Why You’re Never Too Old To Be A Multipotentialite
Photo courtesy of Will Folsom.

Why You’re Never Too Old To Be A Multipotentialite

Written by Bev Webb

Topics: Life

Multipotentiality is not just for the young. Indeed many of us don’t realize we’re multipotentialites until we’re in our forties, fifties, sixties, or even older than that.

Talk to a multipotentialite over the age of forty and you’re likely to sense a little bit of regret at not learning sooner that having multiple interests and career paths is both possible and a legitimate option.

Don’t get me wrong – busting the myth that you’re just a fickle Jack of all trades comes as a relief – but, for us older multipotentialites, it can feel like we’re playing catch-up as we try to put our habit of hiding our pluralistic tendencies behind us.

It can take quite a while before we feel comfortable answering the question, “So what do you do?” because, over the years, we’ve become so accustomed to using simple one-liners which play down our true selves.

Being An Older Multipotentialite Brings with It A Unique Set of Challenges

Life choices that seem easy when you’re a single twenty-something are a whole different ball game when you have a family and financial commitments.

Think back to your younger self and how the majority of your plans were future-focused. When we’re young, our emphasis is on moving quickly into the future, so we can get to our end goals faster. You may recall being barely able to contain your anticipation at being old enough to learn to drive, vote, drink alcohol, move out of your parents’ home, or go to university.

However, as our thirties and forties loom into view and we begin to see life rushing past us at an ever increasing speed, we focus less and less on far off goals. We want time to slow down, not speed up.

Worries creep in about whether we’ll have enough time in our lives to do all the things we’ve always wanted to do. We fear having to start again from scratch. We worry that our new plans will be dismissed by those around us as a midlife crisis.

We start to fear our age and worry that we’re too old to start afresh. It can feel like a cruel twist of fate that as soon as we finally find our multipotentialite identity, it feels too late to do much with it.

Enjoy The Journey, Not Just The Destination

When I was at university, I noticed a real difference between what motivated the teenage students and what motivated the mature adult learners. Most of the young students were taking their degrees to improve their future career prospects. Gaining the qualification was just the gateway to the start of their career.

However, for many of the mature students, studying itself was the experience they were looking for. It was the journey through university, rather than the certificate at the end of the course, which they valued most. This was especially true for some of the lifelong learners in their sixties and seventies who had no intention of ever using their degree for career purposes.

Ask Yourself What Experience You’re Looking for

If you’re unsure whether you want to completely change your career or just branch out from your current situation, ask yourself what experience you’re really after.

It can be easy to think of this as an all or nothing decision with the only two options as staying in your current career and quitting completely. But there are plenty of ways to build on what you’ve already achieved and to gain new experiences which fit around your existing commitments. You could start a business on the side, freelance, or volunteer on projects which interest you.

Use Your Age to Your Advantage

If you decide to change direction, instead of seeing yourself as starting from scratch, acknowledge the wealth of knowledge and resources you’ve already collected which you can put to good use. Consider all the experiences you’ve gained, the transferable skills you’ve developed, and the networks you’ve formed.

If you think about all the contacts you’ve made over the years, you may already know people who could provide invaluable support to help you with your plans. They might be able to provide advice, offer mentoring support, or introduce you to people who may otherwise be hard to reach.

Adapting to a pluralist lifestyle requires a slightly different approach when you’re over the age of forty but it is completely possible. I’d be really interested in hearing how you’ve made the transition and tackled the age-specific challenges of being a multipotentialite.

Over to you!

What age were you when you discovered you were a multipotentialite? Do older multipotentialites face different challenges? What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome?

bevBev is an artist, creativity coach and founder of Kickass Creatives, a website offering practical support to frustrated creatives. She’s over 20 years of working in the arts: experimenting with everything from performing in a fire circus and managing a hiphop dance company, through to web consultancy and jewellery design. Bev is passionate about using her experience to enable others to fully develop (rather than hide) their multitude of talents too. Connect with her on Twitter @creativekickass.

