I’m going to present two competing narratives about multipotentialites and reality. And then we’re going to figure out why they’re both wrong.
Narrative One: The “Real World” Won’t Let Us Be Ourselves. We’re Doomed! We Have To Get a Job Instead.
One of my favourite things about the multipotentialite community is seeing the fascinating projects everyone is working on: writing books, building eco-homes, internet marketing, knitting, songwriting, entrepreneurship, giving talks… It’s a constant stream of creativity and inspiration.
But many of these projects are risky. They don’t have guaranteed income. Maybe they have a high chance of failure. Or perhaps we can’t make money from them at all, and they’re just for fun or for learning new skills.
This is where Narrative One comes in. We’ve heard it a million times in a million different ways: “This is not realistic. Give up.”
Perhaps it would be nice to spend our time working on these interesting things, but it just isn’t possible. It’s time to resign ourselves to a life spent in the office, and to consign all these dreams to the bin. The real world isn’t multipotentialite friendly. Get a job.
Narrative Two: Getting a Job Means Selling My Soul. We’re Doomed! We Have to Not Get a Job.
On the other hand, it can sometimes feel like there’s an unspoken peer pressure for a “real” multipotentialite to avoid reality as much as possible.
If I imagine how I might feel if I quit self-employment, my brain objects quite strongly:
- Getting a job means I’ve failed.
- It means I’m not a “real” multipotentialite.
- I’d have no time to pursue my other interests.
- If I get a job, then I’m letting The Man win, and I’m participating in an awful inhumane system of employment, which basically makes me evil. (This one may be going a bit far.)
I don’t think these objections are based on anything I’ve heard anyone actually say.
If there’s a Multipotentialite Police Force out there checking for confirmed freelance status when anybody calls themselves a multipotentialite, I’ve never met them.*
* Ironically, this sounds like quite a fun job, so if the Multipotentialite Police are reading this, feel free to get in touch!
I suspect that this picture of a “real” multipotentialite has come from my brain seeing the most visible multipotentialites, noticing that they tend to be self-employed, mobile, alternative, and creative, and then crystallising a pattern around the idea that all multipotentialites must be this way to qualify.
And so I end up subconsciously believing that being self-employed – or doing certain kinds of work – is 100% necessary to being part of the club.
And I think that’s wrong. There’s no one way to be a multipotentialite. (In some ways, that’s kind of the whole point!)
These Narratives are Both Incomplete
Narrative One – that we should follow our dreams and leave behind the nine-to-five – is regularly used online. We’ve all read hundreds of advice posts explaining how to gradually move from full-time work in the “real world” to a freelance career.
So I’m going to spend the rest of this article challenging Narrative Two – the idea that it’s superior to work in a non-conventional manner.
Firstly, conventional work is sometimes the best decision for us and our families. Our first priority has to be making sure we’re looking after ourselves financially, and that may mean taking work with regular paychecks. Needing to eat is definitely not selling out.
Secondly, I suspect that many multipotentialites like having a job, and happily maintain their many interests both within and outside their work.
There’s no inherent incompatibility between working conventionally and pursuing multiple passions. (If that resonates with you, I’d particularly love to hear from you in the comments. I think such multipotentialites are currently underrepresented, at least in my circles.)
Thirdly, there are no rules. Really… There are no rules. We have the freedom to pursue our own path, should we want to. But that also means we have the freedom to choose to follow a well-trodden path built by someone else. Freedom means having both options!
And neither option is lesser in any way. We don’t need to be forcing ourselves into any mould – not even one that makes us like other multipotentialites.
Freedom to follow your own path means finding what works for you, and owning it and being happy. And if you’re not owning what you’re doing, and you’re not happy doing it, that’s where the rest of us come in.
The multipotentialite community is here to help you move from where you are now to where you’d like to be… whether that’s conventional, unconventional, realistic or unlikely.
Do you ever feel pressure to be a certain way as a multipotentialite? How do you balance work with your interests, or do they overlap?
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.