One morning this week I was awoken very early by the sound of our doorbell (which it transpired I had dreamed!) and rather than go back to sleep, listen to the news or begin my day I simply let my thoughts meander and followed each one with curiosity. Once the mundane thoughts of daily life had passed I was able to begin pondering all the many subjects I know next to nothing about. After a while I found myself wanting to actively learn something and since I often enjoy listening to podcasts as a way to do so I picked up my phone.
Instead of listening to an episode of one of the podcasts I subscribe to I browsed a little and delved into a couple that I wouldn’t usually have chosen; the first an introductory episode of Mindscape from theoretical physicist Sean Carroll whom I’m looking forward to hearing more from, not particularly about theoretical physics (this feels a bit beyond me!) but what he bills as being “Conversations with the world’s most interesting thinkers. Science, society, philosophy, culture, arts, and ideas”. The second an episode on Sony mirrorless cameras from Ted Forbes’ podcast The Art of Photography, while I definitely know much more about photography than I did a year ago this was a pretty technical review.
It was intriguing and inspiring to listen to new voices discussing subjects that required my total concentration in order to keep up and an energising way to begin the day. I have enormous admiration for those who are able to share an in-depth knowledge of their subject in an accessible and entertaining manner and thoroughly enjoy learning a little about whatever piques my interest.
For the longest time I fostered the belief that I would feel happy and fulfilled if only I could find my ‘passion’ but it was not a theory that served me well. While I most certainly enjoyed entertaining my curiosity in a wide variety of activities and subjects as I sought something that could hold my interest I felt an underlying and continuous undercurrent of dissatisfaction and failure, at not having found the one thing that would light me up each day and which I would become truly expert in.
The reality though is that I am not destined to be a specialist, I am a generalist or according to Emilie Wapnick a multipotentialite. Her TED talk below describes very much better than I can the challenges and benefits that being wired this way presents. I first came across Emilie on Twitter some years ago and had already read Barbara She’s books ‘I could do anything (if only I knew what it was)’ and ‘Refuse to Choose’ by then. While both the books and Emilie’s ideas absolutely resonated for me I somehow continued to strive to find something that I could really imagine myself doing forever.
It has taken until this stage in my life to accept that I am simply not that sort of person and to make peace with this. I am now genuinely taking pleasure in following my own curiosity and indeed I think it is some of the best advice I have been able to give my daughters. This week has seen our eldest daughter receive her A level results and gain her place at university. She too has explored many possibilities for her future, but I am delighted that she has chosen a broad based course that interests her in many different ways and that she is open to the idea that she can allow her inquisitiveness to guide her. I am just about to begin listening to ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ by Emma Gannon on Audible and am encouraged that us non-specialists are becoming increasingly well recognised for the benefits of our broad based interests.
It is my hope that curiosity will bring people to the barn, I aspire to introduce those who are pursuing a genuine passion to those who perhaps feel as I did and are searching for the special something that will light them up and guide their activities in years to come. I hope that each group can acknowledge that there is space for both specialists and generalists in our creative world and that they can all benefit greatly from one another. While I am a great advocate of online learning, and have benefitted enormously from several courses, a workshop is a wonderful way to take a quick dip into something unknown, others’ enthusiasm is surprisingly contagious and the warmth, conviviality and encouragement of a group is irreplaceable.