Why I Created This Podcast – Ep. 32

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WHY I STARTED MY PODCAST

A few years back, I stumbled across a TED talk from Emilie
Wapnick, in which she discussed her coining of the term
“multipotentialite”. Her talk, called “Why Some of Us Don’t Have
One True Calling” has garnered millions of views — so clearly it’s
struck a nerve.

For many self-identified multipotentialites, myself included, we
often think of how much simpler life would be if, like Tiger Woods,
we were handed a golf club at 7 months old and we instantly
knew what we’d do with our entire lives.

-Do you paint for money?

-Do you love your job?

-Yep! I’m a golfer.

-Ever thought about switching careers?

-Why? I’m making millions as a golfer, and have been since I was
  a teenager.

Whether it’s Billie Eilish getting 5 Grammy awards at the age of
18, or Leonardo DiCaprio being chosen by the acting gods as a
mere boy, multipotentialites are bombarded with stories of what I
call the “often path”. A straight, unmistakable road to success.

I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find a multipotentialite out there
who doesn’t grapple with significant FOMO with regard to our
single-minded brethren.

We imagine that our lives would be so much better if we just had
the one, clear path to success, from which we never deviate.

What if we could just wake up in the morning, and know exactly
what our “calling” was, just like Oprah discovered, as the heavens
parted when she sat on that interview chair so many years ago.

Why can’t *I* wake up each day knowing exactly how my talents
can best serve all of humanity and my own happiness. Why don’t

I have an ikigai and everyone else does?

What’s *WRONG* with me!?

And yet, it turns out, a LOT of very successful people feel this
way.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE “OFTEN PATH”

In his book “Range”, David Epstein talks of a study conducted at
Harvard that found that “virtually every [successful] person had
followed what seemed like an unusual path. ‘What was even more
incredible is that they all thought they were the anomaly.’”

As a society, there are a few stories circulating in popular culture
about this phenomenon. J.K. Rowling is oft-cited as being a single
mother, down on her luck, scribbling what would later become a
billion-dollar franchise on a napkin.

And there are occasional lists doing the rounds, like “ 14 Inspiring
People Who Found Crazy Success Later in Life ” from inc.com,
which indicate, at least indirectly, that success is possible after
making more than a few detours.

So at some level, we are collectively aware that while teenage
phenoms get more press coverage, possibly just as many people
are finding great success later in life.

And yet, when we read or consume business advice, otherwise
known as “advice about making money”, we almost universally
hear the same thing, packaged different ways:
“Specialize, don’t generalize.”

You need to “niche down”. Find your niche and stick to it!
Would you rather hire a surgeon who is a painter and a Motocross
rider? Or would you rather hire a Left Thumb Surgeon who has
only worked on left thumbs for 45 years of his career??

These gotchas make it easy to say, “get me the 45-year Left
Thumb Surgeon for my hangnail, PLEASE.”

THE STRUGGLE OF THE MULTIPOTENTIALITE

Being asked to “niche down” is like kryptonite for the
multipotentialite.

It leads to paralysis, and deep depression. Because saying yes to
one thing means saying no to all those other things we love.

How can I just be an SEO expert when I love late-night comedy
so much?

How can I just be a “serious” business person when I love making
people laugh?

How can I start a boring business that I’m more likely to succeed
in when music remains one of the deepest loves in my heart?

These are all questions that have plagued me for years – just ask
my therapist, AKA my wife, who is beyond sick and tired of each
one of these variations.

Because to specialize in something means to give up several
other things we love. Or at least, so we think… So *I* feel
sometimes…

As Seneca says in Letters from a Stoic, “to be everywhere is to be
nowhere.”

The next common piece of advice we hear is: “Well, you can still
do X… Just as a hobby! Make your job and your social media
presence Y, and just do X for fun.”

But for serious multipotentialites, the line between “fun” and
“work” is negligible or non-existent.

Work is fun, and fun is work.

That’s our blessing and our curse.

And that’s why we crave the one true path that satisfies all of our
urges and talents and interests, so our fun and our work can be
one and the same. One giant ball of productive happy
awesomeness.

As the saying goes,

“JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE…

But the second part is possibly more interesting: “…though
oftentimes better than master of one.”

It’s no secret that the career gadabout is looked down upon in the
world of success and money. Because OUR WORLD DEMANDS
FOCUS, they say.
I’m certainly not arguing that they are wrong.

And yet, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that
experimentation is possibly the greatest key towards finding
lasting happiness.

If we take Epstein’s book Range as an example, he details
dozens of stories of people, Vincent Van Gogh included, who did
everything BUT their final profession before they became
successful. People who drifted wherever the next curiosity or best
opportunity took them, and finally, through extreme
experimentation, ended up in their dream job or dream career.

As we age, we are aware that the cells in our body change –
Buddhists ask “are you still you if you lose an arm? Or two?”
Hinting at the impermanence of our physical form.

So what chance is there that a 17 year old kid, who will change
completely over the next 17 years of her life, will value the EXACT
same type of work from that day until the day she dies?

Not impossible, but certainly rare. It’s certainly harder to believe
when put into that context.

THE OFTEN PATH IS NOT FUTURE-PROOF

We know the system: go to school, graduate, get a job, work your way up the ladder. But in light of AI and rapid technological advancements, as detailed in Tyler Cowen’s “Average is Over” , the assumptions we’ve made over the last 100 years about the “safest” route need to change. The “safe” path won’t be nearly as effective in the next era, he argues.

We need to keep a sense of plasticity in our brain – to help us see
our problems from a fresh perspective. To do that, I believe, we
need to change our input. We need a broader range of life stories
to compare ours too, so we can stop comparing ourselves to an
extremely narrow definition of success.

THE OFTEN PATH IS NOT HELPFUL

This is the crux of this piece. Intelligent people are usually
multipotentialites. My grandpa was a brilliant chemist who loved
nothing more than painting with watercolors.

DaVinci made world-changing strides in medicine, engineering,
painting, and more.

But when these people are put into a box that says “you must be
a chiropractor and nothing else”, on social media or elsewhere,
they feel like a failure.

Feeling like a failure leads to depression, which leads to inaction.
Inaction compounded, leads to a wasted life.

So while it’s nice that certain people became millionaires or
billionaires before they turned 25, it’s not helpful. To you, to me,
to anyone looking for a path forward.

Sure, we could interview Mark Zuckerberg, and I have no doubt
that that would be fascinating. But would it be helpful to you? Or
would it just make you feel inadequate, like a failure, and lead to
further inaction?

So that’s why I made the “Beat the Often Path” podcast. In
addition to being a brilliant play on words, I know, I know, I’m a
genius. Kidding, kidding…

It’s a chance to showcase those weird stories that don’t get
shared often enough. I want to show people who found success
and happiness in highly unusual ways – often later in life.
Because weird stories are helpful. Weird stories can help us see
our own lives in a new light.

Unusual stories can remind us that we aren’t alone, that there’s
still hope for us, and that we can find our own path if we keep
following the clues and keep an open mind.

And as a DJ of 12 years who built a music start-up to millions of
followers then took on digital marketing clients in ecommerce
while making jokes and satirical videos, I need this podcast more
than anyone.

To quote the immortal Frozen II, we can all get to happiness by
just doing “the next right thing.”

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