James Franco was recently interviewed by Charlie Rose. My heart was thumping throughout the entire hour (and not for the reasons one might assume)…
As it turns out, James is one of us! He’s a total multipotentialite.
In addition to scoring an Oscar nomination this year, James is a screenwriter, director and artist. His recent solo exhibit included sculpture, photography, drawing, film and video. He’s currently getting his PhD in English at Yale and he’s taking classes at Rhode Island School of Design, NYU and Columbia.
Talk about living proof that you don’t need to focus on one thing in order to be successful.
Here are six ways that James Franco rocks the multipotentialite lifestyle:
1. He understands the difference between medium and message
James knows that it’s not the media you express yourself through that define you. These are simply tools, embodiments of your creativity.
He also understands that different media is better suited for different subject matter: “If you want to make a political statement, poetry probably isn’t the best way. Maybe make a documentary piece instead.”
Choose the media that best suits your topic. There’s no reason you should be locked into one art form simply because you’ve done it before. Go learn, explore, pick up some new skills that will allow you to express yourself in the most effective way possible.
What matters isn’t the specific medium, but the message of the work.
It’s unfortunate that you get pigeonholed as a “poet” when you write poetry or a “musician” when you play music. The skills-based label makes it incredibly difficult for multipotentialites to explain “what they do” because we do so much.
2. He’s found an umbrella title that he’s comfortable with
James identifies as an “artist” rather than “actor”. He finds “actor” to be too restrictive.
Having to identify yourself with a label is an unfortunate reality in modern day society. People are never going to stop asking the question “what do you do?”
Your best bet is to come up with one or more umbrella titles that you’re comfortable with and that encompass many of your talents. Labels tend to be restrictive and they can prevent us from exploring if that exploration entails behaviour that doesn’t gel with our supposed identity.
The problem is that you’re going to have to identify yourself somehow. People aren’t going to stop asking “what you do.”
Also, in truth, I’m not completely against labels. I think labels can do wonderful things to bring minority groups together and foster support, community and empowerment.
I use the label “multipotentialite” here at Puttylike, for example and it’s been incredibly helpful. Without a name for this thing we all have, there’d be no way for us to connect and find each other.
I’ve also heard from many scanners who found Puttylike and had their AHA moment when they realized what was “wrong” with them (i.e. nothing, they’re just a multipotentialite). This couldn’t have happened without the use of labels.
However, the term multipotentialite is a massive umbrella! It means “someone with many interests”, but the interests themselves vary widely from person to person. In this sense, multipotentialite is about as non-restrictive as possible.
3. He’s breaks the presumption of dilettantism associated with being a “jack of all trades”
James was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 127 Hours while going to school and pursuing many other interests at the same time. Nobody can say that he’s slacking or “dabbling”.
4. He doesn’t try to be the best
I thought this point was especially relevant for multipotentialites. While James does dominate in the acting arena, this is not his goal. In fact, he states plainly that he doesn’t try to be the best actor or writer or director in the world. He knows that you don’t have to be an expert. He’s simply happy to be engaged with the media and wants to be the best he can be:
“I never said I was going to be the best author. I’m just trying to write the best book I can. I never thought it was going to be Ulysses. If I aimed for Ulysses, it would be horrible.”
5. He rejects mainstream notions about what he’s “supposed” to do
“Some bloggers think that I’m this super weird guy. But what’s so weird about going to school?”
The mainstream world doesn’t understand why a Hollywood actor would do everything James is doing. They would prefer that he be “a movie star”- in other words, shut up and do what you’re told.
Even Charlie Rose asked James “what he’s searching for.” But James doesn’t allow his path to be determined by other people. He does his own thing.
James implied that regrets doing films like Tristan and Isolde- films he did plainly because someone told him it was a good career move. Now James only does projects that are important to him, whether they’re mainstream or not.
6. He fails
James Franco isn’t afraid to try new things, even if it means failing in a very public way. As we learned during Failure Celebration Week, the more you embrace failure, the more innovative you tend to become.
You don’t have to be rich or famouse to make it work
James is a walking, talking, modern Renaissance man. Nobody can deny that he creates an insane amount of output in many different areas. Just like you, he’s project oriented and has many unrelated pursuits.
Yes, James Franco has a lot of opportunity and access that most of us do not. But don’t use this as an excuse to stay stuck.
Maybe you can’t study English at Yale or put on an art exhibit as effortlessly, but what about forming a writing group or self-publishing? What about crowdsourced funding, digital distribution and building a community around your cause? There’s a lot of backdoor and unconventional methods that can work. Go find them.
So rock on, James Franco. And please, keep being a multipotentialite badass!
Check out the full interview here.
Which of these traits have you embraced as a multipotentialite? Have you found an umbrella title that you’re comfortable with?