Since I was very little, the seemingly innocuous question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has caused me unbearable amounts of stress and anxiety. As someone with an endless number of constantly changing interests that seemingly have no correlation, having to pick ONE of my passions to build a life and career around was a soul-crushing and creativity stifling prospect.
I would discover a topic, task, or subject that got my blood pumping. I would work fanatically to learn everything I could about that subject. “Finally!” I would think to myself, “I have found what I was meant to do!”
Until I got bored.
For a very long time, I thought something was wrong with me. Whether it was learning about cars, cooking, evolution and biology, chemistry, physics, history, computers, literature, writing, web development, music, or countless others… I found that with every subject and interest, I would dive in head first, accumulate enough knowledge to reasonably understand the topic, and my interest and desire to learn would drop sharply, almost overnight. Once I felt like I had a good grasp of the topic at hand, I had no desire to continue learning it.
I thought that my inability to commit to one passion was a sign that I was destined to live a passionless and mediocre life, and worse, that my lack of interest in specialization was a function of a mental deficiency. Our school system is designed for specialists. Colleges force you to shell out thousands of dollars to focus on one subject and learn it inside and out – which for someone with generalist tendencies, feels like pure torture.
Fortunately for me and those like me, there is hope. For every “Specialist” kid who knew they wanted to be a dentist from the time they were 4, there is a “Generalist” kid who couldn’t decide on one passion to stick with. The world needs both.
You see, the brilliance of generalists is that they have a unique way of thinking about things. The truth is that the most stunning and life-changing innovations whether it be in science or art, happen when two seemingly unrelated subjects collide. The blending of sciences with technology, art with mechanics, robotics with biology
So now that you know there’s nothing wrong with you, what do you do? Well the specific answer is different for just about every person. Depending on your interests and motivations, you might be interested in pursuing any number of things.
The point is though, you have to do SOMETHING. You have to get started. You never know where life will take you, but it won’t take you anywhere if you are so paralyzed by fear that you never start.
You can afford to try something that you’ve always wanted to do, and you can afford to fail miserably at it. That’s how learning happens, and that’s how we grow.
The truth is, the only thing you can’t afford to do is sit still, and the only way a generalist like you can make it in this world is by taking action. Gritty, determined, bloody action.
FUCK feeling paranoid about what other people think.
FUCK being paralyzed by fear.
The seconds you have on this earth are ticking away. Wake up and do something about it. I challenge you to start something. Today.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you at all empathize with what I’ve discussed above (even if you don’t and want more explanation), check out the Ted Talk linked below. Her use of the word “multipotentialite” is a little too pretentious for me, but if you can get over that the content of her message is really uplifting.