In a conversation I had last week with a potential client, she told me that she had so many passionate interests that she could never narrow it down to just one to turn into a business. So of course, I asked her “Who says you have to choose?”
Have you ever asked yourself…
- What if I have more than one true calling?
- Why do I keep changing my mind about what I want to do?
- Shouldn’t I just focus on one career?
- What if I choose a career and it’s not the right one, and I regret it later?
- Why should I commit to one career when I know I’ll just get bored with it eventually?
Fortunately, there’s no rule that says you have to pick one thing and stick with it for the rest of your life!
For some people, it’s perfectly clear to them from the get-go exactly what they would like to do with their lives. But others have many different interests, talents, and skills, and they can’t (or don’t want to) choose a single passion to pursue and put aside all the others.
Author Emilie Wapnick, founder of Puttylike.com, coined the term Multipotentialites or “Multipods.” When I first encountered the term, I thought it sounded like some kind of alien or robot or maybe something to do with chemistry! Then I began to wonder if maybe I might be a Multipod myself.
Maybe you’ve heard about this concept under a different name – author Barbara Sher calls these people Scanners. And others might call such a person with many different interests and talents a Polymath or a Renaissance man or woman.
So what exactly is a Multipotentialite? In short, it’s a person who has an intense curiosity and desire to learn about many unrelated areas of interest.
Emilie herself is a great example – she first worked as a serious musician and songwriter. However, she got bored with that and moved on to work as a web designer, filmmaker, and writer, and she even attended law school! After that, she became interested in entrepreneurship, launched a business, and eventually became a coach and author.
All of these pursuits were personal choices that she made out of a deep, genuine interest. Even law school was a way of exploring her fascination with law; it was never really her intention to actually make a living at it. She reports that her restless seeking of knowledge isn’t a matter of needing to overachieve; when she no longer feels inspired in a field, she moves on to study something else. Some people call this quitting; Emilie calls it growth. She says “The only constant in my life is shape-shifting, exploration, and evolution.”
In her excellent book, Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher offers a perfect description of what it feels like to be a Scanner:
“To Scanners, the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities,
and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pockets.”
Unfortunately, she says, they’re starving in that candy store. They want to sample everything, but they believe they’re only allowed to pick a single path.
If they force themselves to make a choice, they may be unhappy forever after. But if they never make a choice, they may end up doing nothing at all and feeling like a failure. Because they don’t conform to the expected behaviors, they worry that there must be something wrong with them. Others may accuse them of being lazy or selfish, or they may even be diagnosed with ADHD or autism. The reality is that they’re just wired differently.
Steve Jobs once said that creativity is the ability to connect things. And because Scanners/Multipods are inherently programmed to seek out diversity of thought and life experiences, they’re uniquely suited to find those dots to connect… which is why they’re capable of great creativity and why innovative, outside-the-box thinking is natural for them.
So whether you call yourself a Scanner, a Polymath, a Renaissance Man/Woman or a Multipod, don’t fight your nature – embrace it! The world needs more of them.