13 Comments

  1. Simon says:

    Awesome post, Bev, and just what I needed to read. Thank you.

    At 39 I’m one of those people understanding their multipotentialism later in life and wondering how things might have been different if I’d have been more aware when I was at school.

    Now, in a career that drains me daily and a situation my wellbeing demands I must change, I’m wrestling with that feeling that my multipotentialistic tendencies mean I’m too underqualified and inexperienced to make a significant career change, particularly with a new company who don’t know me. The world, it seems, respects (and wants) specialists over generalists. Which company wants to take on someone who picks up new things with an unequaled, ravenous appetite for knowing only to get bored and drop them with as much enthusiasm often in a matter of months (Ok, sometimes weeks).

  2. Bev Webb says:

    Hey Simon!
    Thanks for the great feedback :) I do think it takes some getting your head around how to manage your multipotentiality when you don’t discover it til you’re in your 30s, 40s or older.

    There are always opportunities to change course in your career, or start a business, whatever your age, but when you have financial or family commitments, it’s not always possible to do it “overnight”.

    If you’re looking to change career or take a tangent, try brainstorming around the ways you could make it work. Lots of us develop freelancing or portfolio careers (often alongside part-time employee work), which allow us to dip in and out of different interests. Maybe that could be a way forward for you too? :)

    • Simon says:

      Hi Bev,

      Great words – thanks for replying :)

      I’d love to do something else in addition to my ‘day job’ which would bring in some income allowing me to take a reduction in salary (and a job which is more aligned to my natural frequency than at present). I am, however, one of the countless who fruitlessly struggle to uncover what that could be and for it to feel authentically exciting enough to ignite action, especially when as a multipod you know every avenue is possible and unlikely to last!

      My quest continues and in the meantime posts like yours really help so thanks again and please keep it up!

  3. Brian says:

    Bev,

    Your article really hits home for me. I have always thought of myself as an intelligent person but it wasn’t until facing 40 (I am 39 like Simon), and actually having a mid-life crisis, that made me realize I have wasted my life not knowing I am a Multipotentialite. I have stretched my jobs as much as possible by working for start-ups which allowed me to wear different hats–while also giving up the large salary I would have received in the corporate world–but it has never been enough.

    People just do not believe someone in my field (software) can DO anything else. When the fact is that I only got into software because I knew it would make me the most money. I could have easy have been an artist, biologist, psychologist, engineer, butcher, baker or candlestick maker.

    • Bev Webb says:

      Hi Brian
      I’m a firm believer that you’re never too old to change course – I went to university with people in their 60s and 70s who were finally fulfilling their ambition of becoming artists.

      The world has changed and people can (and do) reinvent themselves throughout their careers. Coming up on 40 still leaves you loads of time – it barely even counts as middle age these days (not like our parents generation).

      If there’s something else you’d like to have a go at doing, you can always find a way to experience it – be it on a big or small scale, part-time, temporary or on the side of your day job.

      Ignore the naysayers, they have no crystal ball to see what you can or can’t achieve. If you feel you want to do something then you will find a way! :)

      • Brian says:

        Thanks for the words of encouragement, Bev. I really appreciate it. It is a shame that so many of us spend most of our lives trying to fit in instead of trying to be happy. It maybe have taken me almost 40 years to realize I just need to find happiness…but better late than never!

  4. Landa says:

    Wow!
    Is 39 the magic number here? I was 39 when I finally figured out what was “wrong” with me! By then I was a single mum, living hand to mouth after having a rather comfortable youth. I was angry at all the oppurtunities I had missed but it also gave me the motivation to harness this new superpower. Now, I am not ashamed of being multi passionate and I am starting a cluster of little businesses that will allow me to fire on all cylinders. I really can’t tell what an early diagnosis would have changed in my life: fewer dead ends maybe, less guilt about my fractured cv? Who knows, but more importantly, who cares! It feels great to be true to my nature.
    Good luck to you Simon and Brian. Life is good ;)

