Strive to be a Factotum

I Can Be Anything

Have you ever had a friend who could have been anything in life, only to be a nothing? That’s been me (or so I thought).

I have felt that way for a long time. Over 15 years now, I’ve been told that I could be anything.

I have a terrible reputation in my family; I try everything everyone else is doing. My older sister starts riding a bike? So do I. My sister plays the piano? I try it out. My brother plays the trumpet? I’ll pick it up. My dad wants to be a public speaker? I’ll learn the ins and outs of the trade. My mom owns a business in web programming? I’ll become a programmer.

The result appears to be a jumbled mess and many… many projects started and halted. I needed to ‘stop wasting time’ and get back to this thing called life. The reality of starting and not finishing many things taints my image in my family’s purview and has been chipping away at my own for some time.

Because I didn’t hit top 1% any anything in my life, all seemed a waste of time. I haven’t programmed diligently for a year, picked up an art sketch pad for 3+ years, and haven’t composed a song in 5 years.

The Wrong Thinking

From the cream-of-the-crop, the top 0.5%+ or so, the constant advice is to pick a trade and be super dedicated to it.

Recently, I was given advice to just pick one thing in life and do it. This mirrored the typical wise sage’s advice from ___ (pick your field).

Recently, I’ve made up my mind. I disagree wholeheartedly.

The idea behind picking that ‘one thing’ for you to focus on most likely revolves around money. If you’re specialized, you can charge more for your expert services that no-one can easily produce. You also have job security (money related).

Unfortunately, money is basically the worst motivator in the world. Money increases production of simple and rudimentary tasks quickly but diminishes performance in tasks that require ingenuity or creativity.

Intrinsic motivation is the best push for greatness in any given field. With intrinsic motivation, you can apply grit and eventually make it to the top of any field.

Motivated to Not be Perfect

I don’t wish to be stuck being the expert and doing one thing for the rest of my life. Naturally, I don’t have the intrinsic motivation to be the best at anything.

What I want, personally, is to understand and appreciate the world at large.

I cannot accomplish my goal through focusing on one thing only. I must stretch for something different; something incredibly hard and also mediocre.

I’m going to be a professional factotum.

Factotums are good at many things but not acclaimed for any one thing like a genius, expert, or savant.

By being the top 10% of any and every category entered into, the goal is to be able to appreciate the difficulty of expert level players in the field. Having many perspectives of professional-level players across multiple disciplines will provide insight otherwise untouched or forgotten.

Through top 10% in many fields, you are able to become a unique individual with as little as two or three fields combined. Your value skyrockets with much less work required.

For me, I’m an American Sign Language interpreter who programs… There are very few of us in this world; we are desperately needed. And I want to be valuable and needed.

If I want to be more valuable, I can add a category, like instructional psychology, through 1000 or 2000 hours of work (a.k.a. dedicated practice).

Conclusion

I have a history of trying things, failing, starting something new, pushing really hard for a few months and then switching. I would not appreciate life as much or become a valuable asset to society without those early years.

There is a phenomenal Quora question on this topic which is worth the read. The answers a heavily tilted on doing many things rather that one thing only, but the explanations are worth considering.

You can decide who to be in life. I’d feign imagine a situation now where being the top expert in one field of study/work would be more life satisfying than working hard and appreciating many things.