How Do I Know if I’m a True Multipotentialite?
Photo courtesy of John Meyer.

How Do I Know if I’m a True Multipotentialite?

Occasionally I hear from someone who is unsure if they qualify as a multipotentialite.

Maybe they have been involved in one area for a while now, and their pattern is starting to look more specialist in nature. Other times, it’s someone who is convinced that they are just broken. They seem to think, “Sure, there’s this thing called “multipotentialite,” but I couldn’t possibly be one. Not me. I’m just flighty and immature.

I can certainly understand these feelings. I felt them for a long time myself. I try to provide tools and resources to help others develop their confidence, but associating with the identity “multipotentialite” is probably the best way to start. Give yourself the identity, even if you don’t fully believe it yet.

The Pros and Cons of Labels

When you embrace a particular identity, you start behaving in ways that are in line with that identity. This can be both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, labels can make you feel stuck and can limit your options (which is why we should be willing to shed them as necessary).

However, adopting identities from an aspirational perspective can push you to achieve great things. Mastin Kipp whote a piece a while back about how he had begun seeing himself as an Athlete. He gave himself this new identity, and as you can imagine, it made it much easier to go to the gym.

When I began using the term multipotentialite here on Puttylike, it was my way of taking a behavioral pattern that is commonly looked down upon, and turning it into an an empowering identity. It was created for you to use. Not just so you can explain your shape-shifting nature to other people, but to help you embrace it yourself, and grow into the person you’re meant to be.

Clarifying the Definition

Confidence issue aside, some people just want a clarification of my definition of multipotentialite. I do think that there are still some insecurities looming beneath this question though. They want to know if they belong, and whenever I hear this, my all-inclusive nature just wants to scream, “YES. If you are asking this question, then you are almost certainly a multipod! You don’t need to justify yourself to me or anyone else. You belong here.”

But while we’re on the topic, why don’t I just clarify my definition of a multipotentialite a bit. I received this question last week:

I was wondering if you could clarify a bit the definition of multipotentialite. Is this someone who focuses on one thing for a while and then move to another and then another? Is it someone who has multiple projects from various disciplines on the go concurrently? Is any combination of these? Is there are certain bar a person has to satisfy for you to consider them a multipotentialite? Would you, for instance, consider someone who was interested in 3 or 4 related fields a multipotentialite?

The Different Types of Multipotentialites

In her book, Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher delineates a bunch of different types of Scanners. There’s the “Plate Spinner,” “Double Agent,” “Sybil,” and various others. Personally, I find these distinctions a little artificial, as I think there are innumerable types of multipotentialites.

However, as long as a label is empowering and not limiting to you, I don’t see a problem with it. For me however, I don’t find it helpful to identify as a particular type of scanner. I have a tendency to shift between modes depending on where I’m at in my life. I prefer to just trust my instinct and go with what feels right.

My take on the issue is that there’s a spectrum. On one end, you have the sequential multipotentialite: the person who dives deep into one subject for many years and then switches to something entirely new and focuses solely on that. To the outside world, this person might look more like a specialist, but they’re still a multipod, they’re just more sequential in nature.

On the other end of the spectrum is the plate-spinner: the person with twenty different projects on the go at once. Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes and shift around at different times in our lives.

To answer this reader’s other question, pursuing 3-4 interests at once certainly qualifies you as a multipotentialite. I might even have fewer projects than that in my life right now. I tend to be more on the sequential side of the spectrum.

But to anyone who’s wondering, yes, you are a multipotentialite, and yes, you belong here.

Your Turn

Have you ever had “imposter syndrome” about being a multipotentialite?

77 Comments

  1. Erica says:

    I heard about the term “Renaissance Person” a long time ago and while I liked the term, I never thought it applied to me. I thought it would only apply to someone who was an expert in all their fields, which I couldn’t see myself doing. And then I found this site and it made more sense. Now I’ve embraced the term, and I no longer feel like a flaky, immature oerson who

  2. Vicky says:

    This was such a great blog post! What I took from it is that doing one thing today, and doing another thing tomorrow doesn’t necessarily make me a multi-passionate. But consistently pursuing different types of activities/goals at the same time – does. Like for instance I loove working with small businesses and LOVE to thrift! They are two separate things but I do them consistently becauseI love every minute of it – therefore I’m a multipassionate!!! P.S. those are not my only 2!! Lol thanks for another great post, Emily!

    • Emilie says:

      Either way, Vicky. Doing one thing today and another tomorrow makes you a multipotentialite too. Doing one thing only for your entire life would NOT make you a multipod however. ;)

  3. Willena says:

    I have recently added back an old interest into my life, and all of a sudden, I’m feeling much more like myself again. Cutting that out of my life because “I’m too old to do that any more, besides which it’s not making me enough money,” really left a hole in my being which I’m finally filling back up.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s cool Willena. I find that I have certain interests that return after a period of doing other things. Violin is like that for me.

  4. Andrea says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m solidly in the multipotentialite camp, but sometimes I feel like an impostor when the things that interest me (that day, or whenever) are completely inconsequential. Like a funny product name that pops into my head and causes me to draw a little cartoon that I’ll show to just a couple of people, or a fleeting obsession with subway maps. I enjoy the loftier interests when they come, but it’s harder to give myself permission to embrace the dumber ones, too.

    • Emilie says:

      See, that to me is typical multipod behaviour. We’re always coming up with seemingly inconsequential ideas to entertain our minds. You fit right in. And those moments may not be inconsequential as you think. I think practicing imagination on a regular basis is really healthy and does have application elsewhere.

  5. laura k says:

    I really appreciate the idea of giving a positive spin on what has (for most of my life, at least) been perceived as a negative trait. I’ve always thought that my multiple interests just means that I’m a quitter without follow through, that I can’t stay interested in any one thing because I’m afraid of failure. SO much more positive to consider it in a new way.

