The Rise of the ‘Multipotentialite’

Why ‘one true calling’ doesn’t work for me
…and may not work for you.

3-5 minute read. Cup of tea is optional but recommended.


There is a distinct brand of wonder to found in the act of ‘conquering’.

It sounds somewhat power hungry—and perhaps it is—but that’s not how I intend the term.

When I say ‘conquer’, I mean in the same way that someone would ‘conquer’ Mt Everest: not merely to stand upon a large rock, but to achieve the inevitable knowledge, wisdom, understanding and personal growth that come with achieving such a feat.

While I have little interest in scaling Mt Everest at this point in my life, I do thoroughly relish the opportunity to ascend the mountains in my mind. We all do this daily. Through the challenges we inevitably face, we are constantly learning, experiencing and growing whether we know it or not.

I find the feeling of clarity that comes with standing calmly on the summit of a supposedly insurmountable mind-mountain is somewhat addictive, and thus, wish to accelerate the process.

However, once I’ve faced the challenge, ascended the mountain, reached the top and drunk in the view, I rarely want to set up camp, and would almost never build a house. I’d rather descend the mountain and move onto the next one, armed with everything I’ve learned from previous mountains.

I think this is ultimately why I’ve naturally gravitated toward a career mindset of the ‘multipotentialite’.

I vividly remember the moment when I first heard the term; I was mowing my lawn, listening to podcasts (thank you noise cancelling headphones…and podcasts*). The podcaster was interviewing a special guest: Emilie Wapnick; herself a multipotentialite who had coined the term, as well as a set of sub-groupings that ‘multipods’ (the shortened term) tend to fall into.

I didn’t waste time embracing the term, and my own ‘multipotentiality’; I instantly knew I was one.

On the tail end of my own ‘Quarter Life Crisis’, it was the permission slip I needed to make a move toward a work lifestyle that actually works for me, rather than the one that I feel should work for me, no matter what people’s faces looked like when I casually drop the term into conversation.

What is a ‘Multipotentialite’?

Here’s Emilie’s definition, taken from her website (puttylike.com):

“A multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both). Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.”

There are several alternate terms (scanner, polymath, slasher among others), but my favourite—most likely because of the somewhat mysterious and romantic overtones—is Renaissance Person.

The path we’re “supposed” to take.

Many will argue the merits of choosing one career path, and sticking with it for life, ascending the ranks and eventually retiring. If this works for someone, fantastic. I’m truly happy for them, and I hope the career path in question fills its holder with joy.

For me, it sounds like a prison. It sounds like enforced time-wasting.

As I tackle a new skill or project, there is often a very intense learning phase that follows. It is here that the multipotentialite thrives; the ‘learning gauge’ peaking constantly. But once the learning gauge drops below a certain point, something very predictable happens: it gets easy, and we get bored. It’s time to keep moving.

Of course, one may also argue (with potential validity) that the path of a multipotentialite is a flippant, impulsive and unpredictable one; that one may become a ‘Jack of all trades and a master of none’. If undertaken with flippancy, this may well be the outcome. But what if the path undertaken with the same degree of careful planning, rigid goal setting and intrinsic motivation as any other career path one could imagine?

The rise of the multipotentialite.

Interestingly, it seems that more and more, people are moving away from this traditional notion of a career. In fact, I would argue that the person willing not only to diversify and remain flexible, but also to actively seek multiple careers, vocations and skills may well come out on top, in both fulfilment and financial terms.

Having multiple career and creative interests give you options and experience; not only in terms of what looks good on a resume (which, considering that the resume of any given multipotentialite reads like it belongs to 10 different people, can be a blessing or a curse), but in terms of understanding your individual strengths, weaknesses and most importantly, the type of work that makes you come alive.

This is the best part. As with anything you practice, you learn and get better over time.

Another benefit which I’d be remiss not to mention: you’re removing—from the conscious of your future self—much of the wondering, worry and anxiety about the path (or paths) not taken.

Too much to do, and not enough time.

There is so much I want to do.

In fact, there is too much, and this may well be the ultimate dilemma facing the multipotentialite.

The simple, hard truth is that we can’t do everything…and thank goodness. We must prioritise. I always look toward something that—for some reason— excites me; for which I feel the tug of curiosity.

My list of ‘conquerings’, thus far, include: Tap Dance Performance, Videography, Graphic Design, Picture Framing, Web Design, Coffee Making (Baristadom, as I call it)…the list goes on.

Remember, ‘conquer’ is a subjective term. I did not necessarily set out to become a master at any one of these. They are on the list because I have reached a point of equilibrium, where the personal reward gained is outweighed by the desire to dive deeper in the unknown, elsewhere.

The future list (a small selection): Acting, Writing (more…lots more), Apple Farming, Counselling and Psychology, Architecture, Philosophy.

Of course, as we constantly learn, the list constantly changes; adding, subtracting, altering and refining. It’s important to acknowledge which items don’t ever seem to leave an otherwise constantly changing list. What ideas just don’t go away? They may well be the ones to act on.

It’s also important to note that the items on the list (or what I refer to simply, and a tad predictably, as ‘projects’) are of greatly varying time scale. While it didn’t take me long to conquer Baristadom (at least to a point in which the desire to continue to improve my latte art was outweighed by the desire to move along), I fully acknowledge that I may never conquer writing, psychology or philosophy (and in these cases, probably wouldn’t want to).

Lastly, it’s important to note which of the mountains you climb for what reason. Which do you climb for work, for money, for fulfilment, for a hobby for pure personal enjoyment? It often seems obvious, but it’s possibly the most important distinction to make when choosing a project to move forward with.

The most beautiful view.

Perhaps, in ascending an undiscovered mountain, you’ll arrive at the top to find the most beautiful view; one in which you can’t bear to leave behind. At that point, it may be best to build a house, or perhaps even a life.

But for many, I think the one true calling is in fact not having just one true calling, and when the time comes to look back, there will be a rich selection of experience and memory draw from.

If, in fact, we are each destined for only one true calling (which I don’t believe for a moment), then the multipotentialite may have a strong advantage toward finding it by the process of elimination. And if not, well, it’ll be, at the very least, a life of adventure and exploration; not wasted, and certainly not boring.