Are you a “multipotentialite”?
Interesting word, right? It’s a word I heard first time just the other night. As part of the course work for a class I’m taking, we had to watch a video of a Ted talk. In it, career coach Emilie Wapnick speaks about the “multipotentialite” — those among us who have many interests, many jobs during a lifetime, and many interlocking potentials. That short video presentation had it big impact on my perception about the way I have lived my own life thus far.
Who is Emily Wapnick?
According to the biographical information provided along with the Ted Talk, Emilie Wapnick has been a musician/songwriter, a web designer, filmmaker, writer, law student and entrepreneur. “This is how I’ve always lived,” she writes, “moving from interest to interest, building on my skills in different areas, and synthesizing the knowledge I acquire along the way.”
As a career and life coach, she helps other people with wide and varied interests understand and appreciate who they are, in a society that asks us to pick a path and stick with it, no matter what. It’s a very traditional way of doing things, the way we kind of expect life to go. Decide what you’re going to do in life and that’s what you do. Permanently. Especially if you paid to go to some type of college or vocational school to train for that career. If you decide to go another direction, everybody seems to want to know why you changed your mind – as if they had paid for your education or training right out of their own pocket.
Take a few minutes and check it out:
I was unfamiliar with the word multipotentialite, But as I watched the talk I kept thinking “yes!’” and “that’s me!” Since I was a little kid in elementary school, I have always tended to excel at certain things, flourish at them, and then get bored or distracted by something else.
I pursued a double major in college because I couldn’t settle on one thing. Then I went into a JD/MBA program because yet again, I couldn’t decide between 2 different things. While in the third year of that program I lost the vision in one eye because of something ultimately diagnosed as optic neuritis. I could not physically handle the massive amount of reading and writing the graduate school program required, so I had to withdraw. It was upsetting to me because of the time and money I had invested, more than because of the end goal, because at that point I had new goals. By the time my eyesight had recovered sufficiently to try and enroll again, I was no longer interested in returning to the program.
I ended up getting my securities licenses, writing freelance, and running a small business. My abbreviated legal and business education proved very helpful to me, but I mentally berated myself for a long time about the wasted money and the loans I still had to pay back.
I’m always driven to do the best I can do with everything that grabs my sincere interest. I could fill the page with things that interested me enough that I explored them above and beyond the usual means. I will just give 2 examples. When I started a nonprofit, I spent 2 years getting my certification in nonprofit management from Johns Hopkins, so I could do it to the best of my ability. I spent years and years honing my genealogical research skills, to the point that people were coming to me for help researching their own histories. It was hard for me to say “No”, but as an amateur I was reluctant to charge for my time. So, I researched to find out the best certification program available in genealogy, and spent 6 months doing intensive work through Boston College to achieve it. Now I feel justified charging for my time when I take on a client. There are no laws or regulations that say I had to do it this way. But my personality would not allow for anything else but blazing ahead full throttle.
Back when my husband and I were going to be shopping for a house, we decided it would be a good idea to each get our real estate license in order to gain a deeper understanding of the process and the potential pitfalls. Part of the process was then working for 2 real estate offices. In addition to our regular jobs. When I am deeply interested in something, I’m willing to commit a substantial amount of time and energy to it so I can achieve the best possible outcome.
For a long time, I thought that this changeability of mine was a negative quality. I thought it meant that I was ‘flaky’. Scattered. After all, I didn’t have otherworldly levels of talent like renaissance man Leonardo DaVinci. Instead, when I thought of myself, I saw me as a personification of the old adage ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none.’ It took a long time for me to accept that my adaptability and varied interests could be construed as a good thing. My boyfriend through all of it, who later became my husband, would reassure me and tell me that “Education is never wasted.” Life has proven over and over again that he was right, but it still felt like a flaw of mine.
Just about a year ago my eldest child came to me and told me that the very expensive college program she had fought to get into at a top University, was not what she wanted after all. She was afraid that I and everybody else would label her a failure. Even though I was really surprised by her revelation, I totally agreed that she could not stay doing whole life something that she already knew was not the right thing for her.
Is she a multipotentialite type of person? I have no idea yet. Maybe she has a single true passion and just hasn’t discovered it yet. And maybe not. I can’t tell you that I’m going to make her sit down next to me and watch this Ted Talk. She should have somebody else explain to her so brilliantly that it’s really OK to not be completely devoted to a particular career, and sure about what you want do with your life. If you are a person who has the ‘one single passion’ burning inside, I think that’s wonderful! But if you don’t have that, you have to know that the path that’s right for you is your own kind of wonderful.
It is only been within the past year that I came up with a way to share and make good use of many of my main interests under one umbrella, and try to bring good things to people. If you’re reading this, you probably know that my blog site is all about sharing and bringing people together, and helping people know that none of us is ever really alone in a negative way. The blog expansion in November is going to let everybody experience that on even more personal levels. I really think all my varied experience has been leading to this point.
This video really impactfully made the point to me that I am not just making the best of tough situations – I am actually am embracing my own natural way to be the best version of myself. For me, it’s good to be a multipotentialite.