not just one true calling?

March 25, 2016 0 comments

Multipotentialites or multipods are individuals who hold multiple interests and are hence engaged in varied creative pursuits. These interests can be simultaneous as in the case of ‘plate spinners’—having twenty different projects on their plate at the same time; certain others delve deep into a particular field for a while and then switch to another. They may seem to be specialists, but they are just multipods who are more sequential.

608-1Multipotentialites are endowed with a specific set of strengths or rather superpowers. The first among them is idea synthesis—they study or explore different areas and can draw connections even between fields that are seemingly incongruent. They can harness the creative potential of the intersections and craft innovations. And multipods, considering their diverse backgrounds and experience, have access to many areas that overlap and offer scope for creativity.

Rapid learning is the second superpower. When multipotentialites get interested in something, they work hard on it. They are used to being beginners and hence good at picking up skills fast, which are transferable to other areas. I was part of a music band, where I involuntarily learned how best to deal with a team; now that skill helps me in my business. I studied at a law school, although I am not a lawyer by profession, today. But my legal background comes in handy while drafting contracts or writing persuasive blog posts.

The third strength is that of adaptability—keeping pace with change and being agile in their responses. The ability to adjust oneself to new situations or demands give multipods a definite edge in the context of modern businesses. A good example is that of Abe Cajudo—he
is a video director, a web designer, a teacher, and a consultant at the same time. He is able to cater to varied customer demands with ease; this flexibility makes him a successful entrepreneur.

identity crisis

Multipotentialites do not have one true calling. And this most often leaves them facing an identity crisis of sorts. I have experienced this myself—I find a calling in one particular area, and soon my interest slips to something else.

This confusion is mostly the contribution of a culture dominated by parochial perspectives, wherein everyone is mandated to have one ‘true calling.’ Those with diverse interests are often dismissed as lacking focus, and hence seen as suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD). Of course, it may seem so from a distance. But there is a chasm of difference between multipotentiality and ADD—unlike those who suffer a deficit in terms of attention span, multipods do not lack focus. Only they are passionate about various things at the same time; it does not take away from their concentration quotient.

innovation potential

Multipotentialites are incredibly inquisitive—curiosity is their driving force. This, along with their interlocking potential and diversity of experience, instill in them the gift/ability to innovate. You think out of the box when you try to take knowledge from one field and use it to solve a problem in a different area.

Certain fields of interest are interdisciplinary in nature and hence multipod friendly. For instance, architecture is a meeting point of art, science, technology, and environment; filmmaking involves storytelling, photography, sound, production/business, interior design, as well as editing. However, it is not essential multipotentialites always combine their passions; they can have curiously different businesses and jobs at the same time.

However, I believe it is possible to combine even disparate areas of interest. Only think about the audience and the market—research to find out whether knowledge from one field can be applied in a totally different area. Marketing and the hippy world do not go hand in hand, by any stretch of imagination. But Tad Hargrave translated his knowledge of the hippy world in a sound and ethical manner to suit the world of marketing. He was a hippy, who after years in the non-profit and activist world, ventured into marketing for his hippy friends—he helps them promote green, conscious, and holistic businesses. Another good example is that of scuba tours to shipwreck sites, combining history and scuba-diving.

making multipotentiality one’s day job

There are three aspects I would like to stress on, in this respect. I am also writing a book on this ‘work question,’ which triggers the most anxiety among multipotentialites. Owing to their flitting between interests, they often do not have an established work model or path. However, it is important to put in place some structure to sustain oneself financially.

There are four work models that are commonly followed by multipods. The ‘group hug’ approach is interdisciplinary—having one job or business that lets you use your different skills, interests, and passions. The slash approach involves having two or more narrow jobs/businesses you shift between. For instance, a person who does graphic design and yoga, both part-time. As its name suggests, the Einstein approach literally follows what Albert Einstein did—he worked at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property evaluating patent applications. This stable job left him with time and creative energy to work on his discoveries. It is about having a steady income stream, while you pursue your various interests. The serial approach is often adopted by those who are more sequential in nature—sticking to one job/interest for a few years and then switching to an entirely different one.

The premise of all these models is the same—to be happy, you need to have meaningful careers that make you feel financially secure. However, none of these is sacrosanct—one could embrace a hybrid model as well.

the future for multipotentialites

The business scenario is evolving by the day—innovation is no more an occasional engagement, but an imperative for businesses. And they are sure going to scout for those with diverse talent. Multipotentialites stand a good chance in this regard. Also, they can best leverage their key skills, especially their adaptability core, in a world fraught with uncertainties and complexities.

It will do well if society too is more open towards them. Such a drift in perception notwithstanding, multipods should accept their inner wiring and follow their curiosity to the hilt. They have a creative edge over others and the world badly needs them.

(Written by Anitha Moosath based on an interview with Emilie Wapnick.)

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