Having Many Interests is Not a Curse. Here’s How to Make that Your Strength!
Follow your dream, they always say. But what if you do not know which dream to pursue?
Almost all of us, in particular the millennial generation, have faced the conundrum of too many choices in terms of life goals. A lot of people are told they have potential for many things in life, but to turn that potential in fruitful contribution to society they will have to choose a single path. That cannot be farther from truth, actually. In fact, in the current global scenario that is perhaps a better mindset to have than the pursuit of a single course throughout your life.
The curse of ‘too many interests’
Choosing a career or skill to pursue is one of the hardest decisions we make in life, and perhaps the most important. That is the reason why this choice is subjected to so much judgment and moral implications. And unless you are a visible genius or some kind of prodigy, people generally consider multiple interests as a sign of indecisiveness, superficiality, and lack of expertise.
‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is typically a disparaging remark, assigned to people who dabble with multiple career choices in life and never seem to go steadfast in pursuit of a single course. Because of this focus on a single choice, many people get discouraged and stick to a ‘safe’ job, thereby wasting all their potential.
The case of the polymath
Remember Leonardo Da Vinci? The legendary Renaissance painter is widely known as the creator of the Mona Lisa, but his range of interest was far greater, encompassing architecture, mathematics, science, engineering, anatomy, astronomy, botany, history, even literature and music. Closer in time, we have the likes of Umberto Eco, Carl Sagan, Stephen Fry, Steve Jobs, and even Donald Grover (aka Childish Gambino) as examples of people who embody multiple skills and interests.
These people are called polymaths; i.e. people who excel at multiple things simultaneously. In this day and age, they are considered geniuses, but history will tell us a few hundred years back this was actually a pretty common thing. Specialization of knowledge is a relatively new idea that was driven by the industrial revolution. Before that, knowledge pursuers would have no qualms about straddling fields as different as astronomy and anatomy.
Some defining traits of a polymath personality would be:
- Holistic attitude
- Ability to perceive things from multiple perspectives
- Relentless pursuit of excellence
As you can see, all of these are traits can be put to wonderful use in today’s technology-driven world. Almost all the progress in our civilization has been driven by combinations of separate knowledge traditions, and someone who can holistically tackle multiple areas is an invaluable asset.
How to have a polymath mindset
Now, just having potential in multiple things doesn’t make you a polymath. You have to be able to provide fruitful results combining those skills and interests. Here are some ways you can channel your multiple potentialities into a polymath mindset.
Decide on a combination – You like writing. You have a web development background. You have a passion for cooking. There’s a potential food criticism business waiting for you to expand. Take stock of your skills and interests in a planned manner and you will see many of them actually work well together. Innovation is a key element of success in the modern world and a combination of skills are more likely to provide you that rather than single course expertise.
Train hard – Once you have decided on the combination, focus on getting better at the components. Focusing on one field at a time is always better, and for your efforts to bear fruit you need deep knowledge in any field. So never compromise on getting the necessary training and education. Formal education is not crucial; exploit the wealth of online resources and courses available nowadays.
Learn in respect of your combination-skills – Whenever you learn something keep your purpose in mind. If you are taking writing training, choose a form of writing most suited to the other skills and interests of your chosen combination.
Having too many interests is not a curse, it is rather an opportunity. The future is looking at people who can think holistically and creatively, and adapt quickly to changes. With the right mindset and plan, you can be one of them.