Emilie Wapnick: Why some of us don’t have one true calling

“A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits

I worried that there was something wrong with this, and something wrong with me for being unable to stick with anything. I worried that I was afraid of commitment, or that I was scattered, or that I was self-sabotaging, afraid of my own success.

The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.

But what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way? What if there are a lot of different subjects that you’re curious about, and many different things you want to do? Well, there is no room for someone like you in this framework. And so you might feel alone. You might feel like you don’t have a purpose. And you might feel like there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. What you are is a multipotentialite.”

It’s easy to see your multipotentiality as a limitation or an affliction that you need to overcome. But what I’ve learned through speaking with people and writing about these ideas on my website, is that there are some tremendous strengths to being this way.

One: idea synthesis. That is, combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection. (…) Innovation happens at the intersections. That’s where the new ideas come from. And multipotentialites, with all of their backgrounds, are able to access a lot of these points of intersection.

The second multipotentialite superpower is rapid learning. When multipotentialites become interested in something, we go hard. We observe everything we can get our hands on. We’re also used to being beginners, because we’ve been beginners so many times in the past, and this means that we’re less afraid of trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zones. What’s more, many skills are transferable across disciplines, and we bring everything we’ve learned to every new area we pursue, so we’re rarely starting from scratch.

The third multipotentialite superpower is adaptability; that is, the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation. Abe Cajudo is sometimes a video director, sometimes a web designer,sometimes a Kickstarter consultant, sometimes a teacher, and sometimes, apparently, James Bond.

Idea synthesis, rapid learning and adaptability: three skills that multipotentialites are very adept at, and three skills that they might lose if pressured to narrow their focus. As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.

In fact, some of the best teams are comprised of a specialist and multipotentialite paired together. The specialist can dive in deep and implement ideas, while the multipotentialite brings a breadth of knowledge to the project. It’s a beautiful partnership. But we should all be designing lives and careersthat are aligned with how we’re wired. And sadly, multipotentialites are largely being encouraged simply to be more like their specialist peers.

(…) If you’re a specialist at heart, then by all means, specialize. That is where you’ll do your best work.

But to the multipotentialites in the room, including those of you who may have just realized in the last 12 minutes that you are one — to you I say: embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.”