How To Be A Multipotentialite: A Practical Guide

I struggle to answer people when they ask me what I do. Over the years however, I have gotten better at responding in fewer words. Though I hold a day job, I like to think of myself as a person capable of doing many more things at a fairly competent level.

However, when people ask what you do, they are not expecting your laundry list of competencies and achievements. Instead, they want to know what you do for a living.

The budding Multipotentialite in me yearns to burst forth and shine the brightest light on myself. I am more than a mere job title and I do many things! Indeed, we are and indeed, we do!

So, if you think like me, you might just be a Multipotentialite.

If you:

  • Abhor the term: “Specialist”,
  • Cannot shake off the insatiable appetite to learn,
  • Wish to model yourself after the Renaissance Man,
  • Have multiple ongoing, vastly different interests all at once in your life at any moment,
  • Find learning, and seeking knowledge, to be a pleasurable, immensely fun, and rewarding pursuit,
  • Read and learn deeply about a chosen interest, and spend weeks vested and focused on a topic until you are conversationally fluent in explaining what you learned,

Then you might just be a Multipotentialite or a:

  • Generalist
  • Polymath
  • Scanner
  • Jack of all trades, master of none

There is a case to be made for being a JOAT. Unless, that specialist happens to be a heart surgeon. Then, you would not want a seamstress to operate on you especially with your life on the line. A seamstress’s decades of expertise in picking apart and stitching things together is irrelevant. Certain tasks still demand a specialist.

However, if you have to be a JOAT, then it is better to be a Jack Of All Trades, but master of one.

Why be a Multipotentialite?

Knowledge comes from different angles. Be ready to capture them!

The ability to stitch together disparate knowledge across various fields and coalesce them into a new, coherent idea is invaluable. It is fun to bridge different concepts and see the outcome.

But, how does one become a Multipotentialite?

The key is to be really, really, really good at your job first. Then, learn other skills that enable you to deepen your expertise in novel ways. That is how you stay relevant in a fast-changing world. That is how you forge ahead while your peers stagnate. However, do not think that people around you are staying still. That is a grave mistake. With that thought lingering in the background, be always ready to arm yourself with novel knowledge.

First, know that you should acknowledge knowledge as knowable (I know, I know). Knowledge can be gained through various means:

  1. Read. Texts, books, websites, articles, emails, Wikipedia, journals, short blurbs, longform content.
  2. Observe. Look at how people talk, do things, react. Observe the world and how people and things interact.
  3. Instruction. Note how others instruct you to do things. Analyse how and why instructions are written the way they are.
  4. Self-exploration. This is self-explanatory.
  5. Experiment. Trying something out on your own is certainly one way of gaining knowledge.
  6. Listen. One can easily pick up nuggets of information doing this.
  7. Watch. YouTube is possibly the best source of free knowledge, right next to Wikipedia (Contentious, I know).

The key to being a generalist is to readily absorb new pieces of information and fold it into your being. Treat every new thing like a 1×1 Lego Block and pop it somewhere in your knowledge structure. Insert it right where you think it best fits. You may not use that piece right now, but who knows when that knowledge will turn useful in the future?

I imagine this is how my brain looks like when incorporating new information.

Next, know that you should know just enough to be able to hold a conversation with a subject matter expert. You should not be so lost as to clam up. Nor should you also fail to chip in with your thoughts.

When in doubt, follow the 20/80 rule: Read, learn, and know 20% of a subject to use it 80% of the time–effectively. This is not the only application of the 20/80 rule but it will suffice.

I wish you every success in your journey towards becoming a General Jack of All Multipotentialites.