What Makes a Successful Multipotentialite?
Photo courtesy of Public.Resource.Org.

What Makes a Successful Multipotentialite?

Written by Neil Hughes

Topics: Goals

Everybody wants success. And (nearly) everybody wants cake.

Simple, right? Bake a cake, achieve some success… everybody’s happy.

But the difference between cake and success is that everybody agrees what cake is. You can point to “a cake”. But there’s no such thing as “a success” that we can all point to and agree on.

Success is just a label we attach to other things. And when we confuse the label for the thing itself, that can cause problems.

Even if we remember this, we still have to choose what things to attach our “success” label to. As multipotentialites, are there any particular goals we might want to consider?

Some Things Are More Commonly Labelled “Success” than Others

Usually we associate success with riches, fame, fortune, popularity, and recognition.

Often, the world presents success as a form of depth, which can be a particular source of stress for multipotentialites. If somebody is celebrated for spending 70 years researching one particular aspect of one sphere of human knowledge it can feel like success is not for us.

But just because some people label depth as a success for them doesn’t mean we have to label it that way ourselves. We’re allowed to have different parameters of success for ourselves than for others.

And there’s nothing at all wrong with using breadth as a measuring stick.

What is “Success” for a Multipotentialite?

What makes a Successful Multipotentialite then?  Is it being well-rounded? Being good at multiple things, or being good at every individual thing we do? Being equally good at them all, or quite good at some and very good at others?

And how about competition? How do you compare yourself to somebody who spends all their time in an area you only dabble in?

And what about mastery? What level of mastery should a multipod aim at? Does it make sense to think of mastering something a bit?

As I write I’m realising that each of these questions could only be adequately explored in a dedicated post, so my attempt to write about success is ironically doomed to fail…

but only if I insist on success having a particular meaning. Which brings me nicely to:

You Choose Your Goals

I feel like I say this all the time, but it continues to be true: goals don’t exist. They’re not handed down from on high, or enforced by an International Goals Agency. You invent them yourself.

As a general rule, given that all goals are made up, unless you want to be unhappy you should make up goals you can achieve, and that you would enjoy working towards.

Of course, remember the hierarchy of needs: worrying about abstract notions like success should only be a priority after handling food, shelter, security, and so on. But beyond those necessities, whatever you want to achieve with your life is up to you.

Sadly, that’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes we run away from the responsibility of choosing what success means. It would certainly be much easier if someone could just tell us what our goals are.

But (unfortunately) life isn’t a videogame, where some wise old lady sets us quests to follow. We have to make our own goals.

Choose Your Own Depth for Each Goal

Beyond choosing the goal, we have to choose what it means to achieve it. If I make running a goal, am I aiming for a four-minute mile, or just to run a mile, once?

A good level for a goal is to slightly stretch ourselves, whatever that means for us.

A stretch for one person might be to become world famous by making the greatest art anyone has ever seen. But for another – say, me – it’s a stretch to make something cool to gift to our families at Christmas time.

The key point is that both goals are just as good, as long as we choose them for ourselves.

But What Goals Are There?

It’s up to you (again, sorry!) what areas you choose to care about.

Perhaps you want to set a challenging financial goal: to earn x amount in a year, or to achieve a certain level of comfort.

Maybe you’re interested in social goals: fame, fortune, or just having your friends appreciate something you made.

Then there’s mastery, or personal satisfaction. Again, you choose what level to reach, and remember to take satisfaction from breadth, as well as depth.

Goals NOT to Consider

There are a few goals which act more like traps:

Being Good at Everything

I want to be well-rounded, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy literally everything. It’s okay not to like things!

You don’t have to feel guilty for not wanting to learn a new language, or how to sew, or the history of medicine, or anything else you don’t care about. A multipotentialite doesn’t HAVE to love everything!

Being the Best

Another trap is being drawn into comparisons with others. I can’t always be the best at everything, so choosing “being the best” as a goal dooms me to eventual unhappiness.

It’s common advice–but very true–that we ought to aim to compete only against our past selves. Make improvement a goal, not mastery.

Lastly, success doesn’t have to depend on particular results. If I write a book and two people read it, that’s a (small) success in terms of world-impact, but it could be a huge success at improving my writing. Choosing to evaluate it in terms of improvement will make me happier than evaluating it purely in terms of impact.

Keep Reminding Yourself of What’s Important

It’s really easy to forget all of this and buy into other people’s goals without realizing it. I have to constantly remember to judge myself by my own criteria, and to choose sensible criteria in the first place.

And it’s also very easy to focus on the negatives. It’s rare–maybe impossible–for any one project to succeed on all criteria, but if we only look at the ways in which a project failed we’ll never enjoy anything.

Picking the right goals helps keep our successes and failures in perspective and do our best, whatever that means for us.

Your Turn

How do you judge your success? What makes a successful multipod to you? And how do you choose the right goals for yourself?

neil_2017_2Neil 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 walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.

6 Comments

  1. Anna says:

    My favorite definition of success comes from Maya Angelou, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”.

    That is how I gauge it. It has to fit all three criteria and all my goals are based on that. In the end, reaching a goal has to fit a need in my life, whether it is material, emotional, spiritual, etc.

  2. Gege Moon says:

    Success is the inner peace for me
    great topic?

  3. Paul Ricken says:

    Totally agree with Anna. It is all about the love for yourself and what you do. How you do it will follow out of the love for it. The only difficulty people experience mostly is the psychology of staying in control and being good enough. These two dynamics kill the love for ourselves and the things we do. We focus on getting WOW and avoiding OUCH. This is the way to get out of feeling ourselves and the love for ourselves and what we prefer to do. We need to go back to who we truly are. Love creatures, creatures of love.

Leave a Comment