Multipotentialites are often made to feel bad for our supposed inability to “master” something. But the concept of mastery is fraught with problems. What on earth does it mean? How do you quantify it? Is it even possible to master a discipline or even a specialty these days? There’s so much knowledge out there. And can you be an expert–or even just superbly effective–without being a master? (Yes, of course you can.)
If I’m being honest, I’ve never really cared much about mastery. I know I’m supposed to care, and that pressure has seeped in at times and made me think I cared, but the idea of knowing everything about a subject? Meh. I’d rather just learn until I’ve satisfied my curiosity or accomplished something cool.
You know what I do love, though? Projects.
Projects are great. They have end points. They have perimeters. They’re fun.
I used to think: if I could just spend my life doing projects, I’d be so happy.
I’m well aware that lots of unpleasant things are called “projects” in the corporate world, but I didn’t experience any of that growing up. I only had good associations: art projects, science projects, film projects. Projects were the best! They still are.
It’s pretty “multipotentialite” to love projects… Projects allow us to learn something new, work hard, do an awesome job, wrap it up, and feel a sense of accomplishment. Then we get to move on to the next project, which might be very different.
A lot of multipotentialites pursue project-based work, like freelancing, for this reason. Others have personal projects and hobbies with defined edges like building a piece of furniture, writing a novel or running a marathon. Not all of our interests fit into this framework, but many of them do.
The multipod version of mastery
So, where do projects fit into the framework of mastery? Well, I recently read Robert Twigger’s book, Micromastery, and it helped put my love of projects into a broader context of how I, and I think, many multipotentialites, learn.
Micromastery is learning the expertise and skills of many small things instead of aiming to completely excel in just one area.
From Robert’s blog:
“A micromastery can be anything from spinning a basketball on your finger, doing an eskimo roll, or making a perfect daiquiri- it is a small, contained and perfectable thing, an activity in a box that nevertheless points to greater masteries out there.”
(Is anyone else swooning? 😉
I’ve realized that many of the projects I’ve enjoyed in the past were essentially micromasteries, though perhaps a little bigger in scope than spinning a basketball on your finger. For example:
- The musical theatre performance I did at camp a few weeks ago. I had to nail a few lines, act the hell out of them, and sing a small part in front of an audience. It was small, challenging, fun, and at the end of the performance, I felt amazing. But then the week was over and I could tie a neat little bow around it. I might want to do more musical theatre at some point, but it doesn’t have to be my new direction in life.
- Writing and performing a TED talk. Yup, that’s a skill. Actually, it’s composed of a few skills: condensing an idea into the structure of a TED talk, performing, managing my nerves… And at the end, it’s done. YAY! HURRAH! But I feel no need to do more TED talks. I just get to feel deeply satisfied about a job well done and move on.
- The album my friend and I wrote and recorded in a month (we actually did this twice).
These might be “projects” more than “micromasteries” since they involve learning multiple skills, but I think the idea still holds. You get your feet wet and learn about a broader subject by completing something small and specific, with a deliverable and a deadline.
Focusing on micromasteries makes a lot more sense to me than focusing on mastery. Or rather, it’s an approach that is better aligned with how I’m wired.
A community-wide micromastery
We’re doing a project in the Puttytribe this month that definitely qualifies as a micromastery. It’s the very first Puttycomp and it involves making a comic with the theme: “you know you’re a multipotentialite when…”
Any puttypeep who wants to participate can create a short comic and send it in. We’ll pull all of the submissions together and design a real book of comics, print-on-demand style.
I’ve decided to choose the following idea for my comic, which was originally written by puttypeep, Lia:
“You Know You’re a Multipotentialite When… You belong to four different social groups and are on the fringes of others, several of which have instinctive tribal loathing towards one another. You have to lie about where your ideas come from, because the sources are often verboten. But you realize how similar in mindset the groups actually are.”
I’ve turned the idea into a script and now I’m starting to draw. As someone who does not consider herself to be a good illustrator, I’m finding it challenging! But I can’t think of a better way to learn how to make a comic than through this little project/micromastery. And the fact that I’m doing it alongside my multipotentialite friends, many of whom are also new to comic-creation, makes it feel a lot less scary.
I say we ditch the idea that we all need to strive for mastery and instead embrace micromastery. To me, it seems like a far more interesting, fun, and varied way of gaining skills and building a body of work.
Do you learn by micromastery? What micromasteries/projects are you working on now?