  6. Silvana says:

    Thanks so much for this site! I was literally about to be in tears earlier, thinking about how I don’t have “hobbies.” You know, like “I like to garden and play golf.” I really love researching things, and they all sound so interesting! It’s hard for me to choose. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been learning to play poker and am thinking about actually putting a little money in it (not trying to lose a fortune! :P) and I’ve also been obsessively reading webcomics for a few days. I’m thinking about trying to make one myself! Last month, I was looking up DIY projects for the home and building terrariums in glass balls. My problem is lack of funds, at the moment – I’ve mostly just been reading about these things a lot. But I get so so excited thinking about doing them! I just feel really passionate, but then when I realize “oh…I was only interested in tarot cards for a month” or “oh…I only went to that class for eight weeks”, then I feel like they are less valid for some reason. Thanks again for this info, I feel way better!

  7. Kacy Latham says:

    I am! I have a degree in theatre, but I’ve been working as an artist/graphic designer for 14 years. I’m a wanna-be revolutionist, an activist, an inventor and a motivator.. I want to write books, paint murals, teach, and get better at animation. I want to be a midwife, a foster parent and am studying to be a spiritual counselor. I am also a full time mom of two boys.

    I live in a small town in West Texas and after six years I’ve decided to stop trying to fit in. Just came through a horrible burnout and was avoiding ALL my interests… Until I found this blog.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you:)

  8. Frank Martin says:

    I’ve always been attracted to Renaissance Men and Polymaths, and wanted to be one, but was kind of intimidated by the whole “master of multiple things” bit. When I found your site, I realized I was one, and, well, while it feels like big shoes to fill, its also reassuring, as I’ve always been pretty curious about most anything and everything.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Frank,

      I hear you. That’s part of the reason I wanted us to have a new name other than polymath, something that isn’t so steeped in history.

      • Frank says:

        The more I think about it, the more I like the terminology you use. For a while I was calling myself a polymath in training, but somehow that doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  9. Tim R says:

    I’m one of these people who finds themselves interested in, well, everything. Studied international politics in uni, work in policy, but now back at uni studying environmental science, and keep getting interested in all sorts of other fields. Like electronics, fashion design, architecture, carpentry, creative writing, cartooning, blacksmithing and so on. And let’s not forget the collection of musical instruments (piano, clarinet, banjo, didgeridoo, harmonica), sketch pads, books on… everything, scraps of paper with ideas and the detritus resulting from the occasional attempt at organising it all.

    Drives me three parts crackers, to be honest. So many things to have a go at, but not enough time.

    Does this sound a bit multipotentialite to you?

    • Emilie says:

      Yes, Tim. Welcome home. :)

    • Katie R says:

      This is exactly me Tim. We even share some random similar interests from fashion design to creative writing to architecture. I would add archeology and geology to mine. I also studied international politics in uni. I have books on everything as well. It is pretty, well, crazy! And it makes me crazy too. I cannot believe I found this site it makes me feel like a new and different person!

  10. Teej says:

    Well, I’m still not sure if I’m a true multipotentialite, but just reading this article seems to have lifted a fair wait off my chest. I want to do and learn everything but, approaching 30, the notion of being responsible and picking one thing as a vocation has pretty much rendered me sedentary for months.
    Where once I pursued anything that took my interest (study, hobbies, travel, work, etc.) I now just have this overwhelming fear that I’ll end up miserable, broke, or both…

    I’m going to poke around the site. I think it will make me feel a lot better!

  11. Teej says:

    *weight.

  12. Stephen says:

    How many of you are married with children? How do you deal with that while being “multipotentialites”?

    • Jeannette Morris says:

      OMG!!!! I was wondering the same thing!!!Cause I am married 5yrs and I have three children.. and I keep asking my husband what am I good at and he says everything and I say that can’t be right.. I want something to call my own. He also told me that I am not committed to anything and wonders when I will wake up a morning and say, hi I am leaving because I am bored.

      I can’t begin to say thank you enough for this community or group or blog because I feel like I am normal now.. in a weird kind of way because I was always told get something you like, do it well and you would be happy.. but it wasn’t and isn’t the case for me.. and I was beginning to get really frightened because I am 37yrs of age.

      • erin says:

        I think there must be more of us than we think, as I keep seeing posts to that end. Personally, I am a single mom to a 12 year old who is definitely a multipotentialite herself:)

        • Isabel says:

          Hi Erin and all,

          I just discovered this site after watching Emelie’s TED Talk, following a recommendation from someone in a MOOC forum.

          So glad to find others like me!

          I’ also a single mom, my son has the same age as your, 13 now, and multiipotentialite too. We are very similar, he reminds me a lot of me when I was a child so after being diagnosed as having ADDH I thought I was also, recently this was disregarded and now I understand what we are…

          I see that Emilie has also about a post about ADDH…

      • Stephen says:

        Jeannette, I know this is more than a year after your post, but your husband should not worry about your commitment to him. Use me as an example. I have been hopelessly, helplessly mulitpotentialite as long as I can remember. And I have stayed with my wife for over 26 years and raised two children with her. Perhaps in a steady partner is someplace multipotentialites find their own stability.

