The Relationship Between Multipotentiality and Education
Photo courtesy of Evonne.

The Relationship Between Multipotentiality and Education

Written by Emilie

Topics: Education, Puttytribe

Education is a hot topic these days. It seems like everyone’s discussion the “failing system” that’s leaving thousands of graduates jobless, and in tremendous debt each year. There’s also a lot of talk about the lack of creativity or alternative forms of teaching in schools.

Although these are all very worthwhile discussions, I’m not going to focus directly on any of these issues in this post. Instead, I’d like to talk about the idea of learning itself, both within the education system and beyond, and how it relates to being a multipotentialite.

Multipotentialites Are Natural Learners

Learning is second nature to us. We become hungry for information and dive deep into new subjects, many of which appear totally random. Once we get what we came for, we tend to become bored and move on to devour something new.

Every time I get an email from a student asking how they should select their courses, I always recommend that they take advantage of their time in college, and study everything under the sun that excites them in that course catalog– to pick courses based, not on career potential, but on passion and curiosity. I also suggest looking for those majors that are more interdisciplinary in nature (they’re out there), or combining multiple majors, minors, etc.

The reason I suggest following your heart and sampling a wide array of topics is because I believe that there’s a greater design behind our curiosity. I think that when your heart is saying “gee, I’d really like to learn about East Asian art right now…” there’s a reason. Maybe ten years from now, you’ll be working as an architect, and a piece of artwork from that old class will flash into your mind and inspire a beautiful design.

Or maybe it won’t be this obvious. For instance, I accredit my time in law school for making me a more persuasive writer, even though none of the writing I do now is related to law. Similarly, growing up playing the violin helped develop my ear, which is really hard to quantify in terms of value. But I just know that it has had an impact on my work in areas outside of music.

Trusting that the Dots will Connect

Every new topic you explore develops your brain in new ways. Studying lots of subjects also makes you a more interesting person. So while I can’t exactly tell someone “this is the role that your deductive logic class will play in your future,” I would say to just trust your intuition. If you’ve become interested in something, there’s a reason. As Steve would say, “trust that the dots will connect.”

Autodidact Learning

Now what about those who are not in a position to attend formal education (either due to budget, life circumstances, or just a dislike of academia)?

Well I don’t think that changes anything. In that case you read books, use libraries, scour the internet, check out the Khan Academy, or you learn through hands-on experience, as you develop a new project. It’s hard to stop a multipod from learning, whether they’re paying tuition or not. It’s just what we do.

Another thing that most (but not all) multipotentialites enjoy is teaching. Perhaps that’s because teaching is the ultimate way to solidify information in your head. Or maybe it’s because we like inspiring others and seeing our excitement over a subject reflected in someone else.

How does this Love for Learning Jive with the Rest of the World?

The problem that a lot of us encounter, is that many people don’t get it. They use terms like “useless degree” and “impractical skills” because they don’t understand that there’s inherent value in learning. You don’t need to “do something” with your knowledge to make that knowledge valuable. It just is.

What does that mean for us? Well, there’s the social pressure to study with your career in mind (as opposed to your mind in mind). But if you can get passed that, then there’s another issue: Who do you share your new fascinations with? You need people in your life who are interested in what you’re learning and want to hear about it. We all need that kind of support and encouragement. No should have to feel as though their pursuits are meaningless.

Sharing Among Puttypeep

In the very first Huddle that I ran back in January, we had an eclectic group. At the end of the brainstorm, after hearing about everyone’s projects, Simone, a “HipGnotist” (among other things), mentioned that she would love to learn more about everyone else’s interests. For instance, Brandon was working to get his timber framing business off the ground, and to this she said, “I would love to learn about timber framing!” The group concurred. (Similarly, I would love to learn about hypnosis!)

This is how the idea of member-led workshops came about. Each month in the Puttytribe, we’ll have a call for workshop proposals and select two Puttypeep to share something they’re learning about with the group. All of the PT members will be able to tune in live if they like, but we’ll also record the workshop and include it in the Co-Created Library (as well as allow the presenter to use the recording on their own site if they like).

This is one of the features that I’m most excited about. I just don’t think that any community designed for multipotentialites would be complete without an educational component. Learning is just so integral to who we are.

Your Turn

How has education (whether formal or informal) impacted your life? Do you believe in learning for learning’s sake?

***

Congratulations to Colleen D. and Joel, the winners of the lifetime memberships to the Puttytribe. You have no idea how difficult to was to choose… You all gave such amazing, heartfelt answers. I’d just like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really do hope to see you in the Tribe anyway!

