It’s raining, and I am sitting in my front yard with lots of plants. There is a smell of burning wood in the air. The smell I always associate with mountains and hills. The smell makes me nostalgic about travel. Thus, turning my attention to it.
It’s a normal working day. Working from home gives me the liberty to work according to my own schedule.
I am a market researcher so analysis and reporting and understanding human beings is what I actually do for a living.
Yes, I like my job, it does wake me up in the morning. Some days are stressful, and some are not. I guess its true for you all.
But, it still isn’t what I want to do.
I miss the outdoors. I want to be out there, amongst the trees and the leaves, the unknown cities and the unknown treasures. The narrow road with an end to civilization, people nobody has heard of, places people have long forgotten, lanes still virgin from tourist traps.
I am sitting, I should rather move.
Right now I am free, with nothing to do in terms of work. But I still don’t know how to find the opportunity that my soul craves. I feel restless and unsatisfied. When the weekend comes I crave working days while during workdays I want to throw back my legs and lie down and wish for weekends.
I have it all, yet I feel I have none.
I have stopped telling people about it. About my dreams, my cravings. They make fun, and they feel it’s not practical. But do I care?
Well, sometimes I do. I feel it’s a fantasy I have grown accustomed to while reading and watching movies, the two things I do so feverishly.
At other times I feel motivated to work towards the goal in my free time.
But now I am free, straining my mind to involve myself in exploring what I want.
But what are my next steps? Should I resume my office work? Should I continue reading Paulo Coehlo? Or should I read the e-book about past civilizations that I had been reading?
But do you think they are a lost cause? Another set of ‘different’ people trying to create a sense of normal for themselves?
The answer is no because they themselves are the new normal.
Why does the world need people with multiple specialities?
Well, it’s the 21st century and every word you say should be backed by research? Yes?
According to Fast Company
We are the Generation Flux and we are the new normal! It is because the world is changing so fast that putting all your eggs in one basket is as risky as learning a single skill or talent to feed on for the rest of your life.
The instability that shakes people from their bed, is one thing the multipotentialities can easily handle. That is because they thrive in new environments that foster creativity. And there are several other traits that make us more than suitable for what today is called a VUCA environment.
VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The current state of the world is easily defined by these 4 terms that demand you to be on the run if you want to survive here.
But how is that connected to multipotentialities?
WHAT MAKES US IRRESISTIBLE?
Are you wondering why does the world need us?
For one, We ADAPT too easily, yes we are like water. We learn fast because we have the ability and the experience of diving into different fields and learning the ‘Hows’ and ‘whys’ quickly.
We are always learning and have an innate curiosity to know more and hence go a step ahead of what our role might demand.
We think out of the box because we have the exposure to do so.
We are the bridge builders between different fields, cultures because we have seen both sides of the coin and hence are more tolerant. We can combine fields and create new spaces that have a different take on the usual scheme of things.
We look at the world through a broader vision, since we have multiple interests and therefore knowledge that surpasses strict boundaries.
All we need are 3 things- a life of meaning, with variety and sustainable income!
This love for variety often makes us an ambassador of what Sarah Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper a ‘squiggly career’.
Remember the often-quoted ‘ladder of success that defined your career path? It seems that the ladder has become more of a maze now.
This maze lets you tackle different opportunities one after the other. In roles that make you more productive and are in line with your abilities. The whole idea of this career path is to make you a productive, wholesome individual who is far more different than where he started. He learns quite a lot in the different roles he/she played and has turned out to be excellent in all fields.
Life is never a straight line, nor are you defined by a single role or interest or job. The different abilities, passions, skills and hobbies we all have to make us a wholesome bunch.
Like a true traveller, we embrace the journey, not the destination!
No, I wasn’t shabby looking or unclean but because I had a shabby idea of who I am. I was unable to juggle between different identities and interests that I often had. I had a deep curiosity in a field, I pursued it for a while, became good at it, and felt it become boring now. As a result, my resumes always changed.
Yes, it did change because I was now looking for a new role but it also changed because I had developed a whole new set of skills that were to be added to the resume.
When people asked me what do you like I had a list of endless different fields some of which didn’t overlap or connect in any way.
Yes, I had many and I have many. The list goes on every time I check it.
I remember my anthropology professor telling me,
Do you wonder what I said?
I said I wanted to study cultures, have a running income, write a book, work in the open, pursue Ph.D. and serve society in some way.
If you don’t identify with these feelings, you must be thinking she is fickle-minded! She is lost! And I am thinking, how blessed you are to have one true purpose known to you.
The world is full of people who figured out either a calling or decided on a job meant to serve them for the rest of their lives. Aren’t they blessed? They wake up without confusion, sleep without anxieties, don’t appear lost!
Having too many interests is tough! Really! That is what gives you the feeling of ‘something isn’t right.
self-sabotage & ‘something isn’t right
I had lived a life full of self-doubt, self-sabotage, and the feeling that something is wrong with me just because I wanted to be taken up so many roles.
I have ‘N’ no. of dairies and digital files with endless diagrams of Ikigai’s and purpose and goal and ambition and what not! But I could never have one single answer.
If you are a researcher and have made user personas, imagine multiple personas living inside of you! Which one to go for?
Maybe my professor was right, but was it wrong? And why? Just because I am curious and want to immerse myself in a lot of things? Just because unlike others I never get bored! Rather I am overwhelmed with so much to do in such a short time?
the answer from beyond: The multipotentialites
But, the universe has always had my back. Years before it had brought a message saying “if you enjoy the solitude that is because you are an introvert” and now it brought me a message saying you are a ‘multipotentialite’.
We are what Emilie Wapnick calls ‘a multipotentialite”. A heavy term for someone who doesn’t possess one isolated quality but has several feathers in his/her cap.
So, I came to know that we are a kind of career superhuman!
And the Hollywood superhuman flicks have already told you how difficult it is being so!
I am sure many of you agree. We like arts, sciences, nature, cultures, people, music, theatre, mathematics and so many different stuff all at once. We value freedom, are innately curious (my website name agrees), have endless ‘will’ to learn, and are busy either learning or creating something! That is the reason no one role can define us! We are but many in one package!
I realized even my father is a multipotentialite. He is an entrepreneur, a Plummer, a carpenter, an electrician, a philosopher, a spiritual guru, a motivational coach, a gardener and there is an endless list of things he can be relied upon!
I guess, being a multipotentialite is a rather a blessing, that I realized like just now!!
We have a creative drive that wants us to follow several paths the world laid before us. We are blessed to be inspired every now and then. We are those who can be employed for many roles at once. We are those who ditch the mold and create a niche of ‘multi-talented people.
Everything said-but is it practical?
I had been a believer of ‘one’s true calling’. Though I still believe in the ‘calling’ but no longer believe it to be ‘one’. But having multiple callings is sometimes not practical.
But that doesn’t mean we should doubt ourselves. Remember that we were born in this way, we didn’t create our curious hormones! And if the maker intended us to be this way, he must have a plan (or wants you to find one!).
Emilie Wapnick happens to have found one. She cleverly defines the 3 of our crucial needs and how these 3 can be had, even with multiple roles, without any compromises!
These are the 3 main ingredients that an innately curious multipotentialite often seeks to have. But, we often find meaning in a particular field, money in another, and variety in a yet different field, so how to balance these?
You may like playing guitar, painting, photography, sketching all at once
Emilie Wapnick has found 4 ways to do so:
CAN TAKE THE “GROUP HUG” APPROACH: choose an interdisciplinary field or role so that your curiosity gets satiated by yet new roles you play at work.
CAN TAKE THE “EINSTEIN APPROACH” where you can invest time in hobbies like many of you must be doing right now while working at a full-time job.
CAN TAKE THE “SLASH APPROACH” where you can do one or two jobs simultaneously if you can handle it!
CAN TAKE THE “PHOENIX APPROACH” where you can take up a career, and switch whenever you feel you have earned mastery in it!
No matter what career, job, passion, interest you choose, let one thing settle down in you first- you are a multipotentialite and not a fickle-minded freak that ‘traditional’ systems of the economy might convince you to believe.
I remember being asked in an interview: “You took up a master’s in English literature and then in Anthropology, ”from arts to social sciences, why?
Because of a whim? No! because I thought having experienced people and emotions in a book, I can now move on to experience them in person! It’s not like mood swings we have career swings! It’s just that, we can never settle on something mediocre! And sometimes when you have mastered a skill, a career, a role, you do find yourself capable of experiencing a yet new field or space!
To all the multipotentialites out there, say out aloud-
I am sure if you have reached the end, you are one of us, what are your thoughts and which approach would you choose?
They say you don’t choose your memories, but life itself provides you with certain unforgettable events. A series of events unforgettable happened to me while doing fieldwork for my Masters dissertation in Anthropology. Apart from merely observing people around (ethnography in anthropological terms), I also undertook unstructured ethnographic interviews as part of my research methodology. I conversed with tourists-both Indian and foreign at two historical sites in Delhi.
I happen to have an acute interest in other cultures (the very reason I studied Anthropology) and that made me more enthusiastic in talking to foreigners.
of cats and commodities
On my first day I was reluctant, often shivering, practising what to say, full of anxiety and fear of getting dejected. The first thing I had in mind was that people might just swear at me or give me a straight look saying “See I came here to enjoy, not give you data” (I did get those too). So, I took it a bit lightly. I thought I would collect my data in a way that would be more like sharing their experience of the place.
Little did I know, I would fell in love with the whole research process. It had to be the rite de passage of my life.
For getting into the action, I started by talking to those who came alone and were found sitting near the site, in profound thoughts or perhaps loneliness. I came across Maria from Poland. She was a teacher, unmarried and a travel freak. For rapport building, I started asking about her life and she shared with me her love for cats and how she rescued many of them. She said she doesn’t own lavish furnish because she spends all her money travelling. She didn’t have much knowledge about art or history, she just came there as a student of life. She wanted to see the world, no matter she understood it or not.When I accidentally bumped into her, at my next site of fieldwork, she almost thought I was following her. Nevertheless, she shared with me much more than merely data.
hola! google translator
An acute anthropological problem, of language during fieldwork, brought another interesting encounter. Having learned Spanish and forgotten 4 years back, the language came back to me in the form of Daniel. A photographer in Chile, the man had a taste for art. When I had exhausted the residue of the language (Hola!, sí, No se!, bonito, mucho gusto, entiendo) in my head, I was at a loss of words. It was then that Daniel smiled and opened his translator app and the conversation kicked off. Not only was I able to interview him but I came to know the places he had visited and how he became teary eyed when he saw his dream come true in visiting Taj Mahal. He called me lucky having been born in a “a magical place”. Though our conversation lasted half an hour, bidding him goodbye felt like leaving a friend.
‘the true’ heirs of the place
After meeting a photographer, I got acquainted with a filmmaker too. While trying to get an Indian tourist to interview, I found 2 people who I assumed to be Indians. But to my surprise, their as-salamu alaykum (in seemingly Persian accent) told me they are not. Ahmed F and M Uzbek, a writer/filmmaker and journalist duo, from Uzbekistan, were so passionate about history that they almost made me visit their native land. When they spoke Hindi with the influence of their native tongue, it actually felt like poetry. Their words, their phrases, sounded melodious. They gave me an Uzbekistani soʻm (currency) and their visiting card as a token of remembrance.
when i cried with a stranger
Not only did I have some lively experiences, I had encountered sorrow too. Nazim, was a PhD student from Kashmir shared with me the woes of his land. While he appeared all gay and enjoying the scene, he had a terrible tale of his hometown. He told me about what goes back in his home town and how they suffer a lot at the hands of influential people. Sitting with him, on the verge of tears, I gathered the empathy of my anthropologicalpersona and helped him put himself together.
conversations till sunset
Of all the experiences I had, one amongst them stood out. With Patrick, from England I had a different kind of experience. He was a middle aged, cab driver who had the heart of a writer. He marvelled at the place, the people, the air. He meditated upon his life, in the presence of so many and made me meditate on my life too.
