What Are You NOT Interested In?
Photo courtesy of Evil Erin.

What Are You NOT Interested In?

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Multipotentialite Patterns

If you’re reading Puttylike, there’s a decent chance that whenever you’re asked “so, what are you into?” your default response is a kind of confused brain-crash while you search for an acceptable way to say “EVERYTHING!”

To some degree, the question makes no sense. For each topic you could mention, you want to say, “But also this..!”

Practically, we might tend to dial ourselves down a bit, so we don’t seem too keen or too weird. So maybe your heart says “EVERYTHING” but your mouth actually says “Oh, you know, quite a lot.”

Or perhaps you don’t dial yourself down anymore. Maybe you went through life thinking you were super weird, and then you discovered Emilie’s amazing TED talk, realized you were a multipotentialite, and now you’re happily shouting about how much you’re into everything. This way, the heart and the mouth are more in tune, which is great for inner peace.

But I don’t want to focus purely on how we communicate our desires. Sometimes I wonder if we get distracted by the effort of translating our experience into language others can understand… and in the process we miss interesting nuances in what our hearts actually feel.

You Probably aren’t Actually Interested in “Everything.”

Seriously. I don’t mean to offend you or impugn your honor. I’m sure you mean it when you think and say you’re into everything.

But remember just how big “everything” really is. It contains… well, everything!

Are you equally fascinated with rocks, space, plants, 17th-century Tibetan poetry, cricket, NASCAR, the chemical composition of paint, the use of the gerund in ancient Indo-European languages, and yoga? Probably not.

In fact, there are probably many things even on my tiny list of examples that don’t particularly interest you.

Obviously, this is fine. And I’m sure, to many, it’s even obvious; “I don’t mean literally everything.

But this does raise some intriguing questions. What do we mean when we say or think, “everything”? Does not being interested in something make us less of a multipotentialite? And which IS the best 17th-century Tibetan poem?!

MultiPOTENTIALites

Something interesting happened a few paragraphs ago as I wrote that list of “things you might not be interested in.” I mixed examples of things I like, such as space, ancient languages, and cricket, with things I’m not interested in, such as Tibetan poetry, NASCAR, rocks, and plants.

But even as I typed the examples of not-interesting things, I found myself thinking, “Hmm… I bet I could get interested in that.” I actually had to resist the urge to google Tibetan poetry instead of continuing with the article.

(Rocks and plants have proved more difficult for me; I really can’t bring myself to care, but I bet, in the right circumstances, I could get hooked by learning about them. I just haven’t found a hook that works for me yet.)

And I think that’s part of what it means to be a multipotentialite. We might not actually be interested in everything. But we feel like we could be.

It’s not so hard to imagine a world in which I’m a massive NASCAR fan. (Current fan level: awareness that it exists.)

For anything, it seems to require only a tiny leap to imagine a world in which I’m a fan. I guess that’s where the “potential” in “multipotentialite” comes from.

Multipod Guilt

Sometimes I feel guilty for not caring about some topics, as if not being as interested in rocks or trees as I am in physics makes me a bad person.

I’ve even found myself spending time learning about topics I don’t care about, just out of a vague feeling that I ought to know about them, whatever that means.

Clearly this isn’t healthy or necessary. We need to allow ourselves to NOT be interested in whatever we’re not interested in. This frees us up to pursue our real passions.

Again, this is straight out of the Big Book of Totally Obvious Life Advice: “Gee, you mean it’s OKAY for me to not be passionate about literally everything? Who’d have thought it?!”

But I hear this sort of multipotentialite guilt often enough that perhaps it isn’t obvious enough. Perhaps it needs occasionally restating: it’s okay not to care.

List “Everything” You Don’t Care About

It can be useful to make a list of things we’re NOT interested in.

Most of the items on the list might be irrelevant, but perhaps one or two are actually in your life. Maybe these are subjects or activities you’ve outgrown or just don’t enjoy. And, unless they’re necessary for some reason, it’s okay to let them go.

You might one day become interested in the things on your list. Until then, stick to what you ARE passionate about. I’m sure you have plenty of those.

Your Turn

What are you NOT interested in? Are any of your non-interests part of your life? If so, why? 

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.