Oh and hey, make sure you’re all signed up to the email list, so that you can grab one of those 50 spots when we open the doors tomorrow.

20 Comments

  1. I think Multipotentialites will own the future economy. I was reading “Abundance” and the author talks about the exponential growth of technology and how in 30-35 years, a personal laptop costing $1000 will have the equivalent processing power and AI capacity of all human brains on the planet. Insane, I know, but that’s the power of exponential growth (which has already been snowballing over the last 20 years). My point in mentioning that is that technology will be replacing so much of the repetitive, mundane, cog in the wheel type jobs. The jobs of my kids’ generation, I believe, will be less about specialization, and more about creativity, and being able to rise above a problem and see things from many different angles and perspectives to properly use the power technology that will be at their fingertips.

    And so, we chose to raise our kids with an out of the box education philosophy. They spent a year or two in a traditional education environment, but were then homeschooled for 2 years, and now this past year are in a Montessori School environment. We really believe allowing them to explore their own individual interests and exploring problems and questions on their own with just a bit of guidance and direction will be key to them becoming self-motivated, creative multipotentialite adults.

    Great stuff, Emilie! Thanks for paving the way for out of the box, multipotentialite thinking as it pertains to our education (and our kids!)

    • Emilie says:

      Very interesting. I don’t suppose you’d be up for turning these ideas into a guest post sometime, would you? I think the Puttylike community would find this fascinating.

      I think it’s great how you’re raising your kids, Jason. I had mixed experiences with schools growing up. Ultimately, I ended up in a fantastic alternative high school that was very much personalized to meet each student’s needs. The classes were small and the teachers were (mostly) brilliant. They actually treated us like equals.

      It’s so important to grow up in an environment that teaches you how to think critically and encourages you to be express yourself (every part of yourself). Good stuff!

      • Would love to Emilie! Maybe in conjunction with my free ebook that is about to launch in early May. I’ll email you.

        Your education experience sounds amazing! I love it when teachers come down to the kids level as “directors” and just helpers to guide kids in their self-directed interests. Your education background is shining through in what you are creating here at puttylike! I’m excited that my kids could someday aspire to build a tribe as great as this and be world-changers alongside of us… :)

  2. Shanna Mann says:

    Ohmygod, that sounds aMAZING. I cannot wait! Can I start submitting proposals?

  3. Great article Emilie although pretty much every one you write is so that’s nothing new. On a side note I’m SUPER stoked to be honored with a lifetime membership to the Puttytribe! Once the doors open I’m zooming in and expect to see a lot of “ohhhhh”s and “ahhhhhh”s.

    I love to see that all this work you’ve been putting in with the Puttypeep is blossoming in such a cool way.

  4. Sharise says:

    I completely agree that the dots will connect. I’ve already experienced this in small ways. :) The things you learn will build upon each other and deepen your understanding of all of them.

    “It’s hard to stop a multipod from learning, whether they’re paying tuition or not. It’s just what we do.”
    Yes! For years I thought equated learning with what I experienced in school?some real learning, but mostly memorizing things long enough to pass the test. (Which brings to mind how the education system makes people feel stupid by assuming everyone’s brain works the same and everyone will learn in the same way. So inaccurate!) Once I stopped going to school I realized that I was still learning, and I was actually enjoying it! Mostly because I was learning about things that I found interesting and not being forced to “learn” things that I had trouble understanding. And learning about things I was interested in lead to me becoming interested in more things, including things I had previously not been interested in and that have been difficult for me to understand. It’s amazing how much you can learn on your own, even difficult to understand things, simply because you want to. Imagine if we replaced the traditional school system with an unschooling model. Kids still go to school for 7-8 hours a day, but they get to learn about whatever they happen to be curious about and go at their own pace. I bet the entire generation would be extremely smart and innovative.
    So yes I agree with learning for learning’s sake.
    I also agree with Jason, multipotentialites and creative thinkers, and especially entrepreneurs, will own the future economy.

    • Emilie says:

      Beautifully put, Sharise! I love your approach to learning. It sounds like you’re really embracing your multipotentiality too, which is so awesome. You should be proud. That takes guts in times like these. :)

      xo.

