Letter No 90 - Are you interested in too many things?

Dear {friends}

Do you put the horse before the cart, or the cart before the horse?

When I was a young boy, my mother used to scold me saying that I'm putting too much energy into things that are not my strengths. She used to make a gesture with her right hand, bringing the finger together as though she is picking up an imaginary bite of food from a plate. And then instead of putting the food into her mouth, she would attempt to place her hand behind her head and reach her mouth from the other side. This is called 'taking the long cut'. She used to say that I (as in me) like to always do things the more difficult way.

I was never good at drawing human beings, but drawing landscapes and nature came naturally to me.
I was never good at music, but mathematics and coding came naturally to me.
I was never good at sports, but public speaking and being a leader came naturally to me.

But I insisted on learning to draw faces. I spent years and months on it.
I insisted on learning music. I still spend time on it every day.
I pushed myself hard and got into the basketball and hockey teams at school.

I love taking challenges. I've spent hours and hours on these things. And I've enjoyed them thoroughly.

But here's the thing - had I spent those hours on art, or coding, or maths, or public speaking, I'd be world-class at them by now. I'm not world-class at any of these things.

I feel that I've thrown my time down the drain. I wish I had listened to my mother. I wish I had focussed. I wish I had something at which I am world-class.

I wish I hadn't pursued so many interests and taken on so many 'random challenges' and spread myself so thin.

I often really feel crappy about this. I feel especially bad when I compare myself to others who were super focussed and sped ahead at rocket speed - my friends who are successful business people, bankers and lawyers, artists, sportspeople, and even some people who chose to walk down an alternate path of service or spirituality. They made so much progress. There are moments when I feel left behind.

I don't know whether you are the focussed kind, or the 'spread out' kind like me. But I'm writing this to you so that you can take a moment to reflect on this.


If you are like me and hyper-curious about many things, I want to introduce you to the term 'multipotentialite'

You have a wide range of interests, passions, and talents.
You possess a diverse set of skills and enjoy pursuing multiple fields of study or professional pursuits simultaneously.
You often experience a sense of restlessness or boredom when you focus on a single area for too long.
You thrive on novelty, learning, and exploring new domains, leading you to frequently switch interests or careers.
You are adaptable and a quick learner, able to transfer skills and knowledge across different disciplines.
You may find it challenging to choose a single career path, as you have many competing interests and passions.
You often excel at interdisciplinary work, bringing unique perspectives and insights from various fields.
You are a creative problem-solver, able to draw connections between seemingly unrelated topics.
You may face societal pressure to specialize or choose a specific career, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or being misunderstood.

Do feel these? Then you may be a multipotentialite.

Do you know anyone who does?


Or maybe...
You have a singular, laser-like focus on a specific area of interest, profession, or skill set.
You invest a significant amount of time and effort into mastering your chosen field and becoming an expert in your domain.
You prioritize depth over breadth, diving deep into the subject matter and continuously honing your skills.
You have a deep understanding of the intricacies and nuances within your area of expertise.
Your highly specialized knowledge is valuable and sought after in your respective industry.
You have a clear career path and trajectory, as your specialization aligns with specific professional opportunities.
You excel in tasks related to your field and provide valuable insights and solutions within your specialized area.
You find fulfillment and a sense of purpose in your singular focus, deriving satisfaction from becoming an authority in your chosen field.
Your exposure to other disciplines or areas of interest may be limited, as your focus is primarily on your specialized domain.
While you may lack versatility in certain areas, your depth of expertise makes you an invaluable resource within your field of specialization.

Do you relate to these?

If you are related to these more, then you may prefer being a specialist.


These are two extreme ends of the spectrum. All of us may be somewhere in between these extremes, but chances are we are heavily leaning on one side or the other.

If you are the focused type, you may or may not have the desire to try other things. You probably already know what is your thing and are already doing it.
If you are the multipotentialite type, chances are you may feel the need to focus on one thing, because society has told you that unless you do that you will not be successful.

So, I'm addressing this letter to those of you who feel you are interested in many things.

