6 Signs You’re A Multipotentialite (aka Versatilist)

The Multipotentialite

Throughout life someone somewhere will encourage, even insist you specialise. To follow your ‘passion.’ To focus.

But what if you have more than one passion? What if you just don’t fit the pigeonhole? Family and teachers may’ve written you off as a generalist. After all even the proverbs in our language deride the ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none.’

You might just be what Emilie Wapnick calls a ‘multipotentialite.’ What in the past, in my frustration at either being asked to deny much of the real value I bring, or being written off, I’ve termed the ‘versatilist.’ A recognition that you can be passionate, and excel in, multiple domains.

Not a generalist but a versatilist. A multipotentialite.

[ted id=2341]

It’s the reason this, my personal blog covers such a gamut of interests: Motorbikes, travel, parenting, leadership, technology, and more. So how can you tell if you’re a multipotentialite?

1. Serial Interests

Growing up the versatilist immerses themself in serial interests. This is not the equivalent of ‘having a hobby.’ More like mastering something as quickly as possible, then seeming to move on entirely. For me this included cycling, motorcycling, waterskiing, camping, hiking, sailing, photography, and computers. It led to leadership roles in Boy Scouts, St John’s Ambulance, and Youth For Christ.

Later this led to professional roles in youth work, sales, instructing scuba, and sailing across oceans, interspersed with my career in IT.

Even in IT I’ve programmed, administered, supported, architected, designed and implemented computer systems. Also worked in sales, marketing, service delivery, people management, and IT evangelism.

Chances are if you become passionate almost to the exclusion of everything (& everyone) else, only to move onto another passion 6 months later…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

2. Gear Snob

One of the side effects of wanting to master your current passion is the drive to get the best gear you can. Again this shows the difference between the generalist and the versatilist. To a generalist, any guitar will do. They’ll make do with the camera on their phone. They’re happy to rent scuba gear. To borrow camping equipment.

You on the other hand may struggle with affording the latest and best gear. Perhaps you spend hours researching holidays, gadgets, and vehicles, to ensure you can get the most (diverse) value you possibly can.

If you can explain the best brands in just about any domain, because you own so much of it…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

3. Versatile Purchaser

Not only are you obsessed with the best gear, but the most versatile as well.

Consider car(s): Do you have a ‘People Mover’ (MPV – Multi-Purpose Vehicle) or 4WD (SUV – Sports Utility Vehicle)? Something you can, and do, take off-road, through city streets, and down to the beach. A car that you can use to help a friend shift furniture, tow a trailer across the country, or reconfigure to take the entire soccer team to ice cream? Or maybe you have more than one car. The idea of ‘Transport-as-a-Service’ where you simply get exactly the vehicle you need when you need it sounds awesome.

For me this extended to my motorbike: A Ducati Multistrada. Multistrada literally means ‘many roads.’ A motorbike as performant on a track, touring over long distances, commuting in city traffic, or heading off-road.

Also to our boat: A Gemini Rigid Inflatable. As comfortable with a dozen divers out to sea, as towing someone on waterski’s. A boat we’d moor in the city for a night out, and beach when camping. Light, tough, comfortable, versatile.

If you ever feel that you’re next house, or car, or [major purchase here] simply doesn’t do all of the things you want, that you simply need something that may not even exist, just maybe…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

4. Participant

This is an interesting one, but you may find that you simply cannot sit in the audience. You become restless. Package tours are too passe. You’d much rather be exploring on your own. The traveller rather than the tourist. Nothing wrong with tourists, it’s just they’re not you.

Concerts are ok, but you’d much rather be on-stage. Even when taking part in participatory activities like diving, you yearn to be the Dive Master. To be on the helm when sailing.

This isn’t a control thing, at least not entirely. More a mastery thing. This is the difference between the generalist and the versatilist.

For the generalist, ‘good enough’ in any domain, ‘is.’ For the specialist, ‘good enough’ in any domain other than their speciality, ‘is.’ For the multipotentialite, ‘good enough’ simply ‘isn’t’ in anything they attempt.