  5. Juventud says:

    Thank you Emilie, Spot on. Just the article I was expecting from you. I have to share a lot of things regarding education so please bear with a long post ;). I have been home schooled and had to skip most of the classes. When I say I was home schooled it didn’t mean that there was an authority that was checking out or keeping a track of my performance. My dad got me just the books I had to study them and take exercises by myself. Because of self learning I could never learn the basics and important things of Science and Maths. My dad helped me with study but most of the time he was out so he didn’t have time. I was never a bright student when finally took admission in High School. I failed in maths twice. The study material was so old that I found everything irrelevant. I started studying on my own again while in High School. I would study my sister and brother’s graduation books because it had religion. In a day I used to complete a whole book studying only the things that interested me. My parents would ask me how studying graduation books were relevant to my high school course but I had no answer. I just read them for interest. In my society it is ingrained that you should not study anything that is not relevant to you. I kind of ignored this advice all the time. After Graduating from High School my biggest challenge was to learn English as it was not my first language. I searched the whole house thoroughly for English books and read them for hours. Unfortunately nothing other than English helped me in my academics. But I still loved learning. I learnt Adobe Flash and Graphic Designing at home with the help file. It helped me in my career ahead. When I was in University I failed for 3 straight years and I really hated it because I wanted a job and no matter how hard I studied it didn’t help. I had to take work shifts and take care of the family too so that’s why I didn’t get to study most of the times but somehow I managed to reach the final year. While working I came across people who were University Graduates, Masters, but it seemed they all had studied for the sake of studying. They wanted a job. None I met in my 5 years of working was creative and capable of doing things that I was (I am not bragging here.). I still have not graduated but I am glad that my learning has never been restricted to the curriculum. One of my friends who is really good at Math and Science couldn’t get his degree in Technology from the College for some reasons is jobless these days. I believe that the whenever there are job openings people should be hired on the basis of the skills that they have not merely for the ‘degrees’ that they have. I haven’t stopped studying yet. I still read Psychology, Computers, Philosophy and Films and care less about formal education. People stop studying after reaching there comfort zone which is after they graduate from University and land a job. The idea just dreads me to death. When I was a kid I read a quote by some great Indian philosopher that loosely translates that “a man is a student his entire life”, it really touched my heart. I believe that multipotentialites do not study or learn vivid things because of peer or social pressure. It is just innate it is their source of energy. I recently came across this really nice book by CEM Joad, A talk on civillization. In his book he explains what being civilized in fact is. It is three things. 1. Creating beautiful things (Art), 2. Thinking freely (philosophy), 3. Thinking new things and creating them (Science). Sorry for the long post Emilie but I had to say this. Thanks

  6. We should all be learning every day and it’s about as simple as that.

    One of the principles behind not being tied down to one particular thing (at least for me) is that life’s just too short to compromise. There is so much to experience, why not experience as much as you can. Learn every day.

    Centuries ago a philosopher by the name of Cicero told us this and this is about all the self help you’ll ever need (learning is #5).

    Plus, what wasn’t around in Cicero’s day (though his wisdom prevails) is as you say, there are opportunities to learn EVERYWHERE these days. You can even study along with university students at Stanford via ITunesU or TED talks. Or just google anything you need to know. There has never been a time like now…

  7. Mandy Ward says:

    I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to bring all my interests under one banner – I have a writing side (that satisfies my research and publishing interests), a Design side (I design Jewellery and Accessories) and a Teaching Side (I qualified as a secondary school teacher about three years ago) so I have now decided to become self employed.

    The business will bring everything together – my writing / publishing is under one website (http://tpsworld.wordpress.com/), my designs come out in two different places (http://www.etsy.com/shop/TeigrDesigns?ref=si_shop for jewellery and accessories and http://authorkiramorgana.deviantart.com/ for graphics and Art), and the teaching side has kind of been the odd one out.

    So what I am going to do is use another website (http://tigerdew.wordpress.com/) as my hub and the main site for everything to be talked about, but also for a place where I can let my Teaching side have full rein, as I intend to run a Design Technology Workshop / Story Telling Service from it.

    It sounds like a lot to do, but I just need to get organised.

  8. Chris Dillon says:

    Have you read Seth Godin’s education manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams”? Remarkably thought-provoking treatise on the state (and future) of formal education. Free PDF! Free audio version!

    Thanks to you Emilie and Barbara Sher, I have been exploring my newfound multipoddity (I know, right?) with great abandon. Long story short, I am heartily embarking on a new adventure as an ESL teacher in South Korea and dreaming of what future stages of my career might look like.

    Learn, teach, repeat. Indeed!

  9. Tulch says:

    Great post. It’s funny, I spent my undergrad torn between business school and art school, ended up getting both degrees. In my spare time, I’d read up on psychology, statistics, and behavioral economics. I’m looking to enroll in a marketing PhD program, and one thought terrifies me–will the depth of the program keep me from the breadth of learning I crave?

