4 Common Misconceptions About Multipotentialites
Photo courtesy of Shabai Liu.

4 Common Misconceptions About Multipotentialites

Written by Emilie

Topics: The Basics

Emilie here. Before we jump into today’s post, just a quick reminder that we’re accepting new members in the Puttytribe tomorrow! Could you use some support from your fellow multipotentialites as you build a life around your many passions? Click here to learn more. I look forward to meeting all of the new puttypeep. Woo hoo!

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Multipotentialites aren’t well understood by society–we know this. It’s mostly because our psychological makeup isn’t widely recognized as being a THING. Most people simply don’t know what a multipotentialite is. For this reason, they might assume that we’re just someone who is scattered, immature, or that we have ADHD.

We’ve talked about these misunderstandings on the blog before. Today I want to discuss some misconceptions that are held by people who actually acknowledge and respect us–people who might even be multipods themselves.

I’ve noticed these assumptions while giving interviews, answering email questions and even talking with friends. And honestly, I probably believed some of this at one point as well. But the process of writing a book (more on that coming soon) and interviewing so many people from different walks of life has really broadened my perspective of what a multipotentialite is.

Assumption #1. All Multipotentialites Hold Multiple Jobs

Not true. What IS true is that all multipotentialites need some degree of variety in their lives to be happy. Some of them get this variety by pairing together multiple jobs or businesses (I call this the Slash Approach to work). But many others have a single job and either do many different things as part of their job, or have a wide array of hobbies and personal projects that they play with on the side.

Don’t assume that just because someone has a conventional looking career they are any less of a multipod.

Assumption #2. All Multipotentialites Change Careers Every Few Years

Similarly, it’s a mistake to assume that we all quit whatever we’re doing every few years. This may be true of multipotentialites who use the Phoenix Approach, but there are some multipods who remain happy in a field for their entire career!

A career can last a lifetime if the field is interdisciplinary enough to provide opportunities to learn and to integrate your other interests into your work.

And some multipods are happy to stick with a stable well-paying “good enough” job for many many years because they view it as the thing that is funding their creative projects and that makes them possible.

Assumption #3. Multipotentialites Are Not Experts

As Neil discussed in a recent blog post, the dichotomy between depth and breadth is a false one. It’s a mistake to assume that multipotentialites possess only a passing knowledge of different subjects.

Sure, we all have things that we became curious about and drop quickly. But most of us are highly experienced in/knowledgable about some areas (at least eventually. If you’re 20 years old, it might take a bit more time).

Most importantly, as we progress, multipotentialites become experts of the connections between fields.

But there are surgeon multipotentialites, Grammy award winning multipotentialites, and multipotentialites who are Major League baseball players. So yes, it is possible for us to be experts.

4. We Are All Multipotentialites

Some people make the argument that everyone has more than one interest therefore we must all be multipotentialites. The thing is that some of us have exponentially more interests then others. The lives of multipotentialites are fueled by curiosity.

Here’s another indication that we aren’t all multipods. I’ve noticed that when people hear about the idea of multipotentiality for the first time, they usually react in one of two ways:

Reaction #1: OMG, that’s totally me!

or…

Reaction #2: Wait, that’s a thing?

Can you guess who multipod is and who the specialist is?

Who knows though. Maybe we are all multipotentialites, and specialists are just people who have given up on the idea that they can keep exploring. I don’t think that gives specialists enough credit though.

Your Turn

What misconceptions about multipotentialites have you noticed (beyond the typical “they’re flaky, confused, etc.”)?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.

16 Comments

  1. Alessio says:

    Another common misconception I guess is that multipotentialites are INTP (and it happens I am both).
    Here’s a nice article relating being an INTP with ADD: http://oddlydevelopedtypes.com/content/intps-and-add-0

    • Morna says:

      I’m an ENTP and I’m a total multipod, but then I know multipods from a great many types. I used to think J types are less likely to be a multipod, since in my experience they are less prone to exploration, but as it happens I know some of those too. I don’t think it’s type-related…

    • Susan says:

      Okay, I’m weighing in, too– I’m an ENFP on the MBTI system, and went to an excellent college thinking I would major in Biology. I switched to Studio Art when I HAD to declare a major as a sophomore. Of the other multipods I know personally, they too are quite bright. Okay, so I don’t know many others… Off the top of my head, I’d say that Leonardo da Vinci was a multipod.

      I don’t have ADD or ADHD, so I believe that’s an independent variable. Given the other MBTI personality types people have listed here, all iNtuiters, I now wonder if there are any Sensing multipods…..

    • Linda says:

      I am an INTP-T. I’ve spent almost a lifetime in a corporate environment — despite this ugly reality, I like writing proposals (short timelines, on to a new one every few days) and this is a highly specialized area I’m in. But its the utterly distracting cube environment and cookie cutter ways of evaluating people’s value add and silly rules that don’t respect natural rhythms and random spikes in energy that bugs me most. Wow – reading back looks like a lot bugs me. Fact is, I’m a really hard worker and I’m good at what I do.

