The 3 Ingredients All Multipotentialites Need in Their Lives to be Happy
Photo courtesy of Arveed.

The 3 Ingredients All Multipotentialites Need in Their Lives to be Happy

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

What makes for a happy multipotentialite life? The freedom to explore? A bunch of sparkly projects to work on? Collaboration buddies? Cash to pay for all our project accessories? Professional success? Social contribution?

While doing research for my book, I interviewed about 50 multipods from the Puttylike community (thanks y’all!) who self-described as being both happy and financially comfortable. I wanted to understand exactly how they structured their careers and what elements they had found or created in their lives to get to this point.

At first, it was hard to find similarities between the interviewees. They were very different from one another. One was an architect, the next a serial entrepreneur, the next a teacher, the next a programmer/actor/writer. But as I zoomed out, I began to see patterns.

The first thing I noticed was that there were four distinct ways that people structured their careers. I call these the “four commonly used work models.” (Here’s a blog post that summarizes each model, and there’s a chapter devoted to each in How to Be Everything.)

But I wondered why these models work so well for multipotentialites. How exactly do they support our growth and our success?

Money, Meaning, and Variety

I realized that each of the four work models has the power to provide us with three important things: money, meaning, and variety. And these three elements were indeed present for nearly every happy-and-financially-comfortable-multipod I spoke with.

There are certainly other things we need in our lives to be happy. We each have different values and care about different causes. But I also noticed that unhappy multipotentialites are usually lacking one or more of these ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

1. Money

For better or worse, most of us live in a capitalist culture in which some amount of money is necessary. We need to eat and have a roof over our heads and pay the bills. Beyond just the basics, money also supports us in getting an education, pursuing our passions, helping our friends and families, and so on. Money isn’t everything, and it matters more to some of us than others, but it is important.

The question is, how much money do you need, and what kind of income will allow you to flourish as a multipod? It’s important to get clear on your financial goals because they’re different for everyone. Plus, simply seeking “more” without defining what that means can leave you with a chronic sense of never having enough.

2. Meaning

Imagine having a life in which you are making decent money from a number of odd jobs, and yet, you don’t really care about anything you’re doing. That’s not what we want here.

You want to feel like you’re doing something(s) that matters and giving back in some way. Everything you do doesn’t need to provide you with a deep sense of meaning, you just need an overall sense that you’re making a difference and contributing in your own unique way (more on this in a minute).

We all derive meaning from different things. A good way to figure out what lights you up inside and provides that feeling that you’re doing important work, is to think about your Whys. Why are you driven to particular fields and projects? What is it about them that makes you come alive?

3. Variety

Variety is the ingredient that is most often overlooked in conventional career advice. You’re unlikely to find a counselor who will be like, “Let’s find you jobs in two unrelated fields so you can get the variety you need!” Or, “Ohh, are you sure that job will be multifaceted enough for you? You aren’t going to get bored?” Yeah. Not how the conversation usually goes.

But while multipods require variety to be happy, some of us need more variety than others. If you have too little variety in your life, you’re going to feel bored and like you aren’t getting to express your full self. Too much variety, on the other hand, will cause you to become overwhelmed and frustrated. You won’t be able to make enough progress on your projects because you’ll be spread too thin. (I’m definitely guilty of this… Anyone else?)

It’s important to get clear on how much variety is right for you and how much is too much. It’s different for everyone.

Getting the Right Amounts, Overall

Keep in mind that not everything you do needs to produce money, meaning, and variety. You just need the right amount of each of these elements, overall in your life. There are activities that you might do mostly for money and activities that don’t make you a cent but that you find deeply meaningful. That’s okay! What matters is that you feel whole, challenged, and supported, overall in your life.

Your Turn

Are money, meaning, and variety important to you? What elements do you need in your life to be happy?

Chapter 3 of How to Be Everything goes through the components of a happy multipod life in depth, with loads of examples and exercises to help you figure out your financial goals, your Why(s) and exactly how much variety you require to be happy. Pre-order by May 1 to get bonus interviews and an invitation to a live q&a webinar with me. Woo hoo!

Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. 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 the author of How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. Learn more about Emilie here.


  1. Giulia Rizzato says:

    Very good article, straight to the point, essential info is there, clear, made me think about myself and my projects a lot. Thank you Emilie!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Giulia! Glad you found it helpful.

    • Arlene Thompson says:

      I also enjoyed this article as well as your Ted Talk. First, it made me cry, but then it Lifted my Spirits and gave me Hope for the future. I know that one day, I will use all of my gifts and skills to make a positive contribution to the world as you have. God Bless You, and Keep up the Good Work. You are Changing Lives!

  2. Jodie Utter says:

    Emilie! You had me at your TED talk and since then I’ve looked forward to each new post and all your content. Thank you for helping me to understand myself better and put a positive spin on being a multipod. I love knowing you’re out there doing this for countless others. I’ve found that the combo of money/meaning/variety and the desired quantities or ratios ebbs and flows with age and life experience as well. Variety looms large for me right now, with meaning and then money bringing up the rear. But there were times when meaning was most important to me and I bet those times will come again. I’m learning to fight against circumstances less and sit with them more. Thanks for being part of that process for me.

    • Emilie says:

      Aww thanks so much, Jodie. That means a lot. And I think you’re right. I think the importance of each of these factors probably fluctuates over the course of our life. Makes sense.