The question you may be asking yourself is - what if I don't have one true calling? Or, how do I find my calling? Specialists rarely need to ask themself this! You may know friends of yours who know their 'thing' and may be thinking - I wish I know what's my one thing!

It is painful. I've struggled with this a lot. You specialists have no idea how painful this can be. It's almost a perpetual identity crisis.


First, let me tell you what are some of the superpowers of a multipotentialite.

  1. Adaptability: Multipotentialites are incredibly adaptable! They have a natural knack for adjusting to different situations, environments, and challenges with ease. They can seamlessly transition and thrive in diverse settings.
  2. Rapid Learning: Multipotentialites are quick learners! They have a special talent for absorbing new knowledge and skills at a rapid pace. Their ability to transfer and apply their knowledge across different disciplines allows them to grasp concepts quickly.
  3. Cross-Disciplinary Thinking: Multipotentialites excel at connecting the dots! They have a unique gift for seeing connections between seemingly unrelated fields. By combining knowledge from different areas, they bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table.
  4. Creative Problem-Solving: When faced with a challenge, multipotentialites unleash their creative powers! They think outside the box and approach problems from various angles. Their diverse background and wide range of interests enable them to come up with creative and unique solutions.
  5. Versatility: Multipotentialites are incredibly versatile! They effortlessly handle different roles and tasks due to their wide range of skills. Whether it's personal or professional settings, they adapt and excel, bringing their exceptional versatility to any situation.

So, embrace your multipotentialite superpowers and let your amazing qualities shine. You possess a unique set of talents that make you stand out in the most fantastic way possible. Keep exploring, learning, and being the remarkable multipotentialite that you are. In the age of A.I., rapid technological advancement, and disruption in the economy and the world order, multipotential is the future of work. Of course, specialists are cool people too.


Here are three examples of multipotentialites and how their multipotentiality helped them:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo da Vinci was a renowned polymath and one of history's greatest multipotentialites. His diverse interests spanned art, science, engineering, anatomy, and more. His broad knowledge and curiosity allowed him to excel in various fields. Da Vinci's ability to merge his artistic skills with scientific inquiry led to groundbreaking inventions and advancements, such as his anatomical drawings and flying machines. His multipotentiality helped him bring a unique perspective to his work, creating timeless masterpieces and contributing to scientific discoveries.
  2. Marie Curie: Marie Curie was a brilliant multipotentialite who made significant contributions to both physics and chemistry. She conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, becoming the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields. Curie's multidisciplinary approach allowed her to connect knowledge from physics and chemistry, enabling breakthroughs in the understanding of radioactivity and its applications. Her multipotentiality played a crucial role in her groundbreaking scientific achievements.
  3. Elon Musk: Elon Musk is a modern-day multipotentialite known for his contributions to the fields of technology, space exploration, and renewable energy. He co-founded companies such as Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, showcasing his expertise in electric vehicles, space travel, and neurotechnology. Musk's ability to bridge multiple disciplines and think holistically has been instrumental in driving innovation and disrupting industries. His multipotentiality has allowed him to tackle complex problems from different angles and push the boundaries of what is possible.

These examples demonstrate how being a multipotentialite can enable individuals to make significant contributions across multiple fields, combining their diverse skills and knowledge to drive innovation, create impactful works, and make groundbreaking discoveries.


Now multipotentialites face some challenges too.

  1. Decision Paralysis: Multipotentialites often face the challenge of decision paralysis when it comes to choosing a single career path or focus. With numerous interests and talents, they may find it challenging to commit to one area and fear missing out on other potential pursuits. This indecision can lead to feelings of frustration, self-doubt, and confusion.
  2. Societal Expectations: Multipotentialites may encounter societal pressure to specialize or follow a traditional career trajectory. The expectation to choose one field and stick to it can create feelings of being misunderstood or undervalued. Society often values specialists, and this can lead to multipotentialite feeling like they don't fit into traditional molds.
  3. Burnout and Overwhelm: Multipotentialites tend to take on multiple projects and interests simultaneously. While their ability to multitask and explore diverse fields is a strength, it can also lead to burnout and overwhelm. Juggling multiple commitments and constantly shifting focus can be exhausting, resulting in a lack of sustained progress and feelings of being spread too thin.

