Emilie Wapnick is a career coach who celebrates the idea of a “multipotentialite“. In essence, it is a title for a person who has many interests, many jobs over a lifetime, and “many interlocking potentials.” I recently sat down for a coffee with an old friend of mine, and we talked about the idea of being young, indecisive, and way too open-minded.
Being little and innocent, getting asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” illicit some sort of great excitement. Your mind starts going over the possibility of being a princess, or a renowned performer at Carnegie Hall, or you remember how “cool” the school janitor is and you become so sure that your aspiration in life is to be a school janitor. What we don’t know, or think about at that stage of life is the fact that you have no ties with the royal family, you can’t play an instrument for shit, and being a school janitor is probably not the best paying job, and is heaps of physical labor.
When we grow up, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” goes from being, as Emilie puts it, the “cute exercise it once was,” to the “thing that keeps us up at night.” This is because we are coerced to believe that we must select a single path that will determine our future and our lifestyle, and that seemingly, we won’t really be able to change our mind afterwards…but why don’t we talk about people that lead multiple careers? Teachers that are restaurant owners and professional dog groomers, athletes that are also psychotherapists, or violinists that are designers too?
In our society we are so inclined to romanticize the “one” – the one true calling, the one true love, our single destiny, our one hobby that we devote our spare time to after work. So what if you’re like me, a multipotentialite? Emilie’s talk taught me not to view multipotentiality as some sort of plague, but more so a quality that comes with a little extra bundle of advantages, including: idea synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability.
Instead of being troubled by the fact that we are multipotentialites, we should be celebrating the ability to be more creative, more entrepreneurial, and more malleable in nature by combining several fields and an eclectic mix of skills to generate something unique.