“I saw it as the one defining principle of my life that kept me from achieving greatness.”
Photo courtesy of Vincepal.

“I saw it as the one defining principle of my life that kept me from achieving greatness.”

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

I occasionally receive an email that I think would be helpful to share with the community. I’m honestly a little nervous about sharing this one because, well, Mike says some really nice things about my work, and I don’t want this to come across as me posting a testimonial or bragging…

I’m, of course, super appreciative for his kind words. They mean a lot. But the reason I’m sharing this is purely that I think it beautifully illustrates the path that a lot of us take on our way to accepting our multipotentiality. I think you’ll like it, and possibly really relate.

xo Emilie

**

Emilie,

I wanted to say that I just watched your TED Talk and it rocked my world! I have known for quite some time that I am a multipotentialite, but I never had a word that encapsulated this truth about me. I had only thought of myself as “lacking in follow-through”, “easily distracted”, “never good enough”, “bored too quickly”, “never satisfied”, “laden with interests”, “ruled by my passions”, “whimsical”, “capricious”, “erratic”, “fickle”, “unstable”, “unreliable”, “a failure”, “a loser”.

I saw it as the one defining principle of my life that kept me from achieving greatness, because I never truly specialized in one thing.

Even having a lack of a label to describe myself as something other than the above, has caused me angst because I kept asking myself, “Who am I? What am I?” I am not just a teacher, or a coach, or a programmer, or an athlete, or a musician. Am I am not just one thing, am I even something? Am I nothing? How come I am the only one I know with this issue?” There must be something wrong with me. I felt so alone.

Why can’t I just be happy going to work and doing the same boring job day after day? I can’t just keep changing careers every 3-5 years, can I? Where is the job security in that? I specialize in nothing. If I specialize in nothing, maybe I am nothing.

And yet, while this dialogue was going through my heart and my mind, there was this other niggling voice pushing the other direction saying, “Look at how much you have accomplished? Look at how many things you are good at?” To which I always replied, “Yea, but I am great at nothing.”

Even though I dismissed this positive internal dialogue, I did stumble across two of the strengths that you mentioned for multipotentialites: idea synthesis, and adaptability. I knew that even though the sum total of myself must be flawed that I still did have two things to be thankful for about myself.

I can very easily connect with people from various fields and industries over a multitude of disciplines. I can readily converse with athletes, musicians, software developers, teachers, gardeners, and beyond, because I have spent considerable amounts of time pursuing these passions.

When it came to idea synthesis, I knew this was one thing I was great at. I could take completely unrelated fields and find solutions for problems by merging these fields. I could take the repetitive task of grading hundreds of tests as a teacher, write a software program for it, and execute in seconds what would otherwise take many hours. I could take what I knew about robotics and apply it to growing and monitoring my own vegetables more efficiently.

In my lifetime I have at one time or another identified myself as, or have been engaged in:

  • cooking
  • blogging
  • software development
  • website development
  • leading a bible study
  • playing instruments
  • creating and maintaining a vegetable garden
  • creating and maintaining an aquaponics system
  • a professional cage fighter
  • a top 100 in the world discus thrower (currently training for the 2016 Olympics)
  • teacher
  • coach
  • I am writing a book (unrelated to my blog)
  • I went to seminary to pursue my master’s degree in theology and then dropped out
  • a husband
  • a soon to be father (I previously saw this characteristic of myself as one of the main things I need to train my children NOT to be, so they can be successful in life.)
  • devoting many hours to learn to speak Spanish and French (not fluent in either)

This is not an exhaustive list.

While I mostly saw this as a character flaw in myself, I was able to recognize that I could readily see the solution to many unresolved problems. But, that also caused me to feel alone.

How come no one else sees this solution? It is so obvious to me. And often times when I would describe the solution I would just get blank stares, or quizzical looks, that I was sure communicated that I am an alien from another planet unaccustomed to our ways here on Planet Earth. If they could not see how great my solution was, maybe my solution was not so great after all. Maybe I am just weird. Maybe I am just dumb.