46 Comments

  1. Ian Anderson says:

    I’m just here to stick up for the rocks and the plants man… ;-)

    https://goo.gl/KDhYjr

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Haha, I’m sure they do rock, my brain just finds it hard to connect with them. It’s definitely great that the world contains people who love all different kinds of things :)

  2. Ranya says:

    Wow I haven’t thought bout this before but I do feel strangely guilty when I’m not interested in something. I’m fact, I now kind of follow football (that’s what living in Denver will do to you) even though a few years ago I would’ve rather done anything besides watch a game. This article a good reminder that I really don’t have to be interested or knowledgeable about everything. Thanks!

  3. Maryske says:

    Hm… intriguing question! I’ll have to give this some thought. Considering the never-thought-of things I have gotten interested in over the years, I suspect that, like you, the things that *haven’t* caught my interest so far for some reason have been unsuccessful solely because they didn’t use the right hook!
    Which brings me to cricket… :-D

  4. Lia Rees says:

    I have plenty of non-interests :) . Religion, cars, the concept of “luxury”, sports, children, most animals, personal growth. The list goes on!

    Lia

  5. Tiff says:

    I’m resisting the urge to go google 17th century Tibetan poetry… resisting… resisting… okay my list of things I’m not interested in… Religion, Science, Politics (used to be but moved on to more positive things), I’ve come to terms with the dusty guitar in the corner, oh yeah Economics, EFT / Tapping (seriously I’ll slap you in the face for free if you want to get over something), Sports, Current Affairs, Celebrity Gossip, Reality TV, most TV… man this is getting addictive. All of these things I have tried out but failed to remain interested / I found other creative pursuits.

  6. Morna says:

    Heheh there’s actually plenty I’m NOT interested in:
    – Finance. I’ve worked five years in finance and I’m not absolutely sure I’m not interested in it.
    – Sports. I check out the National soccer team during the world championship, that’s about it.
    – Celebrities and the whole showbizz world.
    – Most science topics, except for the ones that are directly related to human beings (such as biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology etc.)
    – Computer games. Unless it’s Candy Crush :-) Or Heroes of Might and Magic 3. Or Need for Speed from 2002.

    This is actually a really interesting exercise. I guess all of my interests revolve around people, communication, connection, creativity, growth, that kind of thing. And analysis: seeing patterns. Within these fields, I’m interested in chess to photography and sociology to interaction design.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Glad you found it useful! I think it’s just a way of getting out of our normal habitual modes of thought, and maybe it’ll help us reflect on how we might use our time better. It’s fascinating that it helped you to spot a pattern within your passions!

      • Morna says:

        Yeah, I kind of surprised myself there… I got Em’s ebook in August, so I’d found some patterns already (most of them revolved around my Myers-Briggs type :-)) but it’s very interesting to see how determining what you don’t like helps define what you do like :)

  7. Henrik says:

    I am sorry if I sound blunt, but I think you are asking the wrong question.

    At least for me the question is not what I am interested in and what not, because I don’t even know what subjects there are to choose from.

    The question is how many subjects that got me interested when I first heard about them and how many put me off. (Answer: Nearly all and none that I can think of)

    I started writing this with a thought that it all depended on the person that introduced me to the subject, but I don’t really think tht theory holds. No person I have spoken with about any subject has ever managed to put me off that subject. Maybe because I normally only talk with people about odd interests if I like their company.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      No problem, Henrik, I think not every approach is useful for every person! This is intended as a means for helping to break out of our habitual thought patterns, perhaps helping to assess how we’re using our time, or whatever else it brings to mind.

      I’m glad it made you wonder a bit more about whether the people who introduced you to your interests are a factor, and ruled that out as a theory. Self-knowledge is always worthwhile :)

  8. Matt says:

    Much like Ranya, there are certain things I feel “guilty” for not being interested in. Military history, mushrooms, fishing to name a few things.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      This is interesting! I wonder where that guilt comes from. Obviously not everyone has to be interested in mushrooms (love the example, by the way!) so I wonder why we tend to think like this. (I do the same thing…)

  9. Julia says:

    INTERESTS: dance, somatics, psychology, ontology, visual art, poetry, religion/spirituality, graphic design, magic, tea, experimental pedagogy, healing, community spaces, pottery, video

    DISINTERESTS: law, politics, western medicine, broadway, chemistry, investment banking, tech start-ups, hollywood, botany, cars, archaeology, early european history, fundraising, carpentry, printmaking

  10. Rosanne says:

    Wow !! And yes the damn guilt is real !! This is so true and frustrating!

    Thanks !

  11. Lynn says:

    The moment I read the question, the word that popped into my head was “accounting”.