  13. Anymouse says:

    In response to the ‘aim in life’ question in a friend’s slambook, I had, as n eleven year old, written this: Surgeon, dancer, model and scientist. A classmate who saw that laughingly said, your head will be a scientist, hands can perform surgery, body will model (he meant torso) and feet can dance. As a 27 year old, I feel the same way. I have not figured out what I want to do/ can do. I have never, literally never been bad at anything, not even average. Just, good. And now m stuck. I got into BigLaw straight after law school. After 3 years into that, I took a year off because the thought of spending a lifetime staring at hordes of mundane paper scared me. Despite a year of break, I could not figure out what to do because I kept thinking about ‘opportunity cost’ – what if I make a wrong decision and lose out on the other thing. Now I am back to working at BigLaw which takes up all my time (I really mean all my time – like 12-18 hours a day) and the thought of having a dull life where I cannot enjoy my work is driving me berserk. How do I find a career which makes me fulfilled!

  14. Anymouse says:

    It probably sounds arrogant to say I have never been bad at anything. I merely meant, I have never done anything ‘improperly’. I try to get it right. Despite that, I am not happy.

  15. Stella says:

    Hello there,

    I stumbled across this website today and I’ve got a few things to say.

    I’m still in school at the moment. They say I’m ‘gifted and talented’, which is fair enough, but it’s never pursued any further. It’s viewed as a good thing yet really it’s a mixed blessing. Of course, the dreaded question – what do I actually want to do with my life? – keeps popping up. Unfortunately for me I am currently actively pursuing several vastly different interests at the same time (rowing, two different musical instruments, politics, Mandarin Chinese, a relationship etc) and I have found that I really, REALLY don’t want to specialise in one thing. I want to do everything! In the UK the school system is like a narrowing corridor – you pick your subjects at each set of qualifications (GCSE, A Level etc) and the amount of subjects you can choose steadily decreases until you end up doing one degree in one thing. And I’ve found that this system has left me completely bewildered because I want to choose things that I enjoy doing but I don’t have enough choices. I also get really burned out at times yet I still take everything on because I really enjoy challenging myself. I feel slightly lost. Does anyone have any advice for me with regards to deciding these things? I’ve got to choose my A Level options next academic year and since I have no idea what I want to do at university I’m finding it quite difficult and overwhelming. The teachers are all like ‘you can do anything you want to do!’ but that really doesn’t help. I’m hoping all of you people who are in similar situations can give me some advice. Thank you in advance.

    • Linda says:

      Pick the thing that interests you most. If its something you think you might be able to work in all the better – I was lucky enough to have both. If there isn’t a fav, pick one out of a hat. You can always come back to the other stuff later… or do it on the side…

  16. gypsywandering says:

    Thank you. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear I belonged until I read this post. You don’t know what it means to me.

  17. Linda says:

    I’ve managed to hide for the last 25 years, pretending to be a specialist. But my CV still looks like that of a madman if you look too closely… or at all. I got by through an ever increasing network of people that had worked with me and knew I could do the job and do it well. Now I’ve done all I want in that area and the thought of staying another day makes me want to jump off something really tall. So I now have to come clean about my other interests, and it helps to know there are other people who understand how I think and who I am, and are struggling with exactly the same things I am.

  18. Dana says:

    Crazy .. I’ve never heard of a multipotentialite, or any of it’s synonyms, until today. Now, I NEVER THOUGHT I wasn’t normal for BEING interested in 1,001 things, but I did/do think that it’s not normal for me to not fully pursue my interests, which is the main problem. There are so many things I’m interested in doing, but I almost always have a reason for not doing anything about it .. lack of motivation, lack of money/job, lack of transportation, etc. etc. .. if I do end up getting into something for a while, it’s only a little while because I lose motivation. And it fricken sucks. Like, I really want to get into the whole blogging thing, and I do have a blog, but I never have the motivation to write anything. Or know what to really write about, so I basically journal instead (although right now I’m in a Writing course on WordPress.com).

    I don’t know, I feel like I’m rambling. But I’m glad I found this site; thank you! It might give me the motivation I need. Any advice, anyone?

  19. Manuela says:

    Wow. I can SO relate to this concept..Thank you!

  20. Maryske says:

    Whoa… this is amazing. I, too, have a pretty much lifelong experience of not being able to choose a specialism. My interests are just so varied, and I’m gifted enough to become really good at whatever happens to catch my interest (except starting a business…), thanks to (as I see it) perseverance and almost obsessive dedication – until I’ve mastered it to my satisfaction and something else catches my interest. Yet the outside world (both family and possible employers) accuses me of commitment problems…
    In the end I’ve ended up in a career as primary teacher, which at least provides a decent variety in subjects and topics, and especially inquiry-based teaching brings a lot of unexpectedness in your day. But to say I’m real happy in this role is really too much. Doing it for two days a week would be ideal. And then for the rest of the week have another job or two, like author, copywriter, librarian, choir leader, tourism, developing educational materials, charity work, rostermaker, journalist, cartographer, playwright… etc. And of course at least one course or study next to it – something a full-time teaching job really doesn’t allow me to.

    But! It’s great to see that I’m not the only one out there with this disposition and the problems that follow. Perhaps there ought to be a job board for multipotentialites like us? :-)

  21. Gabi says:

    Your Ted talk was very illuminating and make me realize that my strange brain is ok, even awesome. I grew up with many interests, choir, saxophone, racquet sports, swimming, writing, computers, etc. etc. and went into the military and did finance for nine years. I was completely bored after awhile but started doing triathlons, and had my first daughter. I became a online college, then high school English teacher (it was the writing and computers thing again), while learning about fiber arts, becoming a volunteer coordinator for local fairs, and now I’ve moved into being a paid volunteer coordinator for a hospital plus teaching fiber arts class and selling wool and fluffies online. I also now have five daughters who I even homeschooled for a bit (while baby wearing and attachment parenting). I think I belong, no doubt. It’s a nice feeling.

