Quick note for newcomers: multipassionates, also known as multipotentialites or scanners, are people who have many different interests and creative pursuits in life, and no “one true calling” the way specialists do. They thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills.
Our society is only starting to recognize multipotentialites as normal and acceptable thanks to the efforts of pioneering multipotentialites like Barbara Sher and Emily Wapnik.
Mainstream culture celebrates specialists, and you’ve probably grown up with many limiting beliefs about needing to specialize, or choose a narrow career path in order to succeed. You are pressured to conform.
To succeed as a multipotentialite, you need to recognize the unconscious beliefs that our society has impressed upon you, and transform them into empowering beliefs that embrace and celebrate your multipotentiality.
In this post, we’re going to work on your Multipassionate Mindset, and establish new beliefs that will set you up for success.
Limiting Belief #1: You need to choose one career.
From a young age, you are indoctrinated to believe you must become a specialist. As a child you were always asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The implication is that there is only one answer. You need to choose the best one.
Yes, there are many careers, like doctor and astronaut, where you really do need to study for a long time, in a specific education, and when you graduate you’re likely to keep the same job for much of your life. If this sounds fine to you, you’re on the wrong blog!
As the title of Barbra Sher’s groundbreaking book states… Refuse to Choose!
Choosing is no longer mandatory. There are alternatives to specialization that multipassionates can follow, including having 2 main unrelated occupations, having a sufficient job that pays the bills while you express your creativity elsewhere, or building your own multi-faceted business that lets you wear many hats.
Many multipotentialites are great at piecing together their life with more than one job and multiple streams of income. They’re what’s known as simultaneous multipotentialites and they don’t have any ONE career, but usually have multiple pots on the stove at any given time. If you love doing many things at once, then dive right in. Multiple streams of income just means more security.
On the other hand, if the types of jobs you’re interested in require a serious full-time commitment, you still don’t need to be burdened with choosing just ONE career.
Instead of thinking about choosing ONE career, think about choosing your FIRST career.
Instead of thinking about choosing ONE career, think about choosing your FIRST career. No matter what you do, you’ll be getting life experience, and most likely you’ll learn some valuable transferable skills, so you can always plan for a transition later.
The worst thing you can do is postpone making a decision because you don’t want to decide on something you’re sure you won’t stick to until your dying breath.
Limiting Belief #2: There’s something wrong with me because I can’t choose or can’t stick to anything.
There’s nothing wrong with you!
It’s a positive quality to love learning and to be interested in several subjects. Everyone is born with different interests, aptitudes and proclivities and the idea that we should all choose one occupation and stick to it is a limitation of society’s collective lack of imagination. You are normal, and your multipotentiality can be your greatest asset. Many multipassionates are big-picture thinkers, visionaries, and work well in multi-disciplinary fields. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’ve just been trying to fit in the wrong box.
Limiting Belief #3: Money is the measure of success.
Money is ONE measure of success, but it doesn't have to be your measure. Many multipassionates measure success by their ability to be able to do the things they love, and to design their lifestyle around that. We have many interests, and we can measure success by our ability to engage in those interests regularly.
In addition, our ingenuity and enthusiasm for learning often means we need to spend less money because we prefer to make things ourselves and find creative solutions.
Define success on your own terms. Your drive to keep learning is what keeps you growing and happy, and success can look like being able to do the activities you enjoy. Success can look like continuing to learn. Success can look like managing your time and resources well so that you can do all the things you enjoy. Success can look like expanding your life experience.
But don’t worry, embracing these forms of success doesn’t mean giving up on conventional, monetary success. You can always change your definition of success to include money and objects, and if you decide someday that what you really want is money, money, money, then fueling your creativity and life experience will never have been a mistake. You’ll still have a good start toward making money because you’ll have more knowledge and passion and practice to bring to whatever dreams you have to fruition.
Limiting Belief #4: Changing Careers/Jobs is Flaky
Society feeds us the idea that people who jump from career to career are somehow floundering -- if they’re not excelling at one thing, they’re not successful.
Doing the things you love and enjoying life is a worthy goal, and nobody ever called Leonardo da Vinci flaky. Or maybe they did back then, but who cares? Success is a journey. Our mainstream culture makes us think that there is a straight path or ladder from here to a destination called success, but in reality, success is a moving target based on your own definition (See also Belief #3) that will change as you grow and learn and make different decisions. It’s also not a straight road, it’s a winding path.
We also focus too much on the destination.
Imagine going tubing down a calm, winding river on a sunny summer day. You’re not going so you can get to the end of the river; you’re there for the ride so enjoy it as much as you can.
