For multipotentialite Emilie Wapnick, life’s about following every opportunity that ignites something within you
When I was 17, a school advisor asked our class to anonymously submit our college-related questions. As the advisor read my question aloud, a look of confusion swept over the room.
”Are we allowed to take maths classes?” she read. My classmates giggled. We were in an art programme. ”Why would anyone voluntarily choose to take a maths class?” one of them asked in disbelief. I smiled along, trying to hide the fact that it was I who had submitted the question.
What I didn’t realise back then was that I was, and am, a multipotentialite. A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. We become fascinated by various subjects, absorb all of the information we can get our hands on, then eventually either lose interest or simply fall in love with something new. We often have multiple projects and passions on the go at any given time. My multipotentiality explained my desire to study both art and math. I enjoyed them both.
I used to think that my zigzagging nature and hyphenated credentials were a problem, that I would never find my ‘one true calling’, or be able to stick with something long enough to make a living at it. Worst of all, I worried that there was something wrong with me for being unable to choose one thing.
In my mid-twenties, I began learning more about my ‘curse’. I started speaking with other people who had multiple passions and publishing my ideas online. What I learned was that having several interests wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I met successful artists who worked in multiple media, serial entrepreneurs, a lawyer who was also a critically-acclaimed novelist, a freelancer who did web design, video editing, and consulting, a psychotherapist, and just about every combination you can imagine.
It turns out there are people in most sectors who are tapping into their love and knowledge of multiple disciplines on a regular basis. These people also tend to be leaders in their fields.
It was once true that becoming an expert in a narrow field was the key to financial success. However, as the market becomes more saturated and the economy more unpredictable, it is becoming increasingly important to be versatile, to be able to pick up new skills quickly, and to be able to work with teams in different disciplines.
As author Daniel Pink explains, it is the cross-pollinators who are becoming desirable in the marketplace of the twenty-first century: ‘What’s the most prevalent, and perhaps most important, prefix of our times? Multi.
Our jobs require multitasking. Our communities are multicultural. Our entertainment is multimedia. While detailed knowledge of a single area once guaranteed success, today the top rewards go to those who can operate with equal aplomb in starkly different realms.’
Fast Company Magazinerecently published a series of articles on what it coins, ‘Generation Flux’ – young professionals who are embracing their plurality and taking on projects that interest them, regardless of medium or field. They argue that it is the individuals and organisations who can adapt in order to meet the needs of the market who are going to thrive in the new economy.
Many of us grow up hearing the message that we need to choose one thing to be about. It can cause us a lot of anxiety, and make us feel as though there’s something wrong with us. It can also force us into a box, and lead to a life of unhappiness where we feel stifled and unable to express the breadth of who we are.
The good news is that the world is changing rapidly, and as careers become less linear, multipotentialites are becoming increasingly desirable. So instead of choosing one thing and denying all of your other interests, why not explore ways of integrating your many passions into your life?
Not only is it more possible than ever to work in multiple realms, it is one of the best ways to make an impact in the world.
Find out more at puttylike.com
Click here to watch: Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling | Emilie Wapnick | TEDxBend
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