What do you want to be when you grow up?
Well, if you’re not sure you want to do just one thing for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls “multipotentialites” — who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime. Are you one?
Developing multiple talents is an overview of some of the key aspects of personality and inner life that affect how multi-talented people make use of that complexity, with references to creativity research, plus quotes by psychologists, creativity coaches and personal development leaders, as well as perspectives by actors, painters, novelists, musicians and other creative people.
A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits
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. Here are three multipotentialite super powers.
One: idea synthesis.
That is, combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection. Sha Hwang and Rachel Binx drew from their shared interests in cartography, data visualization, travel, mathematics and design, when they founded Meshu. Meshu is a company that creates custom geographically-inspired jewelry. Sha and Rachel came up with this unique idea not despite, but because of their eclectic mix of skills and experiences. 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.
Nora Dunn is a full-time traveler and freelance writer. As a child concert pianist, she honed an incredible ability to develop muscle memory. Now, she’s the fastest typist she knows.
Before becoming a writer, Nora was a financial planner. She had to learn the finer mechanics of saleswhen she was starting her practice, and this skill now helps her write compelling pitches to editors. It is rarely a waste of time to pursue something you’re drawn to, even if you end up quitting. You might apply that knowledge in a different field entirely, in a way that you couldn’t have anticipated.
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.
He’s valuable because he does good work. He’s even more valuable because he can take on various roles, depending on his clients’ needs. Fast Company magazine identified adaptability as the single most important skill to develop in order to thrive in the 21st century. The economic world is changing so quickly and unpredictably that it is the individuals and organizations that can pivot in order to meet the needs of the market that are really going to thrive.
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.