“Are you a multi-tasker?” is such a cliché during a job interview yet you can expect to hear it almost every time you interview. The honest answer is no. No you can’t. And neither can the interviewer. Why? Because only 2% of the entire population can truly multi-task. It’s true. That’s why driving and texting on your cell is illegal and was the number two cause of accident-related deaths next to impaired driving in 2014.
There are superpeople out there who can multi-task like robots. In fact they perform even better when they multi-task than when they unitask. The main reason is genetics. You are either born with the neural architecture that allows you to overcome the usual multitasking challenges, or you aren’t. You might be able to improve your multi-tasking abilities but you will never reach the heights of these super-brains. It’s like taking a computer course in order to measure up to Bill Gates’ potential. It just won’t happen.
Not to worry. The fact is that people would rather work with someone they like than someone who is good at the job. People don’t mind incompetence if they like the person. That’s why idiots get promoted when other people are truly much better at the job in question than the person who gets it. And it doesn’t matter if that person’s colleagues think she is the biggest wart. As long as the Boss likes her, she’s in. Kind of reassuring isn’t it?
“In any of us there’s a part that’s very pragmatic and there’s a part that’s very creative, and there are times in life when we give more time and space and energy to one side than the other.” I don’t know who said or blogged that but it applies beautifully in this situation. You can’t be equally creative and equally pragmatic at the same time. Unless you’re Andy Warhol who was both at the same time. He put a Coca-Cola bottle on a canvas and said “this is you.” He wasn’t trying to be abstract in the slightest. The message was pop culture and the media was plain and ordinary. When did this stuff get to be so significant to us, to the point of defining us? (Paula Strasberg once told Marilyn Monroe “think about Frankie Sinatra and Coca-Cola,” to get her motivated for a supposedly All-American role she was playing. Whether or not she was able to do so with any success is debatable. Marilyn really wasn’t a great actress so my guess is no. Multi-tasking is out of the reach of most of us. Even icons.
Warhol was in that 2% who could almost multi-task except that he came up with the cool ideas for his work then got his people to put it together for him. Even Warhol didn’t really multi-task but he built a reputation and a career on appearing to do so with a little creativity mixed in. Ironically, that in itself might be the true meaning of multi-tasking. If recruiters are asking us how good we are at it, then maybe the illusion of multi-tasking is the best most of us can hope for and that most of us will accept as multi-tasking without realizing it.
Now that I can do. I think.