    • JJ Biener says:

      I understand accounting could easily pop into your mind as being boring. And for the most part I agree with you, especially if you are just really talking about bookkeeping. However, if you look at accounting during the formation and growth of a business, it plays an integral part of creating something from nothing. Accounting can make or break a business, and if it is used creatively, it helps produce businesses that are truly fascinating.

      No, I am not an accountant, although I did ace it in college. I learned the possibility of accounting and that really could be interesting if I was creating a business.

  12. Charles says:

    I think it’s also good to know how interests can always wax and wane over time. As a 21-year-old, I’ve grown out of a lot of things: from karate lessons and a local church group to a local historical society. I think it’s good to dip into many things and scrutinize into how they can tie into your life, through moral aspects or otherwise.

    • Mariana says:

      Great perspective! I agree; trying things out is important.

    • JJ Biener says:

      I am 55. Couldn’t begin to tell you how many interests I’ve been through and how many more I will go through before I am gone. Right now I have a list of things I want to explore, and there are well over 30 things on that list.

  13. Samantha says:

    This was a really interesting read.

    Sometimes, when thoughts of all the things I’d love to learn about get overwhelming, I think about how much I’m not interested in sports or combustion engines and it’s greatly comforting.

    I’ll run through a list in my head and repeat it like a mantra. You don’t like sports, You don’t like cars, You don’t like rodeo, you don’t like hunting. It’s very soothing.

    • Mariana says:

      Never thought of it that way! I’m going to use this strategy now :)

      Not interested in:

      accounting, car mechanics, calculus, Star Trek (or most sci fi – except Back to the Future – is that sci fi? Who cares, BTTF is awesome).

      mmmmm

      not interested in knowing what my net worth is, not interested in stocks… I’m sure there’s more.

  14. Gabi says:

    Not interested in cooking, cleaning, babysitting for other people, politics, beer, almost all pro sports (I like the winter ones for some reason I have yet to determine), learning to fly airplanes, scrap booking, and accounting.

  15. Dominique says:

    Not interested in sports, kids, babysitting, dogs, electronics, most theatrical plays, a lot of movies, experimental art in general, mathematics, accounting (but I have to do it), all the corporate mumbo jumbo, hunting, any weapons, any military questions, most cars, most hard sciences, fundraising, networking events, investment, most tv, trying to understand or respect ideologies that I deem unworthy or downright nasty, and the list goes on. It helps me immensely to work on this list because it makes me feel relieved. O_O

  16. Lucia says:

    Line-dancing, Morris dancing, theme parks, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, karaoke, soaps, reality TV shows, insurance.

  17. Nancee says:

    To me personally, this is a Captain Obvious post. LOL. I’m not trying to be mean at all. :D Even when I discovered my multipotentiality as a kid, I KNEW what I did and didn’t like. And no, I didn’t (and still don’t) like anything under the sun. :)

    I’ve never been too keen on STEM and sports. (Let’s make them SSTEM. LOL.) First of all, I don’t have the skills and the interest to master them. I’ll never be a scientist, nurse, doctor, mathematician, software developer, engineer, or an athlete. Growing up, those areas were forced on me. Sports in school have always been number one (like everywhere else in the US!), and STEM careers have always been pushed by the community/subculture I was a part of. I’ve never understood the fascination with football, baseball, and NASCAR, either. I’ve lived most (but not all) of my life in the States, and those things just fail to grow on me. However, I like watching certain sports during the Olympics (track and field and most water sports except water polo). Some aspects of tech are cool to me (good ol’ Internet, of course). Ditto some aspects of science, particularly when they have something to do with natural/holistic modalities.

    I’ve almost never been too crazy about kids, even when I was a kid myself. My baby cousin was the only exception. I was probably 10 when she was born. She was cute as a button. I was actually excited to help my parents babysit her for a day! I don’t hate them (to the point of being a child abuser), and kids actually like me, but I’m not super thrilled to have them around. I have an extremely low tolerance to screaming and crying of kids and babies. I’m even scared about admitting how I feel about kids because folks are generally judgmental towards people like me. Four-legged kids are totally right up my alley, though! :) I can stand barking dogs better. :D

    Other dislikes: politics, finance, Big Pharma, and other things that are also related to the dark powers that shouldn’t be. (Of course, politics, Big Pharma, and finance are their bag.)