  5. Galo says:

    Funny… I’m 39 :-) Looks like it’s the magic number! I came across Emilie’s TEDx presentation a few weeks ago, and for the first time in my life, at least in the work life/career department, I’ve found my tribe. I’m still integrating the profundity of it all and dreaming of the possibilities ahead of me, especially knowing there’s a whole community of us out there with resources at our disposal. I refuse to succumb to the cultural programming that we have to be one way… It’s intrinsically impossible for me to do, akin to severing some DEEP part of Who I Am.
    Fortunately at this stage in life I don’t have many of the common obligations may people have, yet I need daily reminders that it really isn’t too late at all to pursue what you love and be all that you are. We have to stop defining our worth and value in reference to others that have “made it”. The pressure is everywhere. For my own emotional and mental health I’ve created distance from naysayers. Some will never “get” it; you MUST live your life by example. The only approval you need is your own.
    To a large extent, I think people program themselves to defeat, failure, and ill health. Much as how people’s health can start to fail after retirement because they feel they have nothing else to live for. You have to identify that personal North Star that inspires you to keep going. For me, that meant letting go of the idea of “retirement”. Some of the oldest people in the world come from cultures that have no concept of retirement. They keep going through old age because they have a supportive community and culture that favours that way of living, so much that it’s taken for granted that that’s how the way things are (Okinawa, Japan, as one example, and parts of rural mountainous China).
    Everything has perfect timing, and it’s either a good thing, nor a bad thing that I’ve now discovered the multipotentialite community I’m a part of. It just IS. It’s up to each of us as to how we define it and how we use it.
    Thanks for the article, Bev!

  6. Lisa says:

    Yikes..I felt an immediate sense of relief and also anxiety when I heard Emily”s TED talk. I have been multi my entire life and I am 55. I live in a artistic mountain community right now that also expects me to be ONE “thing” and stick with it. I am a musician at the root of my authentic self. I majored in music and biology .The latter out of fear. I just want to breathe and stop this perpetual money game. I live mindfully. I workout a job that is draining me and is a waste of my amazing mind. Yes, I can admit this outlaid finally. I have lived all over the planet my jobs range from commercial salmon set-netter in Alaksa to costume designer to UAF in Fairbanks to get a teaching credential …….I think I am weary at this point and don’t feel like finding an intersection. BUT..maybe I will come back around. Thank you!

  7. Simon says:

    @Lisa

    “I just want to breathe and stop this perpetual money game.”

    Amen.

    If everyone said “I’m not playing this game any more.” and stopped, the system would collapse. It relies on our continued acquiescence for control. The journey of discovery we are on is part of waking up and together we can find a better way.

    • Lisa Leftwich says:

      Simon,
      I wholeheartedly agree. I realize that most people live in the dream of “separation” from the oneness of humanity and that the moment I am in is the only place/truth/connection to source/end of suffering I CAN be. Living mindfully, I mean fully present allows me to see this drama from a distance. I love who I am and my multiple gifts. The relationship to dollars is an old wound/game that Im not interested in. I am interested in being of service through being loving and present and music. Thanks ! be well

  8. Suz says:

    Lifelong multipod here, born on Benjamin Franklin’s birthday (different century :D) who didn’t know being multi-passionate was a thing till I discovered Barbara Sher (author of Refuse to Choose who coined the term “scanner”) years ago. Can I say that my 60s are my best decade yet? Who knew?? :D

    I happen to be a certified Profit From Your Passions Coach, specializing in working with multipods (thanks, Emilie!), scanners and hummingbirds. See Liz Gilbert’s Flight of the Hummingbird talk … https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/posts/911844155564367.

    I’m great at brainstorming ideas to help you find ways to create the life you want and work you love to support it instead of the other way around. (What a concept, right?)

    Just today, Marie Forleo (also one of ‘us’), posted this: http://www.marieforleo.com/2016/07/multipassionate/ Enjoy!

    Cheers! — Suz :D jax@abitx.com

  9. Suz says:

    Thanks for this excellent article, Bev!! Just signed up for your kickass newsletter! Yay!! :D (even if it took me nearly 2 yrs to find you.) :P

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