    I hear most programs expect you to do just one thing for five years. I’m looking at Stanford, which at least has the d.school to enroll in while I’m working on my PhD, but that’s an exception.

    What do you think, is grad school a killer of learning diversity?

  10. Emilie Smith says:

    I think going to University was my first step to realising I was a multipod! I ended up dropping out and in retrospect, I’m glad I did. I don’t think I would have excelled in the biotechnology arena (my chosen degree at the time). I’ve since attempted to complete accountancy and business degrees (which just didn’t work timing wise). I feel more comfortable now with the fact that I don’t have a degree. I know I learn better “on the job” anyway. Education is an incredibly structured institution now which means people that don’t want to have structure are stifled. Thanks for this post.. I think a lot of people will be inspired by it!

  11. Jenny Willis says:

    I studied Art Conservation as a keen 19 year old, knowing I loved to learn and use my hands. Turns out I only had one job in this field and realized I also needed to be with people more than I needed to be with artifacts. 20 yrs later, I meet a lovely man who inherited a huge and fabulous art collection that needs storing, cleaning, organizing and showing. Ya just neva know…and I am so glad that I chose to follow my gut waaaaaay back then. Also so glad to stumble upon this site and grateful to be able to put together a few more pieces in my personal puzzle. I am such a multipod and look forward to more from this community!

  12. Kas! says:

    One of the greatest experiences of D.I.Y. education that I’ve participated in is a “free skool”. The free skool that I was involved in sprung out of the local anarchist community. Basically, people sign up to teach something once a week or to hold a special event; then, all of the classes are compiled onto a 3 month calendar, printed, and passed around town with locations of where to meet. All for free.
    I’ve taken classes on sailing, tree grafting, Spanish,screen printing, bike building, plant identification, women’s self defense, and even Klingon 101! I’ve even taught a few classes, too. The variety was sugar for my renaissance soul.
    My experience with free skool has taught me that everyone has something to teach and share, that teaching can be terrifyingly awesome, and that “informal” education is a beautiful thing.

  13. Nathan says:

    Thanks for an insightful post, Emilie.

    The education system (and general economy) here in Northern Ireland is stuck in the past, maybe 30 years or so behind the rest of the UK in terms of general outlook. I was fortunate enough to have parents (particularly my dad) who were hugely able across the board – I guess you like to call them multipods! It’s really odd for people of my dad’s generation to have more than one career throughout their lives – he’s changed profession 9 times, across many fields and sectors.

    As such, I was always encouraged to learn what I wanted. It helped that I always finished school exercises quickly (but that’s probably due to the love of learning more than anything else). I particularly enjoyed numbers and logic, so in my last few years of primary school (age 10-11) I was given GCSE maths book (age 15-16) to keep me occupied while the other kids were finishing their work – when I finished with those I could go to the public library and grab whatever I wanted (hello Greek mythology).

    I know I benefited greatly from being part of a standardised, set educational system – it developed my foundations and I wouldn’t change it for anything else, but I was blessed (then) with teachers who took a second to realise I was already done and have me leave to do what I wanted, instead of being left to sit there bored, doodling on the side of a page or causing trouble.

    Because of my mum and dad’s abilities, I always thought it was “normal” to have many and varied interests. Maybe it’s just having the drive (or being compelled) to do something about it that’s different, but I’ve found that the majority of people I talk to around my university find it really odd that I went from majoring in Sciences in high school to doing a college course in Theology to an undergrad in Applied Maths and my current research in Cell Biology, having had side jobs as a butcher, tutor, youth worker, councillor and extra-ing when time permits.

    No-one in any one of those disciplines (students or faculty) or lines of work (except for the extras – they get around!) that I’ve conversed with have spent (or would consider spending) any time in the others. Similarly, there’s only one of my rugby teammates who climbs with me, only a couple of the climbers are in the gaming club and none of the LARPers go surfing, so although we’re not alone, perhaps us multicons aren’t as abundant as we think (at least here in Belfast).

    As such, much like some of you guys didn’t enjoy the rigidness of the current school system, there are plenty of people who need that structure. When we couldn’t choose what to study for a class project due to having so many interesting ideas, there were those who couldn’t think of anything to study at all (besides that local sports team…), so perhaps a schooling reform isn’t the answer. After all, our thirst for knowledge’ll drive us to learn regardless of whether that’s being facilitated at school or not.

    I really like that “free skool” scheme a previous commenter mentioned. My multicon friends and I always exchange knowledge and skills whenever we can, so that’d float my boat for sure.

  14. Nathan says:

    Thanks for an insightful post, Emilie.