These can be a nuisance and prevent you from achieving anything significant. Being a multipotentialite can feel more like a burden than a blessing. It's important to recognize these challenges and develop strategies to navigate them effectively.


Here are a few ways you can capitalize on being a multipotential in your life and work:

  1. Expand your role: Look for ways to incorporate your other interests into your current job. Propose new tasks or projects that align with your passions and can benefit both you and the organization. Taking the initiative to expand your job description allows you to wear different hats and engage with diverse areas.
  2. Start a passion project: Pursue a side project outside of work that aligns with your other interests. This allows you to explore different topics and exercise different parts of your curious mind. It could be starting a blog, launching a creative endeavor, or engaging in a hobby that ignites your passion.
  3. Shift gears: Explore internal opportunities within the organization that can leverage your existing expertise while allowing you to explore new domains. Identify roles that align with your transferable skills and seek advice from trusted colleagues or mentors. Begin training and developing yourself in the desired area to increase your chances of a successful transition.
  4. Seek guidance from other multipotentialites: Connect with individuals who have successfully built careers that combine diverse interests. Seek their advice and learn from their experiences. Their insights can help you navigate challenges, overcome obstacles, and develop effective strategies for managing your multipotentiality.
  5. Collaborate with specialists: Consider partnering with colleagues who have specialized expertise that complements your multipotentiality. By working together, you can combine deep knowledge and broad perspectives to create powerful outcomes. Such collaborations foster a beautiful partnership where both specialists and multipotentialites can leverage their strengths and enhance team productivity.

Remember, embracing your multipotentiality is an asset, and there are ways to integrate your diverse interests into your work life. Stay open-minded, proactive, and seek opportunities that allow you to explore, learn, and contribute in meaningful ways.


And if you are a specialist, see if you can find a multipotentialite to partner with on some project. You both can make a great combo.

Here are a few examples of actual people who have formed partnerships between multipotentiality and specialists:

  1. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak teamed up to create Apple Inc. Jobs, with his design and marketing skills, provided the vision and marketing expertise, while Wozniak, a specialist in computer engineering, developed the technical innovations behind iconic products like the Apple Macintosh and iPhone.
  2. Elon Musk partnered with JB Straubel at Tesla. Musk, a multipotentialite entrepreneur, led the overall vision and strategy, while Straubel, a specialist in energy storage and electric vehicle technology, focused on the technical aspects of battery technology and electric vehicle development, contributing to the success of Tesla's electric cars.
  3. Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, collaborated with Sheryl Sandberg. Zuckerberg, a multipotentialite, brought his technical expertise and vision, while Sandberg, a specialist in business operations and management, joined as the Chief Operating Officer (COO), contributing her expertise in scaling operations and developing monetization strategies.
  4. Nandan Nilekani and NR Narayana Murthy played key roles in the growth of Infosys. Nilekani, a multipotentialite with a background in technology and entrepreneurship, contributed to the overall vision and strategy, while Murthy, a specialist in computer science and co-founder of Infosys, provided technical leadership and expertise.
  5. Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal founded Snapdeal, combining their multipotentiality with specialist skills. Bahl, a multipotentialite with a business background, focused on strategy, partnerships, and marketing, while Bansal, with a technical background, specialized in product development and technology infrastructure, driving the growth of Snapdeal as a prominent e-commerce platform in India.
  6. Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati formed a successful partnership at Ola Cabs. Aggarwal, a multipotentialite with an entrepreneurial mindset, focused on strategy and business development, while Bhati, with a background in computer science, specialized in building the technological infrastructure and operations, contributing to Ola's success as a leading ride-hailing platform in India.

These examples blew my mind when I read them.

Makes me realize I need a specialist to partner up with!

What about you? What does all this make you feel?

Looking forward to hearing from you.