  22. Pixie says:

    I have had so many interests my whole life. I have started things like piano lessons and after a while quit when I was little. I have started and stopped so many things that I liked. Like I have a talent in drawing people or basically anything but can’t stay with it for too long at times. I started a drawing of my husband and I and most stopped doing it. I don’t know if it was out of fear of failure or just boredom. I have done/ tried so many things but didn’t stick with them for one reason or another. Like dancing. I’ve tried and done so many types of dancing and then quit it. I thought I was just a quitter at things. I love photography, conspiracy theories on things, aliens, alien abductions, weird, strange and mysterious stories. I feel like at times I am all over the place with my interests. I never knew there was a name for a person like me. I wish I could be a speaker on the dangers of pschychiatric drugs because of my own experience with them. I wish I could speak out on the reality of the illuminati. I want to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless. The list goes on and on. But instead of picking anything I just dabble and move on to the next interest and then come back to some, quite a deal later. It can be overwhelming not being able to figure out what my purpose is in this life. I wish I could be an actress. I wish I could have my own band. I wish to be a lead singer of that band. I wish I could do everything instead I do nothing. It sucks. I feel stuck. My husband wants me to make money but doing what? I am have been unemployed for a long time. I don’t want to work for someone else and their agenda but work for myself. I’d just love to make money at something I love than be a robot. I have twin daughters and have been married a long time. My daughters are almost three. I feel that now, I’m not alone. I am a multipotentialite! I just wish I could figure out how to do what I want and make money at it. Whether it’s one thing or many. I know I’d get bored at doing one thing.

  23. An Anonymous says:

    Hi there,

    I guess my problem with being afraid to identify myself as a multipotentialite is that I still think it’s bad on some subconscious level, having had to listen to my mother always nag me for changing my hobbies, fields of study, you name it. I understand her though, when I was little, my passions would change rapidly, I would want to learn the guitar and become bored just after a week or two, hence never really exceling in anything. I am happier now that I can dive deeper through these so called rabbit holes. Only in the last 5 years I have studied 5 different fields. I graduated in bio and chem in high school, went to study psychology with human rights for a year at uni. Then left, went to study economics and a year later picked up another course at a different uni in english lit.I want to do media studies for my masters. Also, I speak 4 languages and am currently learning French. I work in PR as a producer. I am currently really into health, healthy lifestyles, jogging and have also picked up Krav Maga. I am also very interested in politics, the whole refugee crisis in Europe… And also in spirituality, meditation, yoga… Conspiracy theories, the paranormal.. Being eco-friendly, saving the planet. Being a rebel, being an activist while at the same time wanting to make something out of myself and wanting to have money, being able to travel… I’ve always also wanted to learn to play the piano and guitar, tattoo my body and run away and live a nomadic bohemian hippe lifestyle, while at the same time pursue a well paid career, own an appartment and have a kid.
    I have been feeling so frustrated lately, I felt as if there was something seriously wrong with me, how is it that all my friends can pursue 1 or 2 things in their lives and actually achieve them, whereas with me it’s highly questionable if I ever achieve any new projects I dive into. I only just found this page through the TED talk… And I feel so RELEIVED, like you can’t imagine. To know for sure that there are other people feeling the frustration of wanting to do so many things with their lives and also having to face other “normal” and not-so-understanding people…

  24. Kathy Brown says:

    There are people out there like me! I am so excited! I recently closed my medical practice after 17 years of practicing solo and and now nearly finished with a masters in music education. I play a large handful of instruments. I am an accomplished seamstress, although I don’t get much time to sew right now. I enjoy music composition, especially for band. I love hearing there are people with diverse interests who are actively pursuing them, and learning new things no matter their age.

  25. Ben says:

    Hi, was drawn to your TED talk. Do you think that people who speak about many subjects during one conversation are multi-potentialite as far as thinking goes? I just realized that your TED talk is very single purposed and sequential. I wonder if this makes sense to other people.

  26. Marion says:

    I came across your website on TED (great talk, by the way) and realised that I do identify as a multipotentialite. The concept really hit home after a few conversations today where I explained what I wanted to study and why (Classics, which includes Philosophy, Archeology and Art, Literature, History, Linguistics…), then being asked “But what job does that lead to?”. I have no idea. The breadth of it interests me so much that I could not imagine not pursuing it at University level. I have always imagined myself switching between different jobs as I get bored of doing always the same thing. I want to get better at art, in a few languages, I want to write but also educate myself on sciences. I want to take photos, make films, but also have some experience of diplomacy.

    However, I never knew how to explain it to others, especially here in France where students are almost trained to find a career idea and study for it, never going astray. Of course, I felt uncomfortable with that idea. Your talk and posts reassured me in that sense, as I am beginning to explore multipotential. At first, I struggled to identify with the idea of it as many of my interests usually are in the same kind of fields (culture, languages, communication, literature…) but I am realising that perhaps the point of this lays not in the subjects studied, nor in the pursuit of them, but rather in the ability to use those different interests and the skills they have brought us in whichever context we might find ourselves.

    So thank you for helping me unlock the part of myself I kept hidden, scared that it wouldn’t be possible to let it out.

  27. Marie says:

    It’s certainly nice to hear I’m not the only one out there. Just the other day I was complaining to my shrink that I was never able to finish anything I started. I had 20 thousand interests and kept jumping from one thing to another, jack of all trade, master of none. Really felt bad about not being able to call myself an expert in anything.

  28. tj says:

    I have been slowly coming to the acceptance that a multipotentialite is what I am. However, I’m arriving to the realization quite late in life, and am now at a loss for how to fully embrace it after 40 (laid off, with a mortgage, savings dwindling). It deeply frustrates me that I didn’t have the courage to more fully embrace all my interests when I was younger. Now I have more projects in my head than I know how to handle. Choosing is the first hardest step. Knowing how to start and proceed is the second. Finding the courage and self-belief to give it a go ‘at my age’ is the third and most difficult step.

