On Being a Polymath

PersonalMar 2021

I feel like a liar when I tell people I'm a designer. Correction: not because I'm not a designer or not good at it — I am — but because it's not an accurate expression of what I do. My coming of age into the workforce was defined by a white MacBook and internet access. Like many, I learned a ton of digital tools and emulated from worldly people who pieced themselves together in unique ways. The result is that I've become a minotaur of sorts: head of a bull, arms of a designer, hands of a coder, heart of a communicator.

When I start a job, no one can quite define what I do. Two months in, I'm deep in the company story, writing pitch decks for sales, re-designing the brand and building our corporate website from scratch. I'm not an exception here, some of my friends are in a similar predicament.

My value is clearer at the intersection of my digital skills. I'm a better communicators when I design the messaging, a better entrepreneur when I code the product, a better actor when I also write the material. The magic seems to happen at the margins.

Bylines, profiles, and Medium posts, pressure us to be someone. But my impression is that we're all in a perpetual search for our calling. and, as we explore, gain new skills that end up informing what we do for a living. When I level with people and, to paraphrase Judd Appatow, tell them I'm figuring it out and patching it up to make it look like I have a clue, that's when I get the most interesting responses.

Turns out there's a polymath inside each one of us.

That's the paradox of the whole thing! We're told to find a niche and specialize. But the truth is that there's a kaleidoscope of ideas, pursuits, aspirations, and a good dose of weirdness hidden behind our bylines.

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