    The education system (and general economy) here in Northern Ireland is stuck in the past, maybe 30 years or so behind the rest of the UK in terms of general outlook. I was fortunate enough to have parents (particularly my dad) who were hugely able across the board – I guess you like to call them multipods! It’s really odd for people of my dad’s generation to have more than one career throughout their lives – he’s changed profession 9 times, across many fields and sectors.

    As such, I was always encouraged to learn what I wanted. It helped that I always finished school exercises quickly (but that’s probably due to the love of learning more than anything else). I particularly enjoyed numbers and logic, so in my last few years of primary school (age 10-11) I was given GCSE maths book (age 15-16) to keep me occupied while the other kids were finishing their work – when I finished with those I could go to the public library and grab whatever I wanted (hello Greek mythology).

    I know I benefited greatly from being part of a standardised, set educational system – it developed my foundations and I wouldn’t change it for anything else, but I was blessed (then) with teachers who took a second to realise I was already done and have me leave to do what I wanted, instead of being left to sit there bored, doodling on the side of a page or causing trouble.

    Because of my mum and dad’s abilities, I always thought it was “normal” to have many and varied interests. Maybe it’s just having the drive (or being compelled) to do something about it that’s different, but I’ve found that the majority of people I talk to around my university find it really odd that I went from majoring in Sciences in high school to doing a college course in Theology to an undergrad in Applied Maths and my current research in Cell Biology, having had side jobs as a butcher, tutor, youth worker, councillor and extra-ing when time permits.

    No-one in any one of those disciplines (students or faculty) or lines of work (except for the extras – they get around!) that I’ve conversed with have spent (or would consider spending) any time in the others. Similarly, there’s only one of my rugby teammates who climbs with me, only a couple of the climbers are in the gaming club and none of the LARPers go surfing, so although we’re not alone, perhaps us multicons aren’t as abundant as we think (at least here in Belfast).

    As such, much like some of you guys didn’t enjoy the rigidness of the current school system, there are plenty of people who need that structure. When we couldn’t choose what to study for a class project due to having so many interesting ideas, there were those who couldn’t think of anything to study at all (besides that local sports team…), so perhaps a schooling reform isn’t the answer. After all, our thirst for knowledge’ll drive us to learn regardless of whether that’s being facilitated at school or not.

    I really like that “free skool” scheme a previous commenter mentioned. My multicon friends and I always exchange knowledge and skills whenever we can, so that’d float my boat for sure.

    See you soon!

  15. Paul Reinerfelt says:

    “There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.”
    — Bertrand Russell

    I spent seven years as an undergraduate, much to the increasing frustration of my parents, who wondered if I intended to stay in school forever (yes, please). Even my five years as a PhD-student was “still going to school” in their eyes. During that time I sampled a lot of stuff, from Computer Science (my main subject) to cognitive science to history of science to intelligence (the spy kind) analysis and a lot of others.

    For years I though I should finish my thesis and get my PhD but now I know that I have indeed gotten what nectar I needed from that particular flower and it isn’t worth returning to. Maybe I return to the subject some day and publish something but that is just if it feels fun. (Ronald Gross’ book “The Independent Scholar’s Handbook” is dated in the practical advice but a great inspiration nevertheless.)

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
    — Mark Twain
     
    Outside of formal education I have studied many subjects, everything I know about dinosaurs, for instance, is gained through reading books and scholarly articles. The same goes for Primal Lifestyle and the new think about nutrition that comes with it. Add to that Klingon, cold reading, mythology and the list goes on.

    When I was a young kid (7-8 years, appr.), my parents bought an encyclopaedia by subscription, with a new volume arriving each month (I think it was fifteen books in all). Even at that age, I spent hours reading these books, marvelling at the amazing stuff! It was the high point in the month when a new part arrived. In fact, some things still instantly recall the specific page in that encyclopaedia where it was discussed! I particularly remember reading about Abu Simbel and marvelling that a team of engineers cut it apart and moved the whole temple, like a giant LEGO-set, to avoid drowning it with the Assuan-dam!

    As for teaching, well, docendo disco, scribendo cogito (I learn by teaching and think by writing) could probably be the motto for any multipod from what I have seen. The pleasure (only second to the exhilaration of learning in the first place) of sharing something you are enthusiastic about is great. Also, you don’t really know a subject until you can explain it to someone else. Too bad that we usually find our audience less than receptive because it “isn’t relevant”. That’s why I am excited about the Puttytribe workshops, an eager audience for whatever has stricken someone’s fancy!
         
    “Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing, the rest is mere sheep-herding.”
    — Ezra Pound