  18. Nancee says:

    Oh, and CELEBS, too! A big-ticket item on my dislike list! :D

  19. Luciana says:

    When I got this email I laughed because yesterday I thought about this issue.
    I have no interest in natural sciences, soccer, mountaineering, chemistry, mathematics (except statistics), accounting, locksmith, librarianship. Everything that involves fixing machines and cables.

  20. Liisa says:

    I’ve come to think, with my pofessional experience, that I’m really potentielly interested in everything, even the Indo-European gerund (well ok I have a background in linguistics…). I once thought a new project at work on the worldwide sugar industry was going to be the death of me, boringboringboring – but no, I ended up finding it fascinating. So I guess to me it’s all about the circumstances, about when and how I come across a topic – and of course there are topics that are more or less interesting but no topic is absolutely and totally uninteresting. No lists for me, it’s all open for further investigation :)

  21. Vin says:

    Hey thanks for nailing a sign on my thought process ! , I always thought I was weird since my head goes from wanting to learn human biology, mechanical engineering to geology, evolution of plants (more on this list) and keeps thinking of associations within them so many times and in different angles, I keep losing track of the whole ordeal going on in my head. Should keep a notepad nearby but how would I remember that :) , I’m commenting 1% of what I had in my head 10 mins ago, too much stuff , too little time . Thanks for the article !

  22. Charlie says:

    I am not interested in politics. Like, at all! Which is odd because that’s all everyone talks about in my country. And finance. Now this one is ironic because I am currently working as a banker. Ha! :D

  23. Helen says:

    As my brain evolves and ages it opens up doors previously on the ‘not interested’ list. And so it goes. Maybe if I live to be a zillion years old my brain will have left no door unopened……….ha

  24. Derek says:

    I am not interested in not being interested… to clarify, I engage fully in each moment, and am 100% interested. What I choose to pursue is however, a very different question. So many wonderful, amazing things, I believe that everything is awesome with the right perspective. Stream of thought and serendipity are my staff and rod.

  25. Andy Murphy says:

    Hmm…I have to go with Emilie about rocks and plants – but I would say that I AM interested in ROCK music performed by Robert PLANT (I wonder if there’s a Tibetan poem about a Stairway to Heaven…).

    I’m keenly disinterested in professional sports, Nascar racing, motorcycles, prize fighting, warfare, brain surgery, nursing, or bullfighting to name a few. I could never pay the price to become a successful politician. My sense of balance bars me from figure skating or extreme sports. I do respect (and sometimes envy) those who have the talents for those things I don’t.

  26. JJ Biener says:

    I would have to say there are things I am not interested in…yet. I can’t rule out anything that might under the right circumstances be interesting. Case in point: Comedy Improv. I had watched Whose Line is it Anyway a few times, and didn’t really care for it. I knew my friend Bob in St Louis was really into it, but for me it didn’t hold much allure.

    Then this past summer, I was up in St Louis and Bob invited me to one of his Improv classes. Suddenly DOING Improv was so much more fun that watching others do Improv. I was hooked. I came home, found an Improv group to work with and I do Improv every week. I love it. If my friend Bob hadn’t influenced me, I would probably be on the other side of the fence. But he brought me in, and it is now a part of me.

    This is just one example, but there have been dozens of situations like this for me.

  27. Andre BCE says:

    Ok, here are my 2 shekels. I told my son (who is now 8) that in order to succeed you need to 1) own something, 2) create and control something, 3) run something or 4) teach something. The disheartening thing is that I do none of the above. If you cannot show a child something, you cannot really expect him to absorb the lesson (or take you seriously). But my problem today is that I am struggling to remain gainfully employed, and thus to support my family. I’m back into selling insurance, which, they tell me, is lucrative. And, I am also told, I should be very good at it….any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

  28. Shell says:

    Things I’m not interested in that I feel guilty about: Cars because it would be a smart thing to know about so I don’t get taken advantage of with sales or getting mine fixed. Math and Finances go hand in hand, I would think. I should understand Math better for financial reasons. Also so I can take care of myself better. Politics for it can affect me. Learning the Metric system for the whole world does it and I just can’t get interested in it. Reading more into issues that I vote for or against. Learning useful
    Computer stuff.

    Things in general that don’t interest me… Sports, real hiking where you have a backpack and do it for hours or days (I “walk” trails, look at things forever, and am in a meditative state. Only end up doing it a few miles, maybe). Watching things on big screen tvs. Fish and aquariums. Doing sales. Management. Sci-FI anything. Westerns. Action Movies. Video or computer games. Opera. Rap Music. Any kind of Office work or office jobs (unless it’s the American version of The Office show ;)). Card games and board games in general. Bowling.

