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.

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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.


In IoT You Cannot Know The Value Of Your Data

At the recent AIIA Navigating Privacy and Security Summit Mike Burgess, Telstra's CISO, mentioned 5 key principles to adopt when talking cyber-security to the business.

Principle #1 is: Know the Value of Your Data

That makes sense, right. This is a good place to start. In fact, probably the only place to start. How can you even begin to determine how much to invest in security without knowing the value of your data?

This is the principle that made Locksmiths the oldest guilded profession (and 2nd oldest profession). As soon as people had something of enough value to be stolen (gold), technology was developed to protect it (chests, locks, castles).

And it's also true that few organisations even know the data they have, let alone it's true value. This is the principle that has led to the “Egg Shell” security paradigm. Assume everyone outside is bad, inside is good, and put a big (fire)wall between the two. Secure the perimeter.

It's long been known that this strategy is flawed. I was teaching “Defence in Depth” IT Security Courses for Windows 2003 Server as a Microsoft consultant over a decade ago. Most breaches are from trusted parties (i.e. with access to the inside) or social engineering of the trusted parties. Not to mention that with access devices now living in people's pockets (and on their wrist) and compute delivered from the cloud, there is no perimeter.

Still there is little corporate knowledge of the data that flows through an organisation, let alone its value. So defining and understanding the value of your data is a great starting point.

But I would argue that with the advent of the IoT, you will not possibly be able to know the value of your data…

…Because that value changes.

Let's take the value of whether your house lights are on or off. Right now, there is no, or little value in this data. But connect all of your lights to the Internet, and suddenly there's a raft of value, some instrumented, some inferred:

  • How much electricity you're consuming.
  • What time you awake, and go to sleep.
  • How much sleep each person in your house gets.
  • How your footy team is doing (you may program the lights to change colour on scored goals)
  • New Social Media followers
  • How much electricity your lights consume.
  • Relative to other houses in the street.
  • How much power will be needed in a suburb for given weather, time, and traffic events

None of this data is relevant now, but immediately gains value as we connect these appliances to the Internet. And as we connect more devices, appliances, this increases exponentially. And that's just in the home, let alone the enterprise, farms, roads, cities, mines, aircraft…

The network creates this emergent value of data. Essentially this conforms to Metcalfe's Law, that states:

“The value of a [telecommunications] network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).”

A New Paradigm

So a new paradigm emerges. In the old days those that truly understood the value of their data put in place appropriate security for just that data. Those that didn't just attempted to protect everything.

But just as you cannot predict the emergent value of data (and meta-data), so also no-one will have the resources to protect the scale and complexity of the IoT with the same approaches as before.

We need to look elsewhere to resolve this.

So the exam question is: “Where are other networks of incredible value, and what systems are in place to detect, identify, and protect against threats to these networks?”

And the first principle becomes:

“Implement a reslient security system that automatically extends to the emergent value of your data as this emerges.”

The Critical Difference Between Your Idea and a Business

Project 2012: Day 173

How many brilliant business ideas do you have? If you’re anything like me, probably about 10 before breakfast. Seriously, ever since working in the start-up scene I’ve noticed business opportunities at every turn. Every time I enter a mall I wonder at the business model, and how shops make money with such huge inventory and operational costs.

A number of these make it to prototype stage, and I have over a dozen registered domain names. I’ve progressed the concept with partners of at least 3 ideas, and am actively working on two.

Some of these I’ve even taken it to incubator stage, and registered a company.

But they’re all just ideas, of no inherent value.

The critical ingredient they’re missing of course, is a customer.

In short, whether you’re starting a social network, or outsourcing a multi-billion dollar organisations IT systems, someone needs to pay you for the value you bring to their organisation.

Value isn’t inherent. It’s derived. Through customers.