    Some friends have now started labelling it a mid-life crisis, except I’ve been this way (mostly to myself) all my life. My ‘nickname’ as a kid was ‘the quitter.’ I started and quit so many things, the support system was no longer there. So I picked the thing that I was best at, which wasn’t necessarily the thing I wanted the most (as one therapist remarked, I made a career out of dancing around the things I want to do). And now, after two layoffs, I’m a mid-career professional, in middle-age, with a head full of ideas and heart full of angst.

    Discovering a ‘name’ for my ‘affliction’ has been helpful. But in a way, I feel both thrilled and sad for the knowing.

    • CP says:

      Hey tj,

      I’m “only” 32, but in a very similar situation right now, though I didn’t choose the thing that I was best at, but the thing I thought would give me a steady income. Didn’t work out too well so far…

      I don’t have any clever things to say right now so I’ll leave it here, just wanted to let you know: there are others out there. I hope eventually I’ll stop grieving and start getting better at what I’ve stopped myself from doing and also explore possibilities of how to make a living out of it. What do you hope for yourself?

      Good luck!

    • lw says:

      I’m even older, but have resigned myself to being a sequential specialist, what i do in order to exist financially, is write – boringly now for too many years I’ve been writing proposals. Of course I write astounding and effective proposals when i put the weight of my enthusiasm behind it, but i can’t seem to do that now I’m fundamentally bored with it. And yet commercially, writing is my only saleable skill. I was also writing scripts/ sales thesis and product positioning for mutual funds – the first one I wrote was so good, the bank spent a fortune developing my ideas into a massive multi-media advertising campaign. All my other interests are only that – interests – nothing I’ve been able to monetize. I’ve embraced ballet, creative writing, opera and piano, web design, white water kayaking. Archaeology and anthropology was an early love as it threw me cleanly into being able to imagine the life of long ago peoples. I have travelled many places – Bangladesh to study indian dance, bailed out of university to do so and don’t have a degree. I need to find a new commercial activity – stat. I see I have some reading to do on this website.

  29. Jenny says:

    Hi – Would not knowing what you’re good at, but knowing you’d be pretty good at anything you tried be consistent with multipotentialism?

  30. Julien says:

    Hello,
    I’ve just listened to your – very inspiring! – Ted talk and it made me think about myself. Yet, I’m not so sure I would qualify as a multipotentialite. I feel more like a jack of all trades, master of none : I have many interests – usually far from those most people have, though – but I rarely go as far as being “pretty good” at any of them (I usually give as soon as intensive focus, hard work and memorusation are necessary). As I’ve never felt extremely good at anything, I never could answer the million dollar question : what should I do with my life?
    I studied chemistry first, but couldn’t feel self-confident enough to get ajob in it (I am too clumsy and distracted to handle delicate tools), then I studied English language (I’m French and I live in France) and almost become a school-teacher but I was too disorganised to handle kids and teens so I resigned and tought to adults for a while. That was great, but I couldn’t make a decent living out of it, so I decided to work in IT support (I’ve always been a bit of a geek) and did a one-year training. I am now working as an IT support hotliner in a hospital. It’s okay for now, but I still feel unsure about the future.
    Am I a multipotentialite ? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I still don’t know what I am “made for”…

  31. Sara R. says:

    I have personally been called a Renaissance woman before-wondering 1) why there are not more people like this and 2) why do I have to specialize. I struggled for years trying to pick something when most of the time I would just find something interesting and go with it, wanting to learn all about a subject. People kept telling me I needed to specialize when I just couldn’t grasp the idea of only knowning one thing. I believe it was another article here that said something about having a pure desire for knowledge and that explains me perfectly. I am so glad to have something to define myself instead of spending 20minutes trying to explain me ;-)

  32. Christopher banks says:

    Hi everyone,
    I watched the video on Ted and got quite emotional. It felt like someone had finally said to me, it’s okay that you didn’t have one solid interest like so many others. I would see people really really into guitar or music and be like, but I like to do everything. I would be sad an a little jealous cos I felt like I was just floating and not being able to commit to one thing completely.
    After the video I thought, but I don’t dive full throttle into each subject, I just go into it for a while, then either add something else to my routine. Or put the first thing on the shelf to come back to later. So I thought am i multipotentialite or just indecisive, lazy at not following things through right til the end…
    But after e-mailing emilie, her thinking I am one and reading this article, I feel much happier and proud to be a multipotentialite! Thank you!
    I think people over the world should do multipotentialite parties, t shirts etc :)

  33. Julie says:

    Hello Emilie,
    I live in France. I am so happy that I found your intervention on TedX this afternoon. I am currently searching for a new job, and during lunch I was telling wy roomate that I didn’t know what to do in my life, not because I’m not interested in anything, but because I’m interested in so many things at the same time.
    In France, teachers and recruiters wants you to follow a particular goal/occupation, and to build all your life around.
    But society, especially our generation, value people who have passions, people who can quit everything one day to pursue what they really want to do.
    I was completely lost in my mind before I heared you, and you answered so many questions I was asking myself.
    So, thank you, I am happy to discover that I can do something as a multipotentialite.

  34. michele c. says:

    Thank you!!! I have been trying to figure out my calling for 53 years! I told my daughter that maybe my calling is curiosity! So validating to hear your TED talk and read your blog. Self judgment was taking up so much room. Now, onto entertaining thoughts and ideas!

  35. Kulbir Lamba says:

    Hi I came across the TED talk today and without an iota of doubt i would say that i found myself at the center of it..Starting something very strange going for its details and then putting at back burner, something new again and the cycle goes on for me..
    The good part i came to know after watching the video is that it really helps to put your mind in different areas of interest..I hope over the time i will be able to have some mental models (a learning from Charlie Munger)..