This email is becoming much longer than I anticipated as it is connecting to so many facets of my life, and I have too many synapses firing at one time as all of the schemas in my brain are reforming themselves in a Pangea-like way, so I will speed this along (maybe I will write a blog post about it). I did not consider myself a rapid learner. In fact, I thought of myself as the opposite. I saw myself as a slow learner, so I will have to reflect on this further.

More than anything, I wanted to say that your TED Talk had a major impact on me, and I felt the need to share that with you. Thank you for sharing an idea worth spreading.

Regards,
Mike Guidry

**

Thank you Mike for the beautiful email, and for giving me permission to share it with the Puttylike community.

Your Turn

Can you relate to Mike’s journey? How did you come to accept your multipotentiality?

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.

48 Comments

  1. Silvina says:

    I relate 100% to Mike. It took me a long time to accept that I’m not a failure for not “specializing” in anything, and it was thanks to your Ted talk, Emilie :)

    • Amen Silivina and Mike. Same here. I have come to accept my multipontentiality when I was able to encapsulate it in one term after coming across Emilie’s TED talk. I am now finding balance and courageously and guilt free exploring the interests I wanted to disregard in order to “focus” on something.

      Thank you Mike and Emilie.

  2. Maryske says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Mike. Much of it sounds very familiar for me.

  3. Inês says:

    I can relate to this email, thank you so much for sharing =)

  4. Leanne says:

    I relate to so much of what Mike has described so thanks for sharing his letter and thanks for creating this space. Mike is right when he says being a multipotentialite but not knowing that you are can feel very lonely. Discovering this website transformed how I look at all of my skills, interests and talents.

  5. Jacques says:

    Mike, Jacques… sounds like one of the same to me.
    I felt the same struggle when trying to get accepted. It seems so many people think that if you do “so many things”, you are a looser and not worth their time.
    As Mike said, we have this ability to find solutions with different “vocations” like grading papers by using computer skills.
    What I find hard is to prove others I really can do this or that and it will work.
    I guess my next big goal is to learn how to communicate and sell myself to the world.

    Keep up the great work! I am glad to fin out I am not alone in this endeavor.
    Jacques

  6. Daniella says:

    Right on! You are not alone. I’m right there with you. I took a Hartman skills test via a business coach that resulted in saying I was 1% of the population who could see solutions that others couldn’t … or rather it took them longer to grasp than it did for me so I needed to slow down to allow them to catch up. You night score this way too … had to come to terms that this is a unique skill that perhaps I could earn top dollars for. Haven’t yet packaged it to sell it but I’m working on it. I think Emilie has thankfully provided a forum for us to feel confident we are a unique group of people.

  7. Marcy says:

    I can also relate to Mike’s feelings and experiences. I’ve struggled with not knowing what to do and whom to become since I left college, which was umpteen years ago.

    The one thing that I noticed that no one has discussed, or at least I haven’t seen or read anything, is how this may have affected their ability to earn a good living. That’s also been something with which I’ve struggled.

    Lastly, I have to wonder whether it is possible for some people to have ADD or ADHD, which I’ve been told I have. Many people do not know this, but you can develop it as an adult. I hate to put labels on anything, but I’m suggesting that it could play a role in not being able to focus on one thing, being easily distracted, doing too many things at once, etc.

    Well enough said, it’s already 9:30 a.m. and every time I start doing one thing, I get distracted and end up doing another.

    • Geoffrey says:

      @Marcy , I completely understand where you are coming from. I have interests across the board, a degree in Art and English but work now as an IT senior manager at a Fortune 50 company. I also, while not diagnosed, have a bit of ADD as well which I manage in the early part of the day with a couple of cups of coffee ;-) I make a very good living at the company I work for and I am relatively happy with the job I have. The key to making this work was in all honesty just finding the right company. Here are the qualities you should look for:

      – The ability to change/apply for other roles after a set period of time (24 mos. here)

      – An multi-threaded project culture… I am honestly working on 4 project simultaneously which allows me to jump between them when I get bored

      – The ability to define what your role / what projects you work on. My manager meets with me after completing a project and asks what I want to work on next.