    Whoa… that is addictive and yes, also therapeutic as well. I think I will stop boring everyone here and do this exercise on paper myself time to time. It’s a nice way to vent.

    Thank you:)

  29. Aram Boyd says:

    An extreme open mindedness fell upon me while I was enduring a rather dull formal reception last week. Partway through the officials’ droning, a little crevice opened up in my brain, and I began to listen past the monotone delivery to the real events and people being celebrated.

    I became utterly fascinated, despite myself, in the story of the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. Who knew I had so much in common with these folks and their plight?

    Walking away I discovered a new ability to be interested in things I never thought interesting before…

    Oh, and to Andre BCE, selling insurance can be a noble calling. Especially if it provides the means for your son to explore his talents without having to make a living in the meantime. You can be the reason he is able to achieve your items 1, 2, 3 & 4. Just sayin…

    Aram

  30. Steven says:

    Politics and economics immediately come to mind. I’m sure you can see the problem with that, especially at this point in time.

  31. Margaux says:

    Great question, Neil! I’m wondering if this introduces level of multipotentialism? Not to be classist about it or anything.

    I’ve heard other people list things they’re NOT interested in, but when I try, I come up a bit blank. There are many things I don’t have the time and energy to get into right now. BUT I know that like Aram, if I were stuck with nothing else going on, I could pretty much get on board with anything.

    I learned this in University one Saturday afternoon, alone in my residence, nothing to do except study a little, and the only thing on our 3-channel TV in the kitchen was formula 1. Now, if you’d asked me if I was interested in learning about car racing (especially Formula One) before that day, I would’ve said no way. Boring. But as I watched and listened to the commentary…I got into it. Roommates (all women) came home to see me fascinated with finding out how the race ended and thought I was the biggest loser ever.

    Also, as far as I’m concerned, every subject boils down to a science of some kind and I can get into any kind of science from psychology to cosmology. Science and puzzles. I love puzzles no matter what the type.

    So for me, it’s simply about time and priorities. I can’t care about everything right now, but if you took away most of the things I am invested in now, I would happily switch to new things in a flash.

  32. Claire says:

    I love this! This is exactly the framework that has been really empowering for me at times like when, in high school, I constantly reminded myself that it was okay to be totally bored/ not caring about biology, chemistry, and physics. I’ve wished for a better understanding of those topics exactly 0 times since leaving high school.

    I’ve also been tripped up many times when I’ve forgotten this concept, like the scores of books I’ve finished because I felt like I had to be interested in their topics or writing style. Or because I purchased them, and didn’t want to have wasted the money… not realizing I was wasting my time, as well. Not only did I not enjoy those books, but I don’t even remember anything I supposedly “learned” from them!

    Does anyone else get tripped up on books that way? I just can’t seem to stop myself from buying ones on things that I *wish* I was interested in (in addition to the ones I actually am interested in).

    But in general, these days I am very upfront about things I’m not interested in – well, if it’s relevant to the conversation, anyway. People recommending television to me know that 9 times out of 10 I’ll immediately own up: “I doubt I’ll spend time watching that show… but I’m glad you enjoy it!” I think most people find my honesty refreshing, and it makes our conversations that much better when we find something to chat about that we’re equally interested in.

    So thanks, Neil… This is super empowering to someone whose Catholic upbringing has left her naturally prone towards shame for things she didn’t do…

  33. Rosemary says:

    The Kardashians but then again I’m interested in why so many people are interested in them

  34. Katy says:

    Great idea, especially for those confused days when you think you could be interested in everything. Also it does help to discover themes of interests to some degree. While I have wandered all over my life path like a drunken driver, I have returned, repeatedly to certain areas, sometimes in different forms, but the same general area. This is also a good way to let go of those things you think you should be interested in, but your heart says ‘no’.

  35. Sam says:

    There are quite a few things I’m not interested in and maybe it is because I’ve never had the opportunity or a good enough reason to develop an interest but here goes: AFL (Australian Rules Football), cricket, boxing, poker machines, country and western music, heavy metal music, Kardashians and the like, crystals, aura reading, race cars, motorbikes, physics, gaming, mathematic puzzles, hunting, guns, stock market, babies, magic tricks and illusions.

  36. Franz says:

    I am in admin job right now but feels like i can do more.
    I am confused what i really want to do.