Thoughts of a Father: You Should Become Who You Want To Meet

One of the accusations levelled against me when Lucy and I got engaged was that I, an itinerant beach-bum, just wanted to marry her because she had a house. Despite the fact that she also had a mortgage, and two children, was entirely besides the point. There was, is, a perception that we marry someone because of what they bring to us.

My observation is that this is insidiously embedded in our culture. In the way we socialise our children. In gender discrimination. And ultimately this becomes the criteria we use to choose our life partner.

One of the most important things I want my daughters to learn is a healthy way to approach long term relationships. I remember my father advising me “Kissin' don't last, cookin' do.”

And that's the last advice I'd ever want to give. Not that we shouldn't value practical care over sex(ual attraction). But that we should care for ourselves rather than needing it from others.

Emergency Oxygen

Speak to any relationship counselor and they'll quickly get to the principle of 'You need to be happy in yourself, before looking for happiness from another.' What I call the 'Emergency Oxygen' principle. You know, put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping a fellow passenger.

Personally I've found this advice to be pretty unhelpful.

I fear there are far fewer people with healthy self-esteem than there are relationships. And mostly, self-esteem isn't an absolute as in, you have it or don't. Rather it's contextual, there are contexts where you can have great self-esteem, only for someone to walk in the room and shatter that.

So to only enter into a deep relationship when you achieve a unicorn state of permanent self-worth is an impossible ask.

The nugget of the principle is true, of course. That's why it's so popular. My experience puts some practical legs onto it though.

Not Why But What…

Ask yourself the question, “What do you want from your partner?”

Is it financial security? A house? Dare I say it, some form of status, like religious, or social, wealth or class status? Do you want someone to keep you safe? Someone to care for you, or (one day) your children?

Whatever that need is (or those if more than one) figure out how to provide that for yourself first.

That's it.

Anything you want, figure out how to get that yourself.

Independence

The first step to interdependence is independence.

If you want a husband (or wife) so you can buy a house, figure out how to buy your own house.

If you want a wife (or husband) to cook for you, figure out how to cook yourself.

If you don't believe that you want a partner for any of these things, get honest with yourself 🙂

Admittedly this is an incredibly hard ask when you're young, poor, lonely, and wired for your sexual peak. But if you can figure this out, you'll be in a far better position to navigate life in a partnership. Especially if you're a woman (unfortunately).

Independence empowers you to bring your full self to the relationship. To give rather than take, or the ultimate route to mediocre disaster, 'give and take.' To add to your partners strengths. To become a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

It frees you up from insecurity, fear, jealousy.

The Challenge

Of course there's a challenge of bringing 2 fiercely independent people to a relationship. But that's a far healthier and ultimately easier challenge to overcome than bringing one or two needy people into a relationship.

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.

 

Leadership Principal #3 – Empower

One of the best lessons on leadership is explained by Ricardo Semler in his book “Maverick: The Success Story Behind The World's Most Successful Workplace” about trusting the skills, capabilities and commitment of employees, rather than treating them like school children. The modern enterprise is not a classroom with expectations about attendance, where you reward or penalise prescribed behaviours.

Or rather, it needn't be.

This was also picked up in Dan Pink's “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates People

It is the easiest thing in the world for a leader either to do, or worse prescribe, too much. Letting your team have autonomy to determine when, where, with whom, and how they will accomplish is tough. Especially with novices.

Yet we invest hundreds of thousands in attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best talent.

If the old motivators of prescribing work, and motivating with a carrot or stick, no longer drive engagement, enjoyment, or effectiveness, then how do we empower?

Some principles I've found work well (and frustrate when ignored):

  • Agree on purpose first, the 'Why?'
  • Let the team member(s) determine 'What' needs to be accomplished collaboratively.
  • Don't ever worry about the 'How.' (Except with unethical behaviours)
  • Communicate openly and transparently – conflicts with other teams, changes in organisation, overall company performance, all of this should be common knowledge members can openly discuss.
  • Regularly discuss performance. Not for reward or punishment, but to remove blockers, or allocate needed resources
  • Celebrate creativity, effort and learnings rather than 'successes.'
  • Encourage downstream empowerment

If this isn't working, chances are more that you have the wrong purpose, or the wrong person in the role. Change that rather than flogging the horse harder.