    Thanks…

    Warm Regards

    Kulbir Lamba

  36. Tata says:

    By now I’d just like to thank for the weight taken off my chest. I truly believed that was something wrong with me. How could i’ve been a bright gifted child and had become into a failure adult… even with all my skills?
    The past months I was “mediocring” myself in order the get better fitted.
    But I guess that even from that i can take a valuable experience ;)
    It’s a pleasure to feel light like a smile.
    I’m very glad.
    o/

    • Stephen says:

      Hi Tata, OMG, I feel exactly as you: “How could i’ve been a bright gifted child and had become into a failure adult.” You are not alone, and you are not a failure. If anything society has failed you. Imagine the human potential that could be realized if society provided better ways to use the talents and special powers of we multipotentialites and polymaths without having to label, discourage, or reject our re-directions as failures.

  37. Ashley says:

    I found this website while I was googling jack of all trades. I thought at first I couldn’t be that since I don’t think I know much of anything. I had my family tell me to stop picking up an interest in something and then not following through. It would make me feel really guilty. Still does to this day since they still tell me to pick one interest to make money off of for the time being. When that was said to me, it felt wrong. Like I was sabotaging the rest of my interests. My interests are graphic design, art, writing, gaming, learning Korean. Thats all I can think of on the top of my head at the moment since I’m rambling. But how can I make the ones I mentioned into a career just for me? I’m a stay at home mom so I still feel like I’m going to get looked down on. Especially gaming.

  38. nora says:

    I think I’m allergic to any labelling of any form! But Since we communicate and need to get an idea across, we need to find a word that describes as closely as possible what we are trying to describe. So multipotentialite is one of these necessary words that save us a long sentence… There is definitely a great value for those who are into so many things and not specialists especially in this day and age: I have seen architects who are using biology to creat new materials to build with; you need either a team of specialists that brainstorm all day long or a multipotentialite!

  39. Sarah says:

    I came across your TED speech today and I will never look back. My browser has so many topics open that it crashes sometimes. I read and research all day, or write. My life has consisted of many interests and though I have loved all of them, it has caused confusion, lack of security and relationship issues. Only in recent years have I begun to understand and accept myself for who and what I am, and I look forward to the rest of my story.

  40. Shari says:

    I do feel like an imposter right now! I was happy to finally find people who are similar to me because I’ve spent my last year thinking something was wrong with me. I cried so many times, I felt so lonely and so limited. It literally killed me. I love creating, writing, drawing, painting, singing, playing piano and apart from writing I’m still a beginner at way more than what I’ve listed above. I stop everything everytime I have a new interest because in my mind, people around me are right when they say “I have to be stable”, I need to choose what I want to do, and I can’t be all at the same time.

    I’m glad I saw your video – pretty much randomly – and I thank God for being part of a community. I feel less crazy, less from a different world.

    I will now work on who I truly am and ignore people around me. I will pursue my (multi)purpose and live the extraordinary life I want to live.

    :)

  41. Claire Candy says:

    The biggest spectre hanging over my emotional head, has always been “a mistress of many, and a master of none” – i have lived my life knowing “bits” about most things, I pick up information, and can ‘blag’ my way in most conversations or fields, as I have quick retention of the basics of things, and have had many interests in my 33 years on the earth.
    But theres a fear too. That I will be in a situation where I know enough to get myself ‘in’ but not out….that i will soon be discovered as a fraud, because I’m not really a “insert specialism here” and will be way out of my depth.
    finding multipotentialism is a massive step forward for me, I feel like its already giving me a bit more freedom to permit myself to follow these interests without feeling like I’m constantly ‘failing’ or being flaky. Instead I am trying to see thermal as assets.
    however, the constant mutter of “how are you going to make a career from this?” sits in the back of my head with every new interest….and I know it isn’t MY voice, its my mothers, or more likely grandmothers. – thats going to take longer to remove.
    I realise i have rambled away from the topic, but, its the scary but exciting nature of finding others like me….. I just panic a little that I AM just incredibly easily influenced, (almost every movie I’ve ever watched has made me what to be whatever “they”were for short periods afterwards….) and that I’m not REALLY a multipotentialite even though it chimes so clearly, and instead am just being influenced by seeing your TED talk….. all I can say is i HOPE NOT. (Although it was a damn fine talk….. ;-p )

  42. Charvi says:

    I came to know about this term last week only when I was watching your video on teds talk but I am confused that really such type of person can do anything means I have completed various diploma courses with 2 major degrees and loves to cook various cuisines learn them whenever I could ,loves paintings crafts loves reading philosophy scifi novels loves watching movies loves my work regarding finance always indulge myself in learning something like different languages Chinese Spanish had done graduation in 2 completely different streams one is technology other is finance but still I am not satisfied I just want to learn new things I love it I feel like it’s become my passion to learn I am so curious about everything my parents and everybody feels that I am having some problem mentally that I am not static type person I am not normal as anyone else but I love to think out of box this is my way do u feel that the person like me can get our true calling ?

