sip of wine and kept eating.

That response was typical of my parents.  A nod, followed by “uh huh, I see,” and then them never again mentioning what I was working on or asking how it was going.

I mean, it’s hard to blame them.

I’ve studied everything from meditation, to primitive bow making, survival skills, blogging, martial arts, rock climbing, calligraphy, Chinese philosophy, acupressure, herbal medicine, cooking, and probably a dozen other interests.

The only problem is that the response of my friends and my family to my myriad interests is the same: total lack of interest.

Uh huh, cool.

And they often follow it up with the worst piece of advice: “So what are you going to do with all this? It’s not very useful… it won’t serve you in the long run.

That line always used to kill me.

My dad was famous for using it.  No matter what you said, it had to have a reason, otherwise it “wouldn’t serve you in the long run” and you “wouldn’t be able to do anything with it.”

So how do you get people to take you seriously?

I mean, life isn’t about pleasing everyone, but it feels way better when your family and close friends believe in you and realize you’re just doing your thing.

There are a couple strategies I’ve used that work well where you won’t have to sell your soul for respect – where your close friends and family will see where you’re coming from:

1. Give the illusion of focus

Let’s face it – maybe for a period of 6 months you’re totally fascinated by painting, and then your interest wanes and you’re crazy fired up about becoming a doctor.

You can still get stuff done and not sacrifice your “street cred” by keeping on track with what you’re doing, and entertaining new ideas at the right time.)

Example: Say you’re learning some kind of dance, salsa for example.  You’re out to dinner one night and your friend mentions something about how she hired a hypnotist to lose weight, and she lost 50 lbs already. Your brain is on fire. What? Hypnotism? Is that even possible? You suddenly feel the urge to ditch everything and study that…

Whoa nelly! Make a list entitled “Fire in the head” and whenever you get inspiration or the urge to learn something new – put it on there!

2. Say that you’re an adventurer looking for the Holy Grail

Let’s face it, we live in an epidemic time of purpose-less living. Almost no one knows what their purpose in life is.

So when someone sees you bouncing around from interest to interest and they don’t take you seriously, ask them:

“Do you know what your purpose is?”

Since almost everyone will say: “Well, I, uh, umm, no not really….”  You can reassure them that you’re merely trying to find what you’re passionate about, whether that’s one thing or ten.)

Example: Instead of just saying I got bored of it, say “it just didn’t feel quite right, I’m looking for things that really feel meaningful to me that I’m passionate about.”

3. When you say something, do it. And do something before saying it.

The number one reason why people don’t take someone seriously is because they don’t do what they say.  You can bounce around from interest to interest as long as you make it clear what you’re going to do and then do it (and sometimes not talking about what you’re going to do):

Example: Sometimes when I get really excited about a new idea I just want to tell the whole world. It’s like being in love –  I want to tell every friend and family member what’s going on and what I’m studying and why I love it.

But sometimes after a month I’m totally bored.  “What happened to all that fire?!” everyone asks me.  Woops, my excitement caught hold of me.

One of the easiest strategies I’ve found that works is the following: Wait a little bit for the initial fire and excitement to fade before you start talking.  Besides, the more likely you are to share your goals the less likely they are to be realized.)

4. Spill your guts

Tell people, No — I don’t have severe ADD. No I don’t have problems starting what I finish. And no I don’t have commitment issues!

I start a new skill, hobby, or job to come what I came for, and once I get it I move on.  You can learn so much of what you need to know about a skill in a relatively short period of time, so why bother investing another 9,000 hours to become an “expert” at it?

Example: I’ve worked multiple jobs for 3-6 months and then quit because I wasn’t learning anything knew.  My family initially thought I had serious commitment issues but I told them: “Look, I’ve learned all I can where I am now, so what’s the point in sticking around?  I can better invest that time elsewhere learning something new to help me evolve in the future and acquire more skills to be successful. “

Sometimes sticking around doing the same thing is too easy and convenient and thus the worse way to self-evolution.

5. Act like Alexander the Great

Don’t for a second act insecure about having multiple interests or changing your mind frequently: Be confident! You’re a multipotentialite and you know who you are!

The more you act like you doubt yourself the more others will doubt you.  If you know deep down that what you’re doing has meaning and will work out, no matter how long you stick with it, people will pick up on that confidence and say “Gee, maybe she’s onto something..”

Example: I was once approached by a good friend that was acting like my dad: asking me what was the use of all the random skills I knew.

Instead of getting embarrassed or acting like I had no Idea what I was talking about, I confidently replied: “Hey man, not only is being a jack-of-all-trades exciting as hell, knowing a little bit about everything helps you connect with people better and see the world in a different light.”

Being raised in a family with four kids made me realize something.  Parents worry in uneven amounts about each child. Some kids you just don’t worry about, and others need plenty of nudges and direction, right?

Maybe. But one thing I noticed is that the kids that parents don’t worry about tend to have one thing: they act like they have a master plan.  They act like they know what they’re doing, even if they don’t. It’s all about the act part of having your act together.

Multipotentiality is a way of life that exposes you to a vastly broadened experience of the world – something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

You just have to be confident and know that in the end things will work out, after all, you can only see how the pieces fit looking back.

***

What about you?  What sort of strategies have you used to have people you care about understand and respect you more?

It’s always tough to have your friends and family love and respect you no matter what you do, but done right, instead of not taking you seriously, they’ll just say, “Oh, he’s just doing his thing.”

Alexander Heyne is the force behind Milk the Pigeon, which helps lost 20 somethings get un-lost, destroy ordinary in every way, shape and form, and build a business to fund their freedom.  Check out Milk the Pigeon’s manifesto: Killing Your Old Life and Living the Dream.

23 Comments

  1. Really interesting. My mum always acted like that too, but now I know I’m Not Alone, I feel more confident as a multipotentialite.

    • Alexander says:

      Catherine,

      Haha you are definitely not alone! I spent a lot of years trying to convince people, gave up, and then finally started paying attention to the people that no one questioned and just admired — and I copied them.

      Surprisingly it just comes down to a few personality traits..

      Hope it helps!

      Alex

  2. Rob says:

    ‘What are you going to do with this’.

    Argh! That question kills me too! I never went to university to study philosophy for a career, I did it because it was damn interesting! I didn’t learn how to climb in order to become a professional mountaineer, I did it to enjoy myself.

    This conversation happens so much with my friends and family, I sometimes consider running away never to return. It’s exhausting trying over and over to explain that they are asking the wrong questions- their whole outlook of everything needing to lead to some big end goal is NOT how I want to live. That way of living is my idea of hell on Earth.

    But alas, succeeding in explaining this to a point where people really understand (and not simply nod) still alludes me. My moother will always say ‘I suppose so’ as I explain things to her, but a few weeks later it’ll be the same question ‘now You’re doing marketing, I guess university was a waste of time…’

    At this point, sometimes it’s best to just bite my tongue else I might just scream!

    • Alexander says:

      Rob,

      Yeah I totally hear that. It really sucks when your parents (who, ideally, would support you through anything) don’t quite take you seriously.

      I mean it’s understandable though – a lot of us are young, we’re bouncing around as it is, PLUS we have multiple hobbies and passions that are changing from time to time.

      And I can definitely resonate with that feeling of running away and not having to deal with it all. Ultimately though that would just be taking the blue pill and dealing with symptoms rather than figuring out a productive solution.

      I think one of the most important things is like I explained above: be confident in your own process. If you KNOW what you’re doing is worthwhile and enjoyable, act like it.

      You could even explain to people, this is how I get things done, this is how I find enjoyment in life, this is how I blow off steam, etc. “Just doin my thang! ”

      I think ultimately parents are just worried and the “Everything you do has to be for a reason” argument comes from their worrying whether or not you’ll be able to support yourself.

      That proof also comes with time!

  3. Patty Tanji says:

    You really are Alexander the Great! I laughed at the ‘illusion of focus’. Brilliant! I am certainly not your target market….but can relate to what you are saying….because instead of setting out in my 20’s to find purpose I waited until 50, yup, that’s f – i – f – t – y! But in the grand scheme its a millisecond! My daughter said yesterday, at the Experience Life Project….while perusing the Nervana exhibit…”Remember when you yelled at me for borrowing the Nervana CD from the library”, my reply….”Oh, I have learned so much since then, now I don’t give a rats ass at what you listen to” (translation – find your own purpose and don’t wait until you are 50!). Thanks Alexander. Terrific post!

    • Alexander says:

      Patty —

      Ultimately “purpose” targets everyone — but it’s lack is only most pronounced in young people and is gaining a lot of publicity.

      I think purpose plagues us all, it’s kinda that lingering feeling in the back of your mind as to whether or not what you do “is worth it.”

      I’ve noticed the same happen with my parents – they are in their mid to late 50’s and the subtle signs of “What the hell am I doing on this planet” are creeping back in their heads, now that the kids are all out of the house.

      That’s why I think deliberately crafting a meaningful life — ideally while young — is the most important thing any person can strive for, especially multi potentialities !

      Thanks for reading !

  4. Holli says:

    Solid advice.

    My story involves a Multipod Mom and a pension, one job since he was 19-years-old Dad. Thankfully she raised me, but I saw him on the weekends. So, I was in a juxtaposed environment. She always encouraged me, he always doubted me. When I wanted to go to college, it was, “Why don’t you work first?” I had been working since I was 15, I already knew that waiting wouldn’t buy me anything.

    I stopped college half way through to start a business here in Seattle, and my Dad asked me, “How do you know it’s going to work?” I don’t him I didn’t but was pretty sure it could. And if it didn’t I’d be okay. Well, last month he lost his job and most of his pension. {so much for job security he was preaching all these years}

    On the ironic side, I often felt his “one job for a pension” mentality seeping into my perspective. I often hoped my Mom would find the “right” job or “business idea” and not put me or my siblings through so many changes. Today I find myself worried about her financial security. But, you know what? I’m grateful for her openness. I don’t know how I would have survived or where I’d be if I had two doubtful parents!

  5. Alexander says:

    Holli —

    The happy thing about your story is at least you have some contrast — sometimes contrast is better for growth than simply just the black OR the white half, you know?

    Sometimes knowing the other side makes you a much stronger person than what would’ve been created otherwise. Just knowing people who support you and encourage you won’t be enough in the real world – because in the real world there are always people who doubt what you’ve got going on. And you have to have a strong character and be confident in order to work through those doubters and thorns in the path.

    I’m like you, my mom is the “go for it!” kind of parent who is also a business owner. My dad is the doubter, “go for the safe job with benefits” kind of guy.

    I don’t really pick or choose, I just listen to both and decide at the end of the day what’s best for me.

    Best of luck!

    Alex

  6. Shanna Mann says:

    So much good stuff in this article.

    Yeah, I learned pretty early that no one was impressed by my grandiose plans; they only cared what I actually *did*.

    Of course, now that’s backfired on them because they now want to hear about my businesses and plans and I’m like, “Oh, well, I’m working on a few things. I’ll let you know when I see some results.”

    But I thought the confidence tip was solid gold. If you’re uncertain about your path and your decisions, people will sense that, and “for your own good” try to talk you out of it.

    • Alexander says:

      Shanna,

      Yeah people end up just caring about what you end up doing.

      Multiple interests or not, talk is always cheap. If you wanna see someone’s character look at their actions not what they say.

      And I’m totally with you on the “i’m working on a few things, I’ll let you know when I see some results.”

  7. Arne Tietz says:

    I learned a lot in my live, sports (skiing, martial arts, motorrallye, highdiving, springboard diving, tennis, squash, knife throwing, climbing, hillbiking, …), programming (C, Cobol, Basic, PHP, Java, Pascal, Action, Ruby, …), side building (drupal), psychology (neurological relations, coaching,…), dancing (salsa, standard/latin, argentine-tango) and many more. In some of them I have a degree (e.g. Softwaretechnology and a diploma in psychology).
    And I was used to get better and better, faster than others and being bettern than others at the end. Not that I WANT to be better than they were, I was just accelerating faster than them. In many of what I’ve done so far I was one of the best or even the best my fellows. And than I stopped being interested in it.
    “It’s lonely at the top”.
    So it wasn’t as you did it, cause you stopped much earlier when you took a nose full of a topic. I jump into something and swallow as much as I can till I am alone above there.
    Nowadays I know what my real problem was (and is in some way). I tried to convince those who are slower oder not as motivated to be better as I was. It was like fighting against windmills. The reason for my “problems” (multipotantialism is only one) is my IQ, that is higher than 130. Which also means that my THINKING, the way how I see the world, the people, all the topics I jumped into is too different to the others view.
    I now don’t try to convince anymore. I try to find people as good or even better than I am to talk to or to work with, and to lift those up who WANT to be better, even better than the most people.
    And the others those who don’t take me seriously I don’t meet anymore or let them be as they are. Cause they are “normal” and I am “normal”. But we are different “normal”.

    • Alexander says:

      Arne,

      That’s some pretty interesting life experience.

      I was like you for a while when I was younger, I used to be “really serious” about the hobbies I got into and so I progressed quickly. But eventually the people who weren’t quite as serious started resenting me because I was the new guy that quickly overtook them. It’s an easy way to lose friends.

      I think like you said the trick is to be humble and always find people better than yourself to hang out with.

      Whether that’s for business, for personal development, or just for learning a new skill/sports — entering a group as the worst, newest member means you’re definitely going to improve.

  8. Arne Tietz says:

    The best advice that I can give (as a psychologist):

    “Take yourself seriously and THAN others will take YOU seriously.”

    The other way round (“if only THEY will take me seriously THAN …”) doesn’t work.

    It was hard for me to learn this, but it was what solves my many problems, I took myself not as seriously as I want others to take me.

  9. Alden says:

    Great article!

    For me, I am more of the, “Don’t give a f**k about what others think” guy. That’s not to say I am some total bad ass saying that, but I truly observe and analyse others to lead to that conclusion that not caring about what others think is the best solution.

    Such as in point 2, you hit it spot on when you talk about asking about others their purpose. All too often, people are caught up in the matrix that is modern day society. Hardly anyone values passion, doing what you love or simply being yourself. So when they recognize something different in you, they are all too ready to start shelling out criticism and disagree with you, when deep down they actually simply have trouble understanding what you do.

    • Alexander says:

      Alden,

      When I was a little younger I used to have the “devil may care” attitude but you have to be careful, because it can go two ways:

      1 – you’re just reacting defensively
      or
      2 – you maturely understand that you can’t rely on people’s approval all the time. I think there needs to be a fine balance otherwise a person will just come off as childish, afraid, and activing defensive, you know? I still have many close friends like this though

      And i agree with you 100% when you say “So when they recognize something different in you, they are all too ready to start shelling out criticism and disagree with you, when deep down they actually simply have trouble understanding what you do.”

      Change is difficult for people, especially those not used to it :)

      I just give people the “*Shrug* – i know-what-I’m-doing- laugh” and it usually makes people understand.

      • Alden says:

        Exactly! When one doesn’t understand something, they don’t take the “peaceful” route of trying to understand.

        Haha well I don’t know if I am just reacting defensively or not. I am open to feedback all the time, but since I started my own blog, I’ve had people who give stupid comments that don’t help, especially those who think they can write really well.

        If you ask me, it boils down to manners and tact too. I’ve had really bad criticism which was justified with “good intentions”, but I disagree that good intentions should be used as an excuse to say what you want without a care of the other party’s feelings.

        I’d be willing to listen to anyone if they treat me with respect. If not, devil may care it is.

        • Alexander says:

          Yeah it’s really hard to take anyone seriously if they just leave snide comments that they haven’t thought through.

          Manners and tact will definitely get you far in life, that’s for sure ;). And I’ve honestly never heard someone give bad criticism and claim they had good intentions — sounds like a lame excuse to me haha.

  10. Brilliant! I love the strategies. :) I find myself facing a lot of these recently, especially with the recent launch of my blog, but I notice that as much as I’d like to blame it on “they just don’t understand me” – that it’s they’re really only calling me out on my own fears.

    It’s one thing to say “I’m gonna do it!” and live how I want to live, but that doesn’t stop those thoughts from lingering around in your head – like little shadowy characters: standing up against a wall, in the dark alleyways of your psyche, lit cigarette, foreboding look on their face – “yah, sure you’re gonna do it. Let’s see if anyone cares.”

    I can’t help but notice that they’re not really doing it, they’re just helping me to see that I AM still doing it, to myself. Positive self-talk is a support, and it helps so much, but it’s not enough. Until you face those “demons” in your own mind, you’ll always be running into them “out there”. But we all need action steps to take until we can actually GET to that place of clarity, which happens with time and practice, and these are really great ones!!

  11. Alexander says:

    Sunni —

    And that’s why good friends can be our best assets! When someone calls you on your BS or calls you on your fear, that’s powerful. Because then we have the chance to react two ways (like I said above with Alden): we can react defensively, or we can say “Hmm, you guys are right, but this is what I gotta do!”

    And yeah, the hard part no one tells us is that, like you said, those little demons of the mind never go away. 1 day in, 1 month in, 1 year in, 5 years in — they always creep back up on you and it’s a constant battle day after day to keep it going. And yep, the constantly daily work and small successes are what eventually make the monsters go away :)

  12. Michiel says:

    Hi Alexander,

    As someone with not just a box but a truckload full of spare hobbies, I recognize your point quite well. The one thing that I noticed that interests other people as well is if you can tell a story about it. By story, I don’t mean content wise on the particular hobby, but more of your journey and why these various items pop up as interesting.

    For me, two themes emerged: 1) the art of learning and 2) strategy. These are quite abstract notions but allow me to connect the dots between my juggling, martial arts, learning spanish and finance, and playing games. They also allowed me to explain to others why the new hobby is so interesting, because there is a linking story.

    That said, most people have a notion of becoming really good in one thing, disregarding the rest. You might recognize yourself as the type “dabbler” from http://www.scribd.com/doc/257928/-Mastery-by-George-Leonard . I chose to become a master in learning :-)

  13. Anna says:

    This is an awesome blog! True words if wisdom for our generation of “multipotentialites”! I like that word by the way ;) your a very smart young man. Keep it up!

  14. It’s sad that we have to put on the whole “act” thing for people who just don’t understand that we refuse to waste our lives at a meaningless job. That said, it’s exactly what I’ve had to do in order to keep my family off my back. Even when I could barely support myself, I refused to ask them for help, because it would just validate their assumptions. I’ve been down-and-out plenty of times because I was sick of dead end jobs, but now have finally found my path. It’s still changing and evolving (I would feel dead if it didn’t) but at least I am finally financially sound.

    Older generations didn’t seem to care if their jobs had any meaning – it was just work…work…act like a zombie. At least now we are finally spawning more people who genuinely care about creativity and passion for what they do! Go us :)

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