If you prefer to participate yourself, much rather than simply watch others experience the joy of mastery…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

5. Cartographer

Models and maps are how the multipotentialite navigates the world. It’s how they master new skills so quickly. If there isn’t a map or a model, the versatilist will at least conceive of one, if not document them.

If you find you have a model to explain everything from trust (T = (C+R+I)/SO) to the AV and Sound system at church…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

6. Autonomy

Perhaps this one is because it’s hard to follow a single system of command and control when you have such diverse interests. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to be told how and when to do something when you’ve already modeled the most effective path.

If you find that there’s a blur between your professional and personal interests to the point that you thrive in roles where you can dictate when, where, with whom, and how you work…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

Ignore The Madding Crowd

If you are a versatilist, you’re going to have to overcome the existentialist threat of societal norms. Everything from exasperation at the sheds full of expensive, now disused, top notch equipment you still own; to managers, teachers, and investors insisting you focus.

This constant refrain to focus is a demeaning war of attrition. Don’t settle for anything less than the richness of your full diversity, endless energy, and constant curiosity. Be all you are and add colour to the monochrome of life.

And those projects you haven’t completed? That’s ok. You’ll come back to them…

…or something better.


Shut Up!!

Project 2012: Day 341

I listened to a great TED talk this week by Ernesto Sirolli, that talks about how you can actually help people. The concept is simple, forget about your “idea,” shut up, and listen to them.


I think this is arguably one of the differences between working for a large corporate, and a start-up. The line between success and failure as a start-up is so fine that you have to constantly listen to your customers (and partners and suppliers). Whereas once you have “presence” in a market there are too many layers of abstraction between your employees and customers, too many business processes that become set in stone. It actually becomes hard to listen.

It’s actually hard to listen in the first place. Harder to actually hear what people are saying, than what you want to hear.

Are you trying to sell your great idea? Or are you providing what people want to buy?

How do you listen to your customers?

Book Review: Focus – Stephen Covey

I’m not sure you can actually get this book in print. It was one of my Audible Downloads. Just due to the nature of my work and lifestyle, I find audio books a great way to keep up with the latest business literature. Fantastic on the bus, in the train, whilst driving – although the girls would disagree 🙂

“Focus” is like the “7 Habits” delivered in an 8 hour course. Stephen only cameos occasionally to drive home a point, and the rest of the course is delivered by one of the senior Franklin-Covey Trainers.

So like “7 Habits,” the points are concise, valid, and well, effective. Unlike the “7 habits,” you get the gist of the methodology in less than 8 hours.

Some things I got from the book:

You can’t manage time, You can’t slow time, You can’t avoid time. Time passes relentlessly”

“Proactively understand your diverse Roles first (husband, father, businessman, coach etc), Then plan your weekly goals for each of these, then determine tasks.”

Do this weekly on a Sunday afternoon, adjust tasks daily.”

Don’t ever plan appointments or tasks for more than 65% of a day – that’s all you get given common distractions”

Sharpen the Saw – i.e. Practice, learn, stay fit”

I think that Stephen has a Process Communication style preference, or has created that through training. Which is great, but some of us don’t take to process easily. Whilst this methodology has some great ideas and tidbits for managing yourself and your goals (remember, you can’t manage time), it needs more work for people with other preferences (e.g. Analytic, Creative, Empathetic).

I was hoping for something to help me define my focus, rather than be effective in a sea of noise. My problem wasn’t getting things done, so much as determining the right things to do in the first place. For that, this book is of no help whatsoever.

That being said, books don’t change the world, students do. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and everything is “Urgent” if not “Important.” I.e. stressed, you’d do very well to read this book.

If you teach, assist, or consult to people in getting organised – this is a valuable resource.

Rog42’s Rating Index (RRI) ****

  1. Readability ****
  2. Novel Learning ***
  3. Influence of Change ****

Buy, Borrow, or Ignore List? “Borrow” – Better off buying “Seven Habits”