Multipotentialites: The Jacks and Jills of All Trades

Multipotentialites

Ever met a man whose work and hobbies surprised you? Investment banker by day, hip-hop dance instructor by night, professional poker player by the weekend?

How about a woman who enjoys racing, competitive eating, fishing, opera singing, and horseback riding? An accountant who has a knack for building treehouses and painting abstract art?

Multipotentialites—typically the polar opposite to specialists—have a wide range of interests that can appear unrelated to each other. They likely have many groups of friends which they foster connections based upon shared interests.

They’re also known as Jacks (and Jills) of all trades, Renaissance people, and generalists. Multipotentialites often have an eye for beauty and aesthetics and may very well be highly sensitive and/or sensation seeking. (See HSP / HSS on the blog for more information.)

Any man who bears the ability of a polymath shall not be interfered by specialty, he needs discipline to manage his behaviors and nurture his creativity.

– Shawn Lukas

As for careers, multipotentialites can have a tough time narrowing down their options to a single vocational field. They may have several side projects running in the background (and can experience burnout from pursuing too much simultaneously).

If only our time and energy were unlimited!


Some famous historical multipotentialites include:

  • Maya Angelou (poet, activist, memoirist, author, playwriter)
  • Benjamin Franklin (politician, inventor, activist, author, postmaster)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (painter, architect, draftsman, sculptor, military engineer)
  • Aristotle (philosopher, scientist, physicist, geologist, zoologist, poet)
  • Isaac Newton (physicist, mathematician, alchemist, astronomer, theologian, author)
  • Buckminster Fuller (scientist, designer, architect, philosopher, author, systems theorist, futurist)

It was an initiation into the love of learning, of learning how to learn, that was revealed to me […] as a matter of interdisciplinary cognition—that is, learning to know something by its relation to something else.

– Leonard Bernstein

Where Do the Big Five Traits Step In?

Predictably, self-identified multipotentialites score extremely high in Openness (O). They are intellectually curious about various (often disparate) topics and soak in new knowledge like sponges.

They also score relatively high in Agreeableness (A) and are more likely to score high on the Extraversion (E) scale. Multipotentialites are often excellent socializers, movers, and shakers of ideas.


More signs to look for in multipotentialites:

  • High energy scattered among many projects and commitments
  • Curiosity and hunger to learn more about how the world works
  • Ability to connect the dots between different disciplines and domains
  • Quick learning and IQ at a young age; may have been gifted in grade school
  • Highly adaptable to various social groups and environments
  • Well-rounded in multiple intelligences (i.e. visual – spatial, linguistic – verbal, logical – mathematical, bodily – kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential)

How on Earth Do Multipotentialites Select a Career Path?

Try everything and narrow down to one or two callings—or simply try them all? Multipotentialites often take longer to decide on how to pursue their vocational calling? Perhaps a look into the Japanese career philosophy Ikigai will spring up ideas.

The ‘Slash’ Approach

Various part-time jobs, or a full-time job with freelance projects on the side. The slash approach calls for the pursuit of many career interests at once which requires multipotentialites to jump between their varied knowledge pools to obtain satisfaction.

The ‘Specialist-Plus-Gazillion-Hobbyist’ Approach

Have a main career for the day, and a truckload of hobbies on the side. This approach calls for a strong distinction between work and play—and helps define work-life boundaries as well. Because burnout hits home for multipotentialites, and this approach can be the golden ticket to balance.

The ‘Entrepreneur’ Approach

Helping another business or innovating a product into an in-demand market gap can be the sweet spot for many multipotentialites. Rather than sticking to a traditional “job,” they can pave a career path for themselves by helping others succeed through out-of-the-box advice!

The ‘Side-Hustle’ Approach

Why not make another business out of your hobbies and passions? Multipotentialites can find their mojo by streaming video games during after-work hours, snapping breathtaking photographs, or even running a local small Uber Eats home restaurant.

The ‘Startup’ Approach

Startups allow multipotentialites to wear many hats. With the excitement and unpredictability of day-to-day duties, multipotentialites can shine through their excellent communication skills and cross-functionality expertise in the workplace.

Whether they’re leading or supporting, multipotentialites can play a groundbreaking role in any startup they pour their heart and soul into.

References

Achter, J. A., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (1996). Multipotentiality Among Intellectually Gifted: It Was Never There and Already It’s Vanishing. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43, 65-76.

Araki, M. E., & Cotellessa, A. J. (2020). Creative Polymathy and the COVID-19 Crisis. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 601508. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.601508.

Araki, Michael. (2018). Polymathy: A New Outlook. 3. 66-82. https://doi.org/10.18536/jge.2018.04.3.1.05.

Cotellessa, Angela & Marquardt, Michael. (2018). In Pursuit of Polymaths: Understanding Renaissance Persons of the 21st Century.

Fernandes, Shannon. (2021). The Polymath Questionnaire: A Correlational Study between Polymath Belief, Self-Efficacy, and Personality. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/cbx6j.

Mclarnon, Matthew & Carswell, Julie & Schneider, Travis. (2014). A Case of Mistaken Identity? Latent Profiles in Vocational Interests. Journal of Career Assessment. 23. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072714523251.

Root-Bernstein, Robert. (2009). Multiple Giftedness in Adults: The Case of Polymaths. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6162-2_42.

Rysiew, Kathy & Shore, Bruce & Leeb, Rebecca. (1999). Multipotentiality, Giftedness, and Career Choice: A Review. Journal of Counseling & Development. 77. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1999.tb02469.x.