  43. Constantine says:

    Its been some time now that i was watching this tv series with such passion – Da Vinci’s Demons and it was there that i heard the term renaissance man and while i thought whoa thats has a nice ring to it and i would loooove to be one, being an expert in so many fields and having that amount of knowladge.. imagine the intellect it takes .. and recently my psychologist suggested that i am one.. now i feel both great that this term applies to me and a bit lost .. because i have no idea what so ever what to do as a living.. i am 22

  44. Stargazer says:

    Hi everyone, Emilie, I was wondering if u had heard about the left brain/right brain questions. Because I read everything I could about that and it seams that your definition of multipotentialites suits perfectly to the left brain type of persons that some researchers describe. I first read about this when I was 16, in a train station, I saw a book called “petit guide pour les gens intelligents qui me de trouvent pas très doués” (I am French) which I would translate as “little guide for smart people who think they’re not really smart”. The book caught all my attention, it was written by a psychologist and it was the first time of my life I felt appropriate in this world. I had always thought I had some kind of personality issues which made me behave differently from everyone and I could not understand how to find my place in this world. It helped me a lot, knowing that I wasn’t weird, and that some people were actually interested on “us”. This is my first visit on your website, and I am really delighted to read it, because the left/right brain matter was discredited a lot by litterature. Now we just have another word for it. Makes me feel legitimate. Thank you! Also, for other multipotentialites, u should know that accepting who you are and accepting that your ways don’t have to be the same as for everyone else, (what works for u doesn’t need to work for everyone else), and stop trying to change and adapt to a world that was made by monopotentialites for monopotentialites will really help you in life. I started being happy when I realized I had the right to be myself and stopped comparing to others. It’s the best way to success and it will come naturally.
    Go multipotentialites, go!!!

  45. Arron says:

    Hey all! This really strikes home with me. But I do not see myself perficient enough in one area to make any money at anything except some entry level work.
    For example, right now I am going to college (at age 32) to become an English High School teacher and I am not teaching yet but I am bored and being torn between other things I really want to do. This is causing me a ton of strife and daily existential crises.

    Does anyone else have this issue?

  46. Betsy says:

    Thank you so much Emilie for this site and your Ted talk! Not gonna lie- I feel quite loser-ish sometimes and you have helped me rediscover what I used to think of myself in high school (in a good way). Everyone used to tell me I had “so much potential”; that I was SO smart and creative that there was no way I wouldn’t succeed. I was a good student (could’ve been better if I bothered to finish my homework on time) and an Academic Decathlon champion and thought of myself as a Renaissance Woman. However, things kind of fell flat after that.

    I have a degree in environmental engineering (after changing my major twice) from a prestigious university and a master’s in Cell & Molecular Biology and yet I’m 27 years old and living with my parents while I try to figure some things out. I’ve been a wildlife biologist, a fisheries technician, an office manager, a pharmacy shop assistant, an EMT, a librarian, a substitute teacher, a calculus tutor, a clinical assistant, a barista, a waitress, a temp, a lab assistant, a glass artist’s assistant, and I’ve applied to medical school twice (unsuccessfully- partly because of my inability to answer the question “why do you want to be a doctor” in interviews). I love reading, researching etc. I’ve always wanted to write a romance novel. The list of courses I’m enrolled in on Coursera is literally hundreds long, but I’ve never finished one. I have an impressive collection of medical and natural science textbooks that I read for fun. I’m simultaneously refreshing my Spanish, Portuguese, and French while learning Danish, Polish, Norwegian and Italian on Duolingo. I’m learning to code Python, HTML, CSS and JavaScript on several different platforms simultaneously. I love hiking with my dog, training other people’s dogs, and I am a silk painter with work up in a local art/gift store. I also paint in acrylics on canvas, although most of my paintings are unfinished. I like to design and make natural stone jewelry. I have a passion for cooking and baking that I foist on family and friends so often that people often suggest I cook or bake professionally.
    And yet I still do not have “a career” and can’t afford my own rent.

    I painted myself into a corner with student loans– when I work out the numbers I’d have to make a lot more than most people are willing to pay entry level personnel in order to afford to live on my own and feed myself. I’m hoping the coding might get me out of this bind, but it’s going to be a process. I have been having lots of crises about what I’ll do if I suddenly decide I don’t like coding and can’t go through with it; or if this idea is really “me” or just my fear talking. And I feel really guilty about bailing on the whole medical school thing- everybody keeps telling me “if it’s really your passion, you HAVE to stick with it! Just pick yourself up and keep trying!” But honestly if I can’t deal with the debt I have NOW… There’s no way I’d pay off med school in time for me to have much of a life. Average med school debt is near $300,000 now. Average. And my parents are NOT in a position to help with that at all. Plus, I’m don’t think I’d want to be a doctor for the rest of my life, but I’d be stuck after that.

    So- I guess what I’m trying to say is THANK YOU! For affirming me and my life choices and varied interests. I am more than okay- I am wonderful and I have a plan that might get me into a more project-based career that I should just follow- and if I get tired of it… I can just go with the flow and make those decisions when I come to them instead of borrowing trouble. I’m a multipotentialist and proud of it!

  47. Raluca says:

    I am so glad I have found you Emilie! You have really made my day. I am working as a project assistant in the field of education, I have had a social worker job, I have a diploma in sociology, I am very talented at drawing and I was a dancer for about 10 years. And if people asks me what I like, I would say :astronomy. It would be nice to go to NASA.

    But people were looking so strange at me that I have started not to say anythink about my interests…

    Thank you again for sharing with us your feelings, I am not alone! A big hug for all of you!

  48. lizannuk says:

    Snap!

    Be all you can be. Don’t worry about societal trammels, stop feeling compelled to accept its restrictions and just be yourself. If feeling constantly like the apocryphal “square peg in a round hole” isn’t working for you – please know it’s time for a change and go for it. Keep learning, keep growing, keep making a difference. You are not alone.

    Had a good laugh the other day when I was called eccentric! At least none of us butterflies will ever be called concentric!! All the best folks, from Sunny Scotland :-)

  49. Cas Yates says:

    This post makes so much sense to me. Since recently stumbling across you and the word multipotentialite my heart just sings. I have such diverse skills and passions which I believe makes me a well rounded individual. For far too long I’m been asked so what exactly is your career? What do you mean you want to have two jobs? Surely you just need to have one job? And that my passion interests and skills are in such a broad spectrum I think freaks people out. I revel in my blacksheepedness. And what’s even better I’ve had the realisation I don’t have to define everything as that was only for others not myself.

  50. Lisa says:

    Whew! I’m not alone! Thanks for the awesome TED Talk. It answers why 21 days does not make a habit for me, why I start reading a magazine front to back then, get bored somewhere in between and begin to read back to front, and why I have to sit in the middle of a large table in order to hear multiple conversations. You identified my life in a nutshell. Now, it has a name and I can quit driving myself crazy by constantly questioning why I have a hard time focusing my talents towards one particular area. Thank goodness I was fortunate enough to find a career in event planning which allowed me to satisfy my various creative outlets and get paid for it. The down side? It’s easy to become paralyzed and do nothing because I feel overwhelmed with ideas and possibilities.

  51. Tania says:

    WoW! People, are there really so many of us out there? This is amazing. “Gifted child > failed adult” – check, as far as social criteria goes.. “It’s not that you have no interests, but too many” – check! “Feel you can do anything you put your mind to, and do it well” – definitely CHECK! Does this make you feel like a fraud? Sometimes. But at 34, i feel like i AM so much more, because of all the things i have been in the past. This is my path, and it’s a multi-path, yes, and i am proud of it! Does this make me a multipotentialite? Cheerio :)

  52. Catherine says:

    Sorry if this is a naive question, but do you need to be considered good or talented at many things to be a multipotentialite? I don’t think I’m amazing at anything, just average and was quite happy and relieved to find out that I was probably a multipotentialite. But then this week I got told (by someone who says they’re a multipotentialite) that I’m a jack of all trades because I’m only average, not good, lat the different thing I do. I feel confused and a bit frustrated. Help anyone?

    • Emilie says:

      I think the defining feature of multipotentialites is really our curiosity, not our skill level. This is one of the ways in which the term “multipotentialite” differs from “polymath.”

  53. Marie says:

    Thanks a lot for this great website / community ! I just discovered it and it feels a new door opens. (hours to come reading posts and comments … ;-)
    (I love your approach about labels which should just be like role play if useful for the person, but inappropriate for social categorization.)

    Not sure if it’s the imposter syndrome, or remains of educational pressure to specialize, but I can’t help thinking this could be a very nice excuse for non persevering, effortless people… (I know, I know, as soon as I write it I remember all efforts I am able to make during my ‘discovering’ phase…)

    (sorry for my probable language mistakes, not english native here ;-)

  54. Camika says:

    Can you kill this gene? I feel like I have forced it out of myself because I never really allowed myself to go for anything. So like others I have a huge collection of books on quite a range of things but I feel guilty taking time away from work to read them or money away from other areas to study them etc. – then I feel lazy not taking the time to learn something new and feel ashamed because I’m “not putting myself first/pursuing my passions” or having “a balanced life” and then I feel foolish because I’m 35 and should have “stopped being a child” by now. Not sure if I am a multipotentialite if I can’t find the courage to delve into other things which I want to get into. Am I just a dreamer making excuses who should stick with her career cause it pays the bills? Did I lose the potential to be a multipotentialite?

  55. Jill says:

    I have always thought that I should have been born in da Vinci’s Italy because of the way I move from topic to topic in my life. Today I stumbled on the Ted Talk link and finally realised what the issue is. I am also a Myers Briggs INTJ and female so I really am a bit of a unicorn. I am lucky that I have found a career that touches on many different areas so I can satisfy the multi in me at work and I just move from hobby to hobby as new things catch my interest.

  56. i watched the ted talk and it honestly made me cry bc of how much it rang true (it could also just be the stress of trying to pick a grad school lol), but as much as i would love to embrace this label, i feel like it doesnt really apply to me. i’ve never become an “expert” on any of the subjects ive been interested in: greek mythology, ancient egypt, pokemon, harry potter, pirates, medivl weaponry, the ocean, psychology, folklore, ethnography, linguistics, intersectional feminism, racism, and (always, no matter what else i was interested in) animals, animal welfare, and the environment. literally all of these ive been interested in at some point or still am, but i haven’t been consumed by them as you describe. i did major in environmental studies, but i minored in anthropology and sneaked in classes from other departments (political science, history, linguistics) whenever i could. and it was sort of like, if you had to pick one thing and only one thing to study for the rest of your life what woul,d it be? i chose the environment because its so broad i could easily jump from topic to topic and never stop learning. but if i could have had unlimited majors, i would have added anthropology, literature, linguistics, political science, the different cultural studies, psychology, film studies, history, hell even things like farming and cooking that arent even offered at most colleges. but i dont think im a multipotentialist, because im just not knowledgeable about the things im interested in. either i dont get the chance/motivation to delve deeply, or i forget a lot of what i’ve learned about the topic–this includes my major, which really alarms me!
    maybe theres a underachiever variety of multipotentilist?

  57. Darren says:

    Multitalented. Whole-brained. Renaissance man. Indecisive. Unfocused. Wish-washy. All things I’ve been called since childhood. I am just now reading about multipotentialites for the first time and I feel compelled to learn what this all means because I am in the middle of another burnout. I’d like to manage the cycle better because it has consistently happened and I know will continue to happen. I also have a need to model healthy behaviors to my children who are also showing the same tendencies. Just to put it out there, I am an artist (preferring ink and airbrushing, but any medium is fair game, even ketchup and a napkin), a musician (mostly guitar, but other instruments as well), a business owner, a fitness enthusiast, a backyard chicken farmer, Aquaponics gardener, school librarian, biology teacher, dedicated husband and father til death do we part. Thank you for this wealth of information.

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