  3. Linzi says:

    Spot on Emilie with all that you’ve said. I’d add one personal note. In the projects I help with and the activities that I do for others (paid or unpaid) I’d like to be acknowledged by others. Not that fake big ego boosting stuff, genuine appreciation. Hoping this doesn’t sound too ego-centric!

  4. Samantha says:

    I’m suddenly picturing a graph where I can track all three of those at once and see where I am–because I think they’re interdependent and all necessary in my life, at least where I am right now, you know?

    Thanks for this! Meaning is my word for this year, and this is a good discussion to think about!

  5. Jade says:

    “You won’t be able to make enough progress on your projects because you’ll be spread too thin” you said it! Haha, I literraly have a million of ideas everyday and I feel so overwhelmed that I rarely focus on one or two and end up not doing anything…
    Currently I’m trying to finish my degree that’s been boring me for the last two months (and I still have two months to go) and after that, I’ll start working on the project that can (finally) bind my all-time passions/skills and allow me to discover new ones.
    In my opinion, meaning and variety are the most important, I know that if I don’t please somebody else other than me, then it has less meaning (I’m not talking about recognition). Money is just a way to keep everything a bit more “under control” but has never been an issue in my life.
    Thanks Emilie for that really awesome post, it helps being aware a bit more of who we are. ;)

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Jade,

      It sounds like you’re in the “in-between” right now, and just have to wait it out a little more. Not a fun place to be, but you’ll make it! And it sounds like you have something cool to look forward to, which is awesome.

  6. dave says:

    this post has really helped shaped my mind. These are issues a lot of us find difficult to balance… I’m lucky to have read this post. Thanks Emilie

  7. Susanne says:

    Hi Emilie,

    thanks for bringing it to the point …. I’m just about to starting a freelance life after having quit my dayjob wich was really frustrating me.
    Meaning and variety are most important to me – but also money is relevant. I live in a Cohousing-Project with my son and 100 other people and I love it! But the appartment is not really cheap. So I HAVE TO earn money, to be able to stay here.
    At the moment I’m a little bit afraid of not succeeding.
    And I know best the problem of feeling overwhelmed! There are so many Ideas at the moment, that I sometimes want to stop my brain.
    My big personal challenge is to get organized in some way.

    Thank you for being out there, I love to read your posts! And sorry for my poor english …

  8. Maria says:

    Thank you for this article, I can really relate. If I have just one of these three it just doesn’t work in the long run. As of now I have a really cool job which makes me money but lately I have not been happy since I lack meaning and lately also variety (and there are other things I want to do of course ;-)

    A change is needed. I just recently recognized my self in being a multipotentialite and my biggest struggle now is how to go for my vision of the kind of life I think will make me more happy but also gives me the income I need. In the past I haven’t seen the possibilities to combine my many passions with making any money. I think there is hope now! Can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to read your book!

  9. Hal Haller says:

    I just want to thank you for your emails, posts, and the work that you are generating which is unique in this world. You help me understand better the how’s and whys in my life.

  10. Eric says:

    I am in the same arena as Maria. Is there any coaching that would help figure out where I go next?

  11. This is a great article and describes some of the itch that I felt that made me leave my stable 9-5 career as a teacher.

    For years, I never thought about the money. But then something changed when I realized how fast other people’s salaries were growing in professions that required less work, hours, and expertise. While comparison is the root of unhappiness, I felt resentful and undervalued. I wanted enough money to play and enjoy an exciting and healthy life, and enough time and energy to actually take advantage of it.

    So, here I am rethinking work and money so that I can have free time and flexibility, abundant opportunity for growth and exploration, and sufficient money to feel respectfully compensated for my labor.

    Cheers to the multipod life!

  12. Jenna says:

    Love this whole site Emilie. First time I saw your Ted Talk I cried. (haha) My brain: “there are people like me?????!!!! in fact, we’re all over the place?? and there’s a name for it???” haha. thanks for this whole venture – it’s incredibly helpful!

  13. Sarah says:

    Love this post and all three apple to me!

    Another huge thing that I need in my life to be happy is to feel I am making other people successful, either as part of their team, as a coach, as an editor, even as a Mom.

    When I know I had a hand in making something a success…either a project or task, a successful pitch or speech, or building somebody’s self esteem, it makes me feel amazing!!! I can look through my career and see that no matter which role I was in, that is where I thrived and continue to do so.

  14. Catherine says:

    I’m glad you mentioned money, I do agree that it’s not the most important however money whether we like it or not gives us freedom, even if we like our job we enjoy doing things outside of it and I feel very grateful to be able to help my family when they need because I have money. Before I felt hopeless now I can help.

  15. Carol says:

    I love this article! I feel like I’ve been stumbling around for years, always feeling like there’s something wrong with me. One of my friend posted your Ted Talk a few days ago then I checked out your website. I feel like everything makes sense now. Most importantly I no longer feel like there’s something wrong with me. I’m actually excited to see what I can do instead of feeling resigned to a boring, unfulfilled life. Thank you so much! <3

  16. Cassy says:

    HI Emily! You are beyond awesome. In fact, being a puttylike is a challenge on our own, but with the courage, dedication and fun you put together for this community I have so much gratitude exploded like the countless stars above our skies. Cheers to your book!! Is it available in bookstores here in the Philippines too? I do hope it is. (hugs)

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks so much, Cassy! My publisher has told me that it will be available worