For several years I have thought about how to answer this question from people who think that all human beings should do one thing only. They are the advocates of the power of focus and focus, to them, means that you should face only one thing and keep working at it even when it has succeeded. I don’t know why I have always disagreed and mostly could not explain my disagreement.
This afternoon, while looking through my previous emails, I found an email from TED.com which was sent just about a week ago. This presentation was from Emilie Wapnick who is a writer, a coach and many other things. Her presentation is the answer to my question and I think it is very important that you also get to know about this.
She described some people as ‘multipotentialite’ – People who have many passions, creative skills and are also pursuing different interests at different times. She also confirmed that many of those in the live audience at some point may have felt something was wrong with them for not being able to stay with just one thing for a long time.
Isn’t that what the society has told us all through the years? They keep telling us that if you want to succeed then you must face just one thing. Pick only one thing and run with it and then you will succeed.
You may have felt that you have different skills and the world is telling you to pick only one skill. You have tried but you have still not been able to stick to just one skill. The people around you have said you have no focus and will not be able to go too far. There is not much you can do with yourself if you don’t focus on just one thing.
At different times I have had people who called me to say that I am doing too many things. The person said I should focus and pick only one thing if I really wanted to succeed. I never saw it that way. I know that it may appear to a lot of people that I am doing a number of things. Interestingly if you check all the things that I am doing, I am doing only two things. Yes, two things only. Those things are speaking and writing. All the things I am doing can be categorised under speaking or writing and those are two things that I am wired to do.
The only reason I gave them (the services) different names is because the services I render are known as different things in different fields.
Some of those who argue that great and successful people are known for only one thing usually take their arguments a step further by mentioning names of people who are famous in a line of business. A few of them mention Bill Gates and expectedly, Microsoft is the name that comes to mind. They go on to mention several names.
While they are doing that, I am also thinking about people like Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, who has a cement factory in different countries, makes pasta and noodles, produces salt, sugar and many other things.
Just as Emili Wapnick suggested in her presentation at TED.Com, I am saying to you that there is nothing wrong with having multiple interests and having a strong desire to pursue. What you need to do is to find a common ground for the interests and that will keep all the interests together for a long time.
While the management consultants and coaches may be right about focusing on one thing in order to succeed, they are also wrong about telling everyone to not pursue other interests even though they have the capacity to do so.