The world isn’t always friendly towards multipotentialites. Whether we’re being viewed with suspicion as a “Jack of all trades, master of none” or feeling pressured to specialize, it can sometimes feel as though society is actively against us.
Of course, we don’t literally believe there’s a room full of cigar-smoking evil types, laughing as they carry out their master plan to destroy multipotentialites. They don’t exist.
The reality is more subtle (and boring). It’s simply that the systems we humans have created over time have led to the world we now live in. Everyone is responding to their wants and needs; hiring directors want the “safest” hires, teachers have to teach to the standard curriculum, and bureaucrats want a nice simple box to tick next to a clearly-labeled career. All this adds up to us feeling like we’re being forced into specialization.
While it might be interesting to explore further how this came to be, instead I’d like to imagine an alternative. What would the world look like if both multipotentialites and specialists were equally encouraged to live up to their potential?
Note: I don’t claim to be qualified to redesign the entirety of society from the ground up. These are simply some wild imaginings for the purpose of sparking up some discussion. I strongly believe that the combined Puttylike community will be wiser than me, so I’d like to put a few thoughts out there and see where the conversation goes.
First and certainly foremost is education.
Pretty much everyone seems to have strong opinions about how the education system is messed up and needs radical change. But what would a multipotentialite-friendly education system look like?
I believe that my country – the UK – has one of the most multipod-unfriendly systems in the world. Back when I was sixteen, we had to commit to just THREE subjects… all of which were supposed to be related – say, Chemistry, Physics, and Math. After two years of studying only these three subjects, we were encouraged to go to university to study just one field, in which we would remain, presumably, forever.
Even worse, in those days, anything other than a purely academic career was barely acknowledged at school. If academic subjects weren’t your thing, there was very little for you.
What could we do differently?
Dreaming big, I’d love to see education be infinitely more personalized. Some students would benefit from deep specialization, whereas others would benefit from a wide range of subjects. So let’s make that possible.
I’d love to see everybody be given an individually-tailored timetable, built around both personal strengths and weaknesses, with a mix of practical skills and theoretical study.
Perhaps one student would specialize very early, becoming an expert in Math, keeping only a passing knowledge of other subjects. Perhaps another would study a bit of everything, while specializing in developing some practical skills.
Obviously the current school system couldn’t handle this depth of personalization for practical reasons. No one school has the resources to do everything.
But what if we scrapped the concept of attending just one school? What if education were delivered in many different ways? Academic subjects could be delivered online. Technical subjects could be studied across several “subject centres” – one for languages, one for sciences, one for physical education, etc. Could real workplaces take students and teach them useful skills? All of this would add up to credits across a vast range of skills and knowledge.
Of course, there are many practical difficulties with this idea. But might little steps towards a freer education system be possible today? Perhaps they’re already happening where you live?
We don’t often hear that “a job is for life” anymore, but the world of work still isn’t very multipod-friendly. I can think of a few ways to make work a more comfortable fit:
- Breadth: Multipotentialites don’t mind sticking in one role if that role is broad enough. Can more jobs be created that change regularly and require a wide range of skills and development?
- Time – long scale: What if there were a more widespread understanding that some people naturally move from one thing to another over the course of their life, and that this is no bad thing, because they bring skills and experience from one area to another?
- Time – short scale: Flexible working hours becoming more widespread would allow more people to build their own routines out of smaller parts: a couple of days in one job and a couple in another. Both companies would get the benefit of shared knowledge, and the employee would get a more interesting routine. (And, admittedly, double the administrative hassles!)
These ideas seem more likely than the educational changes. In fact, they all seem to be happening naturally to one degree or another. Is the workplace becoming more multipod-friendly? How else could we change it to support multipods, without ruining it for specialists?
3) Interests & Hobbies
I wondered if there are any multipotentialite problems in the world of hobbies and passions, but it’s already quite multipod-friendly.
The only proposal I would make regarding hobbies is that we should aim to slow down the rotation of the Earth, thus adding a few extra hours to each day, so we can get more done.
(I can’t imagine there would be any unforeseen consequences or objections here.)
What do you think a multipotentialite world might look like? Have you noticed anything moving in this direction already?
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.