Limiting Belief #5: You need to choose something so you can climb that “ladder.” or Only Specialists Can be Successful
It used to work like this - people would start in a company right out of high school or college at the bottom of the ladder, and then get promoted, and promoted throughout their career until they’re happy with their job and are making a lot more money than they used to. Actually this is also a myth because it’s much more likely the there’s a bottleneck at the top of the ladder. Because there are fewer jobs higher up the ladder, there isn’t always anywhere to go. You can be stuck waiting for someone to retire before you can finally move up.
The solution to this problem is to start at the top of the ladder! I’ll write more about this in an upcoming post.
Limiting Belief #6: If you quit something, you’re a quitter and that’s bad.
Let’s get something straight! There is a difference between quitting something you want, and quitting something you don’t want. Quitting something you don’t want is better known as choosing something else. It’s not bad.
When I was 27, I decided I wanted to study architecture and I moved across the country. I hated it. After the first semester, I went back to my family home, and cried to my mother that I’d made a mistake and I didn’t like it and I wanted to quit. She brushed it off, and gave me a pep talk that included “Hocquards don’t quit.” (Hocquard is my family name)
Well, guess what? There’s no quit-shaming here! If you want to quit something, quit! Multipotentialites have a different relationship with ‘being finished’ than other people. After the very first semester, I knew I didn’t ever want to be an architect, and that’s all I really needed to learn in that program. Unfortunately, I had no idea what else I wanted to be. I was still in the mindset that I had to choose one career and I didn’t have a better idea lined up. I stayed in the program, accrued a pile of student debt, and was no farther ahead in figuring my life out when I graduated.
Let go when the thing that no longer serves you is weighing you down. Here’s a great podcast episode about letting go.
There's no "quit-shaming" here!
Limiting Belief #7: There’s no job security unless you stick to one thing.
The Boomers got to enjoy job security like no other subsequent generation. It was understood that they could choose a career, afford post-secondary education, get a job in the field of their choice, and work their way up a metaphorical ladder. (See also Belief #5)
That’s just not the way it works anymore. First, post-secondary education isn’t as valuable as it used to be. It’s WAY more expensive, but not nearly as valuable. So many more people have higher degrees, and are competing in fewer jobs, that there is no guarantee you’ll get a job in your chosen field.
Except for a few essential services, no career is guaranteed anymore. And even if you do get a job, there’s no guarantee you’ll keep it. Layoffs have been increasing steadily since the 1970s.
In this uncertain career climate, it’s essential to have multiple streams of income. This is real security.
Your own business is the most secure, and you know your success will be proportional to your effort.
Limiting Belief #8: Only geniuses can be “Renaissance” people.
The term “Renaissance Man” is much more well-recognized than multipotentialite, although it means the same thing. ‘Renaissance Man’ is usually associated with the original Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, whose talents had no apparent limits.
We tend to think that he was a singular genius who was fortunate to be talented at everything he tried.
What if the thing that really set him apart was actually not innate talents, but the fact that he embraced his multipotentiality, and allowed himself to try and learn various skills? He spent time inventing and scheming, and wrote everything down. Perhaps if we allowed ourselves the same time and freedom to explore and learn new things, we would find ourselves not that different from him.
Limiting Belief #9: Multipotentiality is just a trendy new thing for entitled millennials.
Wrong! Specialism is just a trendy new thing enforced on us by the patriarchy!
This could be (and probably will be) a whole post on its own, but our career/full-time-job/specialist economic model keeps everyone buying things, and helps CEOs more than it helps us.
Imagine pre-industrial life where generations of people lived on farms. Transportation was difficult, and most people lived their whole lives on farms or in small villages. Even though people did have jobs and were specialists in some areas, such as blacksmithing or coopering, a farm needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, so it was a necessity for everyone to have a wide variety of skills because they couldn’t easily access specialists. People in rural areas would learn the very basics about all the necessities of life, such as farming, butchering, animal husbandry, basic health care, sewing, perhaps weaving, basket-making, soap-making, fabric dyeing, and more. Throughout history, it has been the norm to do many things.
I don’t think multipotentiality is actually a rare personality trait at all, I think it’s actually the normal human condition that has just been repressed since the industrial revolution, and the internet is now allowing more people to be able to shake off the shackles of specialism.
In my next post, I’ll share how you can use your new multipassionate mindset by designing your own multi-faceted business.
In the mean time, start thinking like multipotentiality is a gift, because it is!
Remember these key ideas:
- define success on your own terms
- there's nothing wrong with you
- life's a winding road and that's OK
- design your own path
In future posts, I'll go into more detail about how you can translate this new, empowered mindset into a multi-faceted business you love, but let me know — is there anything immediate that you can do differently now that you know multipotentiality is a good thing?
Let me know in the comments.