Many multitalented people explore and implement a variety of interests in multiple fields.
One example is Dean Kamen – an inventor, entrepreneur, and advocate for science and technology. He holds more than 440 patents, many for innovative medical devices, which can require mechanical engineering, biomedical research and ergonomics, among other fields.
His more public inventions are the Segway Human Transporter, and the Ibot, a stair-climbing wheelchair.
He also founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization for motivating children to understand, use, and enjoy science and technology.
[Photo from galacticarchives.org.]
But there may be significant challenges for both children and adults.
In her Psychology Today post Multipotentiality: When High Ability Leads to Too Many Options, Lisa Rivero notes multipotentiality can be both a blessing and a curse and “adults with multipotentiality may find themselves drifting from job to job, unable to settle in any spot long enough to know if it would satisfy over the long term, feeling that their lives and careers are a hodge-podge of failed attempts.”
But we can also view that “hodge-podge” more positively.
In her article Are You a Scanner?, Barbara Sher talks about people who are “genetically wired to be interested in many things… the owner of a remarkable, multitalented brain.”
But there may often be pressures on us from early in life through adulthood to choose only one direction or arena to realize our talents – for example, social attitudes about art being “soft” or acceptable only as an avocation but not a “real” career choice.
Social and cultural pressures
Actor, writer, designer and musician Gwendoline Yeo talks about that kind of pressure, especially in Asia.
She was born and raised in Singapore and graduated summa cum laude, phi beta kappa from UCLA before the age of 20, as well as receiving a diploma in Classical Piano from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
She specializes in playing the Chinese Long Zither (“gu-zheng”), and is also an actor (‘Xiao-Mei’ on Desperate Housewives, for example).
[Some of this info is from her bio on gwendolineyeo.com]
In an interview [for the UCLA International Institute, by Chi Tung, October 5, 2003] she noted that children “in Singapore and in Asia, in general, are brought up believing that being perfect is the best thing to do..
“You know, when I was growing up, I had to get it right, and I think most of my journey, as an actress, an artist, and a musician, has been to be comfortable in my own skin.
“Not being perfect and trusting myself, that being who I am is perfect enough and I think that is the most important thing for any person.”
She said that “Singapore, as a society, encourages children to maximize their brain capacity.. but I think that where they get to make the choice between arts versus math and science is where they have problems.
“I think that the government does give an opportunity to kids, to explore those areas, but there’s also a devaluation of art, in Chinese society, in general.
“If you’re an actress or musician, you think, ‘Well, if you’re not rich at it, then that means you’re not really working at it.’ I think it’s always a tough struggle, so when coming to the states, for me, I was constantly walking that line, like a love/hate relationship.”
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Writer, performer and radio program host Sandra Tsing Loh talked in our interview about her choices after graduating from CalTech with a BS in physics:
“In our family, with our values, it was kind of a failure not to go on to your PhD in physics.
“To go on to a PhD in English was like a failure, because it was a soft topic… it was all very shocking to everyone, and it looked like I was at the beginning of a tragic tumble into living as a street person.”
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It may be difficult to choose how to live your own life in the face of strong family and social pressures – but it may help to explore something without boxing it up as “career” or “vocation.”
Applying multiple talents
In his Bates College Commencement 2007, Dean Kamen called on graduates to realize, “If you want to solve all the problems that we’re facing in this world, it’s unlikely that the people and ideas that got us to where we are will be the ones that are going to get us to a different place.
“It’s going to require new people with new ideas. And that would be you.”
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Viggo Mortensen is well-known for his acting in the The Lord of the Rings movies and many others.
In addition to acting, his creative pursuits include painting, photography, poetry, music, plus spoken-word recordings.
Mortensen once commented:
“Photography, painting or poetry – those are just extensions of me, how I perceive things, they are my way of communicating.”
From article: Multitalented Creative People – with quotes by and about Leonard Nimoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Xavier Dolan, Juliette Binoche, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Natalie Portman and others.
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Emilie Wapnick identifies creative people who are multitalented as multipotentialites, and notes:
“My resume reads like it belongs to ten different people.
“Music, film, web design, law, business, personal development, writing, dance, sexuality, education– all of these are or have been interests of mine. They come and go (and sometimes come again).
“I remember being a little kid, not knowing what I would be when I grew up. I wondered the same thing in my teen years, and again in college. Sure, all of my interests would make for wonderful careers– just not on their own.
“Would I have to settle on a “practical job” and pursue my various passions on the side or choose among my interests and just commit to one thing?
“Both options made me my heart ache… I knew I could be doing more– that I had more to offer the world.”
She created her program Renaissance Business as “the story of how I brought all of my interests together, and how you can do the same.”
See videos and more info about her other programs on the page
Resources For Multi-Passionate Entrepreneurs
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Also visit the site for my main book – with multiple excerpts:
One of many reviews [click link to read others]:
“Packed full of insights and resources for the creative life, Developing Multiple Talents offers new ways to thrive as a creative person.
“Douglas Eby addresses many of the issues we face – fear, lack of confidence and focus – allowing the creative person to feel understood and ultimately empowered.
“Normalizing the challenges in the creative process provides a huge step toward coping with those challenges. Douglas’s book gives readers a resource for understanding and accepting our problems and our gifts.
“I highly recommend Developing Multiple Talents as a resource for anyone who wants to understand the psychology behind our creative drive.”
– Cynthia Morris, Writing and creativity coach, Original Impulse.