      If I were more E than I, possibly a little better at sales, I’d go out on my own and start a business. Maybe I need a partner who fills in those gaps.

      I can manage up to 5 years in a job then I explode. You should just see how well I can fu** up in a corporate environment! Its like I subconsciously engineer my way out when it gets all too much. Oh the money I’ve left behind because I’m so undisciplined in this way.

      • Linda says:

        So like me – I didn’t finish my point.

        My point is that while I’m a specialist, specializing within the confines of a conventional looking job, in a highly conventional industry (financial services). My entire working life I have pivoted towards other roles that look interesting, or simply started doing things differently as an evolutionary improvement on the role. I frequently (obviously) run into problems as people in corporate environments really want you to fit in your “peg” and stay there. I’ve been seen as flaky, and I don’t – deep down – believe I am. My gut reaction, beyond feeling hurt when faced with this corporate chastisement is that the bulk of people are not curious enough, or are too conventional. Sometimes I’ve been fired for this. Which provided the opportunity to explore something new.

  2. Angie says:

    My beleif is the difference between specialists and multipotentialites is that ‘need’. A specialist can want, do or have many different hobbies, skills or interests, a multipotentialite needs to have them.
    I think that is where the line appears to blur.

  3. Keri Middaugh says:

    “We are experts of the connections between fields.” Brilliant and so needed in our wide world today! I am currently meshing my love of real estate and my faith life by volunteering to help resettle refugees in southeast Michigan. When this opportunity arose, I knew in my heart it totally fit me and my varying (and often non-overlapping) passions.

  4. Morna says:

    Supposedly, multipods are not able to focus, causing them to achieve worse results than specialists. That’s nonsense though. For example, I derive energy out of combining multiple fields. I can focus on one thing, but combining it with others makes the outcome better.

  5. Don says:

    Another misconception is that we are not smart. I am pretty damned intelligent and have children with the same level of intelligence. One of the more difficult things to explain to a child is that if you are above average, you have multiple choices that other people just don’t have. Maybe I can be criticized, but I taught my children to pick one thing to absolutely master and others as serious hobbies. One is a magna cum laud graduate of a building science program who is serious about English literature, a rock climber, bicyclist and former Division 1 cross country runner. Who knows what tomorrow’s new love will be? Another is a serious chef with an education degree (never used) who plays music and is a more than just acceptable as a soprano. You can’t do all that stuff adequately without brains. If you’re mensa level, you’re probably a multipod.

  6. Vince Imbat says:

    I agree on all the misconceptions and definitely can relate to them. But the last one is problematic.

    One thing I haven’t seen from Puttylike, Barbara Sher’s work, or that of Margaret Lobenstine is the presentation of hard objective scientific evidence on what constitutes a multipotentialite brain and what doesn’t. Without educating us on this multipotentiality, can become a highly debatable topic that may create artificial divisions that are not really there (re: specialists vs multipotentialites). Without objectivity we can speculate endlessly on the definitions of a multipotentialite.

    Yes, interviews and conversations with a significant number of samples can be credible and “scientific” and to make claims according to these interviews can qualify as “science.” But still, the very cause of these misconceptions, especially number 4 is the lack of “strong” evidence that can be used to argue that there really is a difference. If we want to prove that mutipotentialites are different then we have to show people the neurology, psychology, and biology behind multipotentiality. Now, I can do my own research to look for evidence but I think Puttylike and the other authors who’ve grown a following should lead in bringing these evidences to the public.

    I’m recently reading “Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Fisker and in it he advocates that “everyone” should try to appreciate the soundness of living a “Renaissance Lifestyle” because it can save the planet, the economy, and the individual. I think everyone are allowed to live a renaissance life and that such life shouldn’t be made available exclusively for “multipotentialites.”

    I tend to believe that the human race is more similar than different and that all of us have the same potential to do everything we want to do. Specialists were not born specialists. Specialization came after the industrial revolution and thus being a specialist is more of a result of historical and societal confluences, not a difference in brain chemical mix that one inherited or was born with.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Vince,

      I agree with you. It would be nice to see some research. I was interviewed recently by some researchers in Canada who are studying what they call “multiple job holders.” For reasons I mentioned in this post, I think this is only a subset of multipotentialites, but it’s still great. They’ve interviewed hundreds of people and their findings will be published in a legit journal. So that’s neat.

      I’m not a researcher or a scientist (nor am I really interested in being those things). Neither is Barbara or (was) Margaret. The best I can do is send out surveys, conduct interviews and kind of casually release my “findings”. That’s essentially what I do here and what I’m doing in my book. BUT there are definitely scientists in our community…

  7. Aram says:

    I’m with Morna on this one. An ENTP myself, I find that my extroversion (off the charts) is what propels my curiosity, which in turn helps me find multiple pursuits that fit my skill set.

    Like Don, I’m pretty flippin smart too.

    And quite the smartass…

  8. Kay says:

    Definitely not type related. ISTJ (but Type 2).