by S. Thomasin Barsotti
When he was alive and working with clients, there was a term Johnson O’Connor was notorious for throwing around. He can be heard using it on old recordings, and it frequently appears in his writings: “The Too Many Aptitude Person.” He even wrote a book called The Too Many Aptitude Woman just to immortalize the idea. The sentiment was one of sympathy more than anything; believing that the use of one’s aptitudes was critical to job satisfaction, O’Connor would chuckle ruefully—as a grandfather might—at those individuals who had more aptitudes than might be reasonably exercised in a single day. While it could never be considered a bad thing to be talented, O’Connor worried that people with many more aptitudes than the average person may struggle to find happiness—that something may always be missing for them. Megan Larmer is a former waitress turned academic who tested with the foundation in 2011. She turned out to be one of O’Connor’s “Too Many Aptitude” clients.
These days, we drop the “Too.” (“Many Aptitude Person” rings a bit more positive.) Perhaps the job market has shifted and there are more opportunities for people with many aptitudes to flex them in a single role. Or maybe we’re just optimists. In any case, for someone like Megan, who scores high on the majority of our tests, discovering that she had many talents taught her something about herself as she looked to leave her waitressing job and find that next big thing in her life. “I would have to choose some aptitudes to prioritize in my professional life, and exercise others [in] hobbies in order to feel balanced and fulfilled.” While work-life balance is important for everyone, it becomes even more essential for the Many Aptitude Person, who often will have talents unused in his or her profession.
“I felt unsure of how to communicate my strengths to a potential employer,” she says, recalling a concern about jumping back into back into the job race. She had a lot of skills and knowledge that she had acquired over the years, but didn’t know what to emphasize in a new career search. “After the testing, I was able to focus more clearly on the path I wanted to follow,” she explains, “I explored several career options, and finally settled on going back to school for an MA in anthropology.”
Some of the test results were unexpected: “I was surprised to learn [I’m not] innately horrible at math!” Others provided a solid confirmation of things she already felt to be true: “It was incredibly helpful to hear that I work best as an expert or leader who interacts with groups collaboratively, but is not primarily working in a group setting.” She adds that this bit of insight also helped her in establishing herself as the best candidate for her current job as a program director at a nonprofit. “I was able to identify the tasks that I would most enjoy and excel at, [and] advocate for those as part of my portfolio.”
Among her many talents, Megan scores high in both divergent thinking aptitudes (Ideaphoria and Foresight) as well as both convergent thinking aptitudes (Inductive Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning). She muses on how the combination benefits her but also, at times, hinders her. “The mix…is a great help in academic writing. In personal interactions, I can feel extremely excited and energized by consideration and debate of theories. I also can get frustrated when people ignore theory, or when they ignore practical considerations.” She has a sense of humor about it, adding: “In short, I’m hard to please.” That makes sense. Megan is someone who operates on a different level in many ways, scoring at the 95th percentile or higher in six areas.
It’s really true of Many Aptitude individuals that finding outlets for everything can be challenging, even time-prohibitive. They often have to stay very busy to feel satisfied, and some may feel it essential to create their own job or start their own business. I ask Megan if that’s relatable, and she responds, “Heck yes.” As she searches for outlets, she can have a tendency to over-extend herself, or to become impatient at times. Since the testing she says she is trying to accept the fact that she will always be a bit restless. One remedy for this restlessness is travel, which Megan is passionate about. Turns out, traveling provides many outlets for her aptitudes as well, especially her Silograms (word learning) ability. “It gives me the chance to explore new systems and try to understand them, to see lots of visual and performance art, and to try my hand at a few words of a new language,” she says. Megan loves to cook, not only for the systems involved, but also for the hands-on activity and quick gratification. She also just joined a singing group, so she has an outlet for her auditory aptitudes—yep, she has those too!
There are challenges ahead, but also great potential for Megan as she journeys forward. She makes a final remark about how different her life is now from just a few years ago, and the impact of discovering her natural gifts at Johnson O’Connor: “It was incredibly illuminating and empowering for me, and I think back often to what I learned over those two days.”
When I ask her what else might be in store, she says, “More travel…and who knows? Another cup of coffee.” She probably needs it.