At first, he was sceptical and thought I had come to mince money from him (might have been his experience). After convincing him otherwise, I started having a conversation with him. The so called interview went on and converted into a discussion on life. We began talking when the sun was at its peak and stopped only when we saw the sun set right before our eyes. The time did fly and the experience was cathartic indeed.
I had but gathered enough data, but my heart still wanted to go back and talk to many more who are willing to lend a voice to a stranger.
It is then that the realization dawned upon me.
Are you a student of anthropology or an anthropologist already and did my experience ring a bell? I would love to know your comments.
Being a perpetual student of life, I was sad when school got over. I was always hungry to know more, which was reflected in my full attendance throughout my schooling years. Teachers were always aware of my presence because I was never short of questions. That might be the reason why the science stream attracted me the most.
But the core science of high school left me disappointed. And I moved to humanities for my graduation.
Stories always fascinated me and so did writing some of my own. I could devour books like anything. When it was time for professors to take up a certain book, I had long left those streets and lanes and had to bring them back from memory.
But I was disappointed here too. I was a passive onlooker. I surely saw, felt, tasted, and smelled whatever the author did but, felt the need to discard the medium and have a direct rendezvous instead.
Ultimately, there was a void nothing could fill. Though I felt the existence of something that aligned my tastes but hadn’t discovered it yet.
THE POINT OF DISCOVERY
So as fate would take it, I came across anthropology while I was leaning towards a Ph.D. in literature (having no other solution at hand).
Anthropology being an unfamiliar discipline (in the Indian context), didn’t promise any golden future as did various other disciplines. But I felt like the astronauts who first landed on the moon might have felt. I had found another world altogether. It was the ‘it’ career. It had all that I was looking for. It had tales of people, narrated and observed from a scientific perspective. All phenomena in the world were deconstructed from a humanistic lens. I got the answers of so many y’s just by reading some of the texts. Fascination was a small word to describe it.
To facilitate my initiation and to help me dive into an unknown area, providence sent me help in the form of a highly respected professor at the University of Delhi (Dr. S.M.P), to whom I owe my passion for the subject.
After completing another post-grad, now in anthropology, I was set to conquer the world.
Being in academics for so long, I wanted a break and dug into the corporate world instead.
This time, I didn’t fail but the lack of opportunities failed me.
Anthropology (surprisingly) didn’t land me quite the type of career that I wanted, the opportunities I was looking for. It was more or less, an invisible degree and brought me no value.
This time it was more than disappointment because this time I was lost and felt defeated.
As a driver whose car if blocked by a fallen tree, usually puts the reverse gear, so did I. And I went back to the world of literature and content writing because words and stories were the only solace I had left.
I did well this time. But I felt cheating with myself. Every time I picked up something to read or watch, the word ‘anthropology’ would come calling. I kept pushing it back, thinking ‘I wish I didn’t have to leave that ‘once’ promising road’.
All this while, nothing that I did, satiated me. Not even writing did the magic anymore, because I had long since acquired the habit of watching people/behaviors and writing about them. How could I write in a void sitting in my chair and imaging what it is actually like?
That is when I understood how powerful this field is.
LULLED BACK TO ANTHROPOLOGY
Once you have studied anthropology, the world opens up for you. Its like Mt. Vitruvius, which you just can’t handle. It overpowers you and engulfs you completely.
It’s like you begin to see what’s inside people, more clearly than ever. You don’t have the power to control your senses which are bent upon observing people in their silence. You just can’t help empathizing with people you hate! And you tend to understand the environment around you, like god gave you an additional sense. All this helped me understand more about religion, society, family, environment, nature, diversity of people, behavioral patterns, than I ever did before.
It’s like, you can take anthropology out of your life but anthropology can never leave you.
That is when I took a pledge of being honest with myself. No matter the path is difficult but it’s worth spending your life on.
What does it matter if my car was blocked by a fallen tree? I might as well pick up the tree, move it aside, thus clearing the path for myself and others down this road.
I am reminded of my peer Saumya(a visual anthropologist) who once said, “if not now, then when?”.
You have got just one life, why not fill it with risks worth taking?