I know, multipotentialite looks like a typo— not even sure it’s a real word. Let me explain.
In 2003 I left Disney Feature Animation. The studio was great, I was proud to be a part of some iconic movies, my income was terrific and the people were amazing — some of whom, to this day, are some of my closest pals. But I was becoming creatively unfulfilled. Adding to this restless feeling, the Florida Animation Studio, where I’d spent 11 years, appeared to be in danger of dissolving. I also felt like I’d learned what I was supposed to learn at Disney, and I needed a new challenge. The Spice of My Variety was gaining strength, long before I even knew what was going on. Have you ever felt this way?
I was always fascinated with the fine arts and gallery scene due to some landscape artists (Len Chmiel, Scott Christensen) that I’d gotten to know personally. I also admired my uncle, Phil Kooser, who was a successful cowboy & western, landscape and mural artist in Yakima, Washington.
Go big or stay home.
Based on this fascination, I made the bold move to leave the “security” of my 9–5 job to become a traditional fine art painter and sell my work in galleries. So I talked my wife into moving to Colorado (which was no easy task because she hates the cold). The stunning landscape was a perfect fit and I was eager to start fresh. I remember having a conversation with another gallery artist who said, “it’ll probably take you at least 5 years to become established as a fine artist.” And, being young, impatient, overconfident and somewhat naive I thought, “nah, I’ve got this. It won’t take that long.” Fast forward 5 years…(no comment), I was beginning to gain traction as a serious artist. It was exciting and challenging. I loved the variety and I found my creative mojo again —creating, showing and selling work in several Colorado and California galleries. Things were looking positive in my career at that time.
I was on the precipice of something wonderful, and it felt great. Early 2008 was excellent for painting sales — late 2008, not so much. As we all know, the U.S. economy took a hit in October. Many industries suffered as a result — including the fine art world, and my world. Many galleries suffered or closed. Quick, think, what to do? I’d befriended an art college instructor in Denver who asked if I’d be interested in teaching. Another challenge was presented. This time, however, the opportunity came out of left field — I didn’t seek it out. See what happens when your eyes are wide open? “Hello, spice of my variety!”
Now, if you know me personally, I’m a pretty shy, low-key guy. Lecturing in a classroom in front of 19–22 year olds (public speaking on a small scale), seemed very intimidating — and it was. Teaching seemed so foreign to me and it took a little time to feel comfortable. But I had already set the wheels in motion with variety as a choice and part of my life, so I decided to try it. Even though I didn’t have teaching experience, turned out I was pretty good at it.
“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” -Christine Caine
It felt right. I was helping others, which was new. Here’s a little secret about artists and similar creatives, we can become a little self-absorbed. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody. Teaching taught me to open up and realize that it’s not about me. It’s one of the reason’s we’re put on this planet — to help others. Too idealistic? Maybe. But don’t we all need a little help sometimes? Helping young people navigate the world of art and animation with my knowledge was a gift. Also, a benefit to me as well because I learned so much! (young people are so well informed nowadays).
“Teaching is a wonderful way to learn.” -Carol S. Dweck
Add fine art and teaching to the “Spice of My Variety” list. After 5 years the teaching stint ended for a variety of reasons (another story for another time). I may return, but for now I decided to move on to other opportunities.
Stay in your Lanes
Transition after transition. This was becoming a pattern. My initial thoughts were, “Why didn’t this thing work out?” But then my optimistic thoughts took over and became, “I can’t wait for the next thing!” While I am convinced that this way of life is authentic (I’m finally comfortable with this — it took me a while), I’ve never seen it characterized so competently as in the Ted Talk with Emilie Wapnick:
Now it makes even more sense, I’m a “multipotentialite.”
Someone with many interests, creative pursuits and jobs over one lifetime, no “one true calling” the way specialists do.
It is no longer just about having a variety of things in my career, it’s more important for me to learn about a variety of things. This is paramount. I have since added multiple lanes for my creativity:
Illustration & Film
One more “effing” thing
Failure, the other “F” word. Trial and error. This is the risk for a multipotentialite. When you try different things and push yourself, things are bound to go sideways. Things don’t always go as planned, and it can hurt. It can be demoralizing. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where perfection is applauded and our failures can go viral and be broadcasted to millions. This is when the ego loves to step in and say, “Don’t do it, play it safe. You don’t want the scrutiny, do you?” Shut your pie-hole.
I no longer listen to the pride & ego voices in my head. They’re useless.
“The greatest failure is the failure to try.” — William Ward
By the way, if you learn from them, how can they be failures? I always learn more from my missteps than I do from victories. Don’t we all? It’s the human experience. It’s okay.
Maybe you’re not a multipotentialite, or anything close. But at the risk of sounding like Tony Robbins at a High School Pep Rally, I would encourage you to look inward. Who are you? Are you missing something? Are you fearful of life? Learning? Trying something different? I understand this can be daunting with mortgages, car payments, bills etc., but life is short. Maybe it’s as simple as “you just need a change.” Be bold. Be fearless. For growth, knowledge and for the sheer spice of it.
See you next blog.