      – Flexible schedule, and the ability to work remotely. This way you just take breaks during the day to work on other personal projects and come back to my real work later.

      Hope this helps.

      • Diatin says:

        This, this right here:

        “– The ability to change/apply for other roles after a set period of time (24 mos. here)

        – An multi-threaded project culture… I am honestly working on 4 project simultaneously which allows me to jump between them when I get bored

        – The ability to define what your role / what projects you work on. My manager meets with me after completing a project and asks what I want to work on next.

        – Flexible schedule, and the ability to work remotely. This way you just take breaks during the day to work on other personal projects and come back to my real work later.”

        Thank you so much for putting it in writing. I have always had a sense of how I wanted my future job(sssss) to be like, how it should be structered, but I have never been able to put it in words.

  8. I FULLY agree to Mike and it was the exact same experience for me Emily. All the voices in my head quieted down (those were not MY voices!) after I’d seen your talk and I have now embraced myself FULLY. I don’t say that easily, as a matter of fact I have never expressed that before because I simply never felt it. It was really your talk that did that. (Plus, I now have an answer too, to all the people who were commenting on my past). Thank you, and thank you Mike and thank you community.

  9. ally says:

    As usual, I can relate to Mike’s story and I appreciate him and you sharing it with us. I think the more stories we hear of people like ourselves, helps us to eventually accept who we are. Where am I on the journey of acceptance? Still working on it, but yes your TED Talk and stories like these help me along. It’s sad to think how much wasted time, angst and self-deprecation happens all due to something that could be embraced as a great attribute. I see in my daughter the next generation of multipotentialite and try to do everything I can to nurture the greatness of her potential(s).

  10. Alison says:

    “If I specialize in nothing, maybe I am nothing.” >> Consider the opposite.
    If you are special in everything, you are everything. xx

  11. Maia says:

    I complete conect with Mike´s mail. Unfortunatelly, I am still hearing that voices too offen. I have to get off my ego and all this cultural ideas I have been “wearing” for 45 years and it is not being easy at all. But I am on my way and this community is great. Thank you Emily, you are changing our world, you are a mentor and I can not thank you enough. Keep doing it (as far as you want ;) )

    • Clint Moar says:

      Thanks Mike and Emilie. I resonate with Maia. This is still hard even knowing ourselves. My struggles are as a husband, dad, breadwinner with a wife who wants me to stay at a so-called “safe job”. I’m yearning to “Mix up” my income source (job for about 5 years) once again due to boredom and new opportunities. I’ve read Barbara Sher and just finished Margaret Lobenstine’s Renaissance Soul which are great. Next is Emilie’s book. I’m thinking of moving into Freelancing so I can diversify my life.
      My challenge is, how to convince the wife?
      Clint.

  12. Patricia says:

    I, too, can relate so well! I’m almost 35 and just coming to terms with all of this.

    And the obvious problem solving across a wide range of disciplines met with blank stares…oh man! How often I see that.

  13. Tami says:

    ? I could have written this as the experiences and feelings are so much like mine. Thank you, Mike for expressing this to Emilie and to Emilie for sharing it with us.

  14. Jennifer says:

    “Jack of all trades, master of none” is what I frequently think about myself. Thank you Mike for putting it more eloquently than I into words what I have always thought about myself.

  15. Moshe says:

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring mail!

    I am not sure if it was discussed before but, I would like to raise the issue of job seeking + age for MP people.

    Again and again I hear from HR managers that my CV is confusing them, although I have re-written it multiple times with professional assistance. I am 50yo. After my work place was closed I went on job search and although I passed to the personal interviews I did not get yet a position mainly because of the expectation of a “linear” career path.

    I struggle what to do different. Any tips guys? Tnx!

    • Chris says:

      Hey Moshe,

      I know exactly what you’re saying. It’s my belief that there is a change happening, a shift in recruiting that recognises that it’s ok to have a non-linear career, but some companies are slower to change than others. Trick is to find those that are ready to embrace this, and candidates like yourself. Take a look at this as a starting point: http://www.escapethecity.org/
      Connecting with a like minded community might help to start, and I think you’ll find the companies hiiring through here are more open minded than most. I’m sure there are other similar sites and communities appearing out there, maybe some others can suggest some more?

      All the best.

      Chris

      • Moshe says:

        Hi Chris,
        thanks for the tip. I am a member there since few months. The problem is that the vast majority of their posts and workshops relate to the UK and I live in Munich Germany.. Warm regards!

    • Martina says:

      Hi Moshe, yep – know the situation as well. Two quick tipps: It’s not about one CV, it’s about tayloring the CV every time and for that having several of them. In fact as many as there are applications. I work with a template of enhancv.com and get lots of positive feedback, because it has a fresh approach and looks different. And in fact it’s perfect to show different sides of your personality, what I found difficult in traditional CVs. In the interviews, it helped for me to stick with my strengths of course, but at the same time to honestly describe things that are absolutely not in my range and I won’t be able to deal with (because I simply find them boring, but that’s not a point to mention). That way, it doesn’t seem like you are just saying “yes – I am able to do that” to everything just to get the job. But in the end I learned this simple truth in my life: When your CV is “confusing” them because you have knowledge and skills in various fields, there might be a huge chance that the company culture is not embracing such an approach at all. And that means lots of stumbling blocks for you in that job, because they might not appreciate a person with fresh ideas “stepping into their garden of knowledge”. On the other hand there are people outside who will be eager to know how you did manage to learn all these things – and to learn how your profile can benefit their company. It’s a matter of patience then. I know it’s hard but I believe it’s definitiveky worth it.

      • Moshe says:

        Hi Martina,
        I couldn’t agree more. I had a look on Enhancv. looks cool! many thanks and warm greetings from Munich.

  16. Catherine Chisnall says:

    Dear Emilie, don’t feel like you are bragging. You are making a difference in the world and helping lots of people. I wish I could be like you :)

  17. Susana Ochoa-Sobieszek says:

    “Jane of All Trades, Master of None.” This constantly plays over and over in my head. Until I saw the Ted talk, I didn’t think there were others like me. I agree with Mike 100% however my list might not be as lengthy as I am still restricting myself from trying different things and going forward on ideas ALL THE TIME because I’m too “fickle”. Another project down the drain. Thank you for sharing with us!

  18. Diego says:

    Ja !!!. It looks like it’s been written by me!! I used to be a programmer,then information security consultant, amateur actor, math and English teacher. Now I’m 44 years old, have 2 kids and a great woman supporting my crazy way of living. Also black belt III degree of Taekwon do, musician (I play blues with a tenor sax), owner of a consulting firm which works in Colombia, Peru and Argentina. Love to cook and walk. That’s up today… tomorrow have no idea. i think it could be a good idea to learn chinese. :)

  19. VENETIA BOYD says:

    We are masters of many, never say you are nothing. We are the greater of the total sum. The common denonminator is we are masters at being creative, we are creative specialists, ie. we are specialists in being creative. When the left brained people approach me and try to tell me to just do one thing, I say I am, that one thing is BEING CREATIVE!!! Also remember that our Creator created us this way, and we are use ALL of the gifts and talents HE gave us. He gave them to us for a reason, and the reason surely was not to “not use them”. I reference the Bible passage about the one talent taken away from the one who did not use it and God took it away and gave it to the one that already had 10 talents. (Matthew 25:14-30). BE Joyful in the many talents, just think HE selected us and poured them into us. We have more than many, that’s a privilege and an honor that He thought that much of us to Give An Abundance of Talent to. Let’s give back to HIM and use them up!! I love and enjoy every bit He has given me.

  20. Iris says:

    I relate a lot! Even I usually ask myself the same questions. Thanks for sharing. Finally I feel I’m at home.

  21. Wes Grunden says:

    Every kid in high school should see read Mike’s message and see Emilie’s Ted Talk.

  22. Kudos to Mike for expressing what many of us have thought about and experienced over the years. Having that common ground binds us together in a unique way. Mike, I like your list of what you have been engaged (good word choice) in over the years. I think I will try one of those to see how much I have dabbled in over my adult “career” – which is a wider variety of areas than most (and also makes me way more interesting to hang out and chat with). Also, I firmly believe labels (ADD/ADHD) are limiting and placed on we who are WIRED DIFFERENTLY, by the monochromatic, conformist personalities that make up what is defined as “normal” (aka BORING) in our society. They’ve been the bane of my existence from Day One. I’ve taken many corporate gigs to pay the bills but as of this year, I said ‘no more’ and have moved on (leap of faith, really) to become an Independent Contractor/Writer/Author. Funny how it’s all falling into place for me now – all I had to do was jump. Hindsight’s always the best foresight, eh?

    For Clint Moar: It takes time to move from a ‘safe’ J-O-B (especially with a family, as I am single) to where I am now. Start small – part-time, on the side, and watch it grow.

  23. Inggrid says:

    Oh yea, Mike, you are right on point. Finding Em’s TED talk, this website also makes me feel like I’m not alone in this life journey. While I love dancing, I do love ballet, hip hop, traditional Balinese dance, Brazilian Samba, contemporary and Kpop.

    Thank you for sharing your email, I think I found my tribe :)

  24. Katy says:

    I have heard that exact internal dialogue:'”Look at how much you have accomplished? Look at how many things you are good at?” To which I always replied, “Yea, but I am great at nothing.”’

    Sometimes I feel like I ‘should’ focus on one thing but sometimes I feel frustrated that people can’t recognise my multi-skills. The last job I left I was a ‘generalist’ working with specialists and was I really good at it. I loved it when I could used my integrated skills to improve processes and efficiency. But my heavy mundane workload left me little time for this creative development and I burnt out and left. In tears of frustration and disappointment, and with clear self esteem, I told our new acting boss that my skills had been wasted. She could see that. We’ve really got to ‘sell’ our integrative abilities and flexibility. We take them for granted but others sometimes literally cannot see what we see, nor even understand our potential.

  25. Cas Yates says:

    Mike totally get it. Blank faces when I moved on to something else and setbacks were just another chance to grow.

  26. aparna says:

    I totally agree to mike. I had faced the same set of confusion as mike on being good at everything but not great at anything. Its great to discover like minded people. Thank you emilie for sharing this mail.

  27. Em says:

    Lovely e-mail :) I wish I had this ability to see solutions! Go Mike, turn it into something great :)

    Reading these kinds of letters, I always see my CV in front of me and think “yeah, bro, I know”. I think we need to stop and think. Ask ourselves “Ok, and what is it that you actually want to acomplish?”. Maybe the answer will lead you to realizing that you actually have acomplished a lot of what you wanted. And that leads to other interesting brainstorming and other fun things.

  28. Iris Mishly says:

    Emilie, you were an eye opener to me too, I too, didn’t have the word to call my skills. I can’t say I’m relieved but I do feel I understand myself better :)
    thank you for your important post and to Mike for re-writing our thoughts <3

  29. Brittany says:

    Oh my goodness!! I LOVED this!

    So incredibly grateful that SOMEONE else on this planet is going through EXACTLY the same thing as me…I’m not alone!!

    Thank you Mike for sharing and thank you for creating the Putty Community! I’ll be sticking around :)

    Love!!! <3 <3

  30. Angelica Beristain says:

    To me, finding Emilie’s Ted talk and this website has meant finding out I am not alone.

    I have spent most of my life wondering what is wrong with me, how come I am interested in so many seemingly unrelated things and why can I not just be like everyone else. My time is split into so many different pursuits and get bored so easily if I try to force myself to stick to the one thing.

    For so long I have felt like this one trait has been holding me back, until I just decided to stop fighting my own nature and understood that the only way I could be happy and fulfilled was to pursue whatever it is I feel like pursuing, regardless of what others tell me. I have been told I cannot be chasing so many things at the same time, that I need to focus and that the problem is I just do not know what I want.

    It has been labelled a problem, I problem with me, so much and so often that I believed it.

    Even when I had come to terms with me just been odd and having learnt I could use this particular characteristic to my advantage, it has been a lonely place most of the time.

    Thanks to Emilie I know that I am not alone and that there are many other people like me out there. I will always be thankful for that.

  31. Linda Dyer says:

    “…when I would describe the solution I would just get blank stares, or quizzical looks, that I was sure communicated that I am an alien from another planet unaccustomed to our ways here on Planet Earth.” If I had a dollar for every blank stare – lol!
    A person who was trying to help me prepare for a job interview several years back, upon seeing the list of my interests and accomplishments, pushed it away from her saying it made her head hurt and told me to pick two things – so I guess I could include “pained expressions” on my list along with blank stares and quizzical looks. It is quite nice to know I’m not alone. Thank you, Mike, for allowing Emilie to share this with us.

  32. George says:

    I totally relate with this too. I am becoming a bit nostalgic remembering when i watch the Ted talk myself, an year ago. Although i knew who i am and what i want at that moment,before that, for many years after college i struggled with the same problems.

  33. Mónica says:

    Does Mike read minds? Cause he expressed beautifully what I have in mine. He summarizes so well what we multipotentialites usually feel! I also share with him the impact that Emily´s TED Talk had in me. For once in my lifetime I was able to resonate with a great term for my “too easy to get bored, curious multiple seeker, never ending several college degrees” kind of condition and behavior. Thank you for sharing Mike´s email, it feels so good to know multipotentialites may be a little more weird as everyone else, but God, we are so awesome!

  34. Yvonne says:

    Thank your for sharing this. It is always good to know that I am not the only one in the world who is like this.

  35. Laura Creaser says:

    Wow! Eyes watering, the deep pain of reading someone else writing my feelings, of seeing myself in these words and the joy of that release. The discovery of this site and the realization that I am not alone; oh! I feel so much better. I am excited to buy the book and to get started. Thank you for sharing Mike and Emilie.

  36. Claire says:

    Hi Emilie,
    Like Mike, I’ve just watch your TED talk and I cried like a kid! I was both sad for having felt so alone up until this point and so happy for having found “my home”.
    Thank you so much for what you do and thank you Mike ( whose email also made me cry) for expressing with such accuracy my own thoughts
    ( please excuse my English, I’m French)

    Claire

  37. ed says:

    how do i become mike’s friend?

    how can multipotentialites connect??

    Dallas, TX anyone?

  38. Jakub says:

    Relating to Mike with amount of thing I had done in my life:
    *salesman
    *tailor – by trade
    *builder
    *carpenter
    *electrician
    *cable guy
    *fiber optics technician
    *web designer
    *sometimes everything in one
    And so on and on……

    Trying to get masters degree in Philosophies and Spatial Planning – drop out.

    One person describes me as:
    Master of all trades but master on none!

    It’s hard to look around and see all the people to have one thing that they love and can do it, not changing their place of work for 20 to 40 years and still love it.
    I had change work place at least 20 times.
    And before I found you ted talk I was lost and angry with myself that I’m not like everyone else and thinking that I did not achieve much.

    But now things are little bit different thanks to you my eyes are open.

    P.S. And i apologies for my English i don’t use it very often.

    Kind regards to you all and especially to you Emilie.

    Jakub
    Krzywaczka, Poland.

  39. Angie says:

    Right now I don’t have any words, just tears of relief. I’ve found my self in these words. Thank you for sharing!

  40. mados says:

    just a hugh THANKS At least I am not alone . Even if I try so many things and my last goal is achieved as naturopath and wellness ..but still something is missing . I could not find any “resonnance” in all the standard coaching programms that I have read or test. It give such a fresh air and I do feel understand.
    I am so glad to find this community. Great you create it, Emilie. sounds that it is missing in the Old France .
    Thanks a lot and I wish the best to every one
    Marie-Dominique
    France

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