Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
You may have seen Mars Dorian’s post yesterday about how “slashers” (those who describe themselves using many labels– i.e. MULTIPOTENTIALITES) are screwing themselves out of a career.
I tried to bite my tongue– I really did. But you guys just kept cc’ing me!! Heh
Baker over at Catfish Parade published a response post and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I had to comment.
Alas, I might be igniting a fire with this post, but what kind of multipotentialite tribe leader would I be if I didn’t defend my peep!
Let me begin with a quote from Mars’ post:
“There’s one thing that’s bothering me lately, and I see it EVERYWHERE nowadays. I see it on Facebook accounts, Twitter profiles and about pages. I see it in email signatures and tweets. It’s making me want to vomit in my mouth, and it’s keeping YOU away from success.
It’s a terrible description that more and more people give themselves.
It goes like this:
I’m a writer / entrepreneur / traveler / consultant / designer and blogger.
That’s the sound of shooting yourself in the foot.
You know what this tells me ? That YOU suck at each and everyone of them !”
And now, a quote from Baker’s response:
“My main thing is writing. And I do put all my eggs in that basket.
But the long list of other things I do? That’s PART of being a writer for me.
I love music and playing music. Listening to great songs and playing guitar make my sentences have better sound and rhythm. I love cooking and do it well–and that helps me describe things with words that bring your taste buds alive. I have some of my best ideas for plot while I’m swimming laps. I like sports and people-watching, and those help me think deeper about characters. I like eavesdropping and catching curious turns of phrase, and that helps me write better dialogue.
That’s the value I see in being multi-passionate and describing yourself with lots of slashes. Creative people and independent thinkers use the world around them–including all the things they like to do–as inspiration for their main gig.
And that’s true for every creative person I know. No creative person who is any good is just creative in one way. Many of our extra creative acts like playing guitar and drawing, and even sometimes mundane everyday stuff like doing laundry, somehow feed into our big creative outlet. We might not even know how, exactly, but they damn sure do.”
(A slightly modified version of my original comment on Baker’s blog)
First of all, Mars got his facts wrong. Seth Godin is a self-proclaimed master of all trades. His MESSAGE revolves around marketing, but his MEDIUM (actually that’s media– plural) involves writing, speaking, entrepreneurship, consulting, and so on. He wears many many hats. In his own words: “On any given day I probably have fifteen or twenty “occupations”.”
I like Mars. I think he’s an insanely creative dude with a lot of brilliant stuff to say. But he’s clearly not a mulitpotentialite and doesn’t get it. When he sees “slashers” on Twitter, he thinks they must suck at everything they do. He wants to “vomit in his mouth”. But when I see slashers, I think, “there’s one of us! An interesting, multifaceted, multi-talented person. That’s someone I would want to work with!”
If society automatically assumes that having many skills makes you a dilettante, that’s a problem with society. It’s a socially-constructed stigma that’s beaten into us from childhood and throughout the school system. And it’s totally culturally-based.
Back in Renaissance times, for example, people were encouraged to become highly skilled in many different areas. They believed that humans are “limitless in their capacities for development”.
I also believe that having multiple skill-sets will help you STAND OUT in a sea of specialists. It might even be necessary these days!
I’m so glad Mars’ post didn’t intimidate you into shying away from your true nature, Baker. Embrace your slasherdom!
That goes for the rest of you too. Do not be intimidated by the specialists. They are everywhere, repeating their mantra (“YOU GUYS ARE NON-COMMITTAL LOSERS.”)
You’ve probably heard from them your whole life. Please don’t let them scare you into being something you aren’t!!