You are probably thinking, “What the….yet another classification, just another way to put me into a box.”
The term “multipotentialite” comes from Emilie Wapnick and her website Puttylike.
It stems from the psychology term Multipotentiality. The best definition I found came from an article titled, “Multipotentiality” by Tamara Fisher.
Tamara Fisher wrote:
Multipotentiality is the state of having many exceptional talents, any one or more of which could make for a great career for that person. Gifted children often (though of course not always) have multipotentiality. Their advanced intellectual abilities and their intense curiosity make them prime candidates for excelling in multiple areas. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, they have many realistic options for future careers. But on the downside, some of them will struggle mightily trying to decide which choice to make. Particularly in the last couple years of high school and the first couple years of college, this monumentous decision with so many great possible outcomes can be a source of debilitating stress. The choice is “exhausting and stressful,” as one of my students said this year.
Barabara Sher, in her book, Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams, called these people scanners.
So, simply put, a multipotentialite is someone who has a lot of interests!
I can honestly say that I am a multipotentialite.
I wrote a post called What If You are Not Passionate About Anything back in 2012. It is found 30-50 times every single day by Google search. There are a lot of you who are wondering why you do not have one true calling.
In the post, I described my Birkman assessment interests:
- I am high mechanical. I like putting things together, both physically and logically. I am a recovering engineer.
- I am high social service. I like helping people. I spent most of my career in Learning and Development.
- I am high scientific. I like researching topics and discovering new ideas.
- I am high persuasive. I like to sell my ideas.
I have bounced around from job to job, industry to industry, and career to career because, characteristically, I get bored.
I am not driven by any one passion or interest.
Multipotentialites and Innovation
Wapnick writes on her About page:
Steve Jobs once defined creativity as “connecting things,” and said that sadly, most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences. (Check out the whole quote, it’s great.)
Innovation happens when you take knowledge from one field and use it to solve a problem in a completely unrelated field.
To stifle your puttylike nature is a crime, not just in terms of limiting your own potential, but to society as a whole. As multipotentialites, we must use our gift to innovate. It’s in our genes.
Innovation is the reason you’ve been blessed with this trait, and it’s what you’ve been called on to do. Never forget that.
Are You a Multipotentialite?
My guess is about 10-15% of general population demonstrate multipotentialite characteristics.
You might be a multipotentialite if you:
- Dive into a topic deeply but eventually grow tired of it and move on.
- Have divergent interests like business and art
- Change jobs every 3-5 years because you grow bored with the area
- Been referred to as a renaissance man or woman
The problem is the current economy wants specialists. Previously, I wrote a post called, Are You a Generalist or Specialist, and I got lots of feedback from people who are generalists. They commented that they are no longer sought after in today’s highly specialized work environment.
Society tells us we are supposed to have one passion. That does not work for multipotentialites.
Take a moment and watch Emile Wapnick’s TEDx talk on this topic.
Do you see yourself as a multipotentialite?