On Sunday evening as I was preparing dinner, waiting for my art to dry so I could add the next layer, and tidying the kitchen, I thought I’d check out a few TED talks to learn something new. As chance would have it, I discovered a talk by Emilie Wapnick (http://puttylike.com/tedx/) called “Why Some of Us Don’t Have Just One True Calling.” Her talk is about people she refers to as “multipotentialites,” also known as polymaths, Renaissance persons, or generalists. Here’s Emilie’s definition of a multipotentialite: “A person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. Multipotentialites have no ‘one true calling’ the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both). Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers. When it comes to new interests that emerge, our insatiable curiosity leads us to absorb everything we can get our hands on. As a result, we pick up new skills fast and tend to be a wealth of information.” (http://puttylike.com/terminology/)
After listening to Emilie’s TED talk, I flashed back to my childhood, remembering how I took piano and ballet lessons. When neither of them held my attention, I moved on to tap and guitar. In college it took me ten years and several majors before I found one that led me to my life’s work. My path as an artist has followed a similar pattern. I obsessed on watercolor, macrame, Chinese calligraphy, and polymer clay until I fully absorbed each medium, became bored with it, then moved on to the next one. I love the experience of learning something new, and also love to move on when I feel saturated.
Fortunately, a few of my obsessions have turned into long-lasting “life callings.” The Seed is one, as are my yoga practice and my work as a mixed-media artist. I have come to accept that I will always be a dabbler, exploring new topics and ideas. What has allowed me to stay with my life callings is that they are open-ended and allow me plenty of leeway to keep learning within the work itself. I have found ways to integrate the TED talks and interviews of extraordinary human beings into my life as the Seed’s director. I have figured out how to include creativity in projects that arise. And I have wonderful, smart people surrounding me who are always eager to try out fresh ideas when they arise.
I share this with you not just to tell my own story, but to ask that you keep your eyes open for other “multipotentialites” (mainly children) among us. By supporting children who learn this way, we are keeping the door open for innovators and problem solvers to come forth. The world will thank you for nurturing these great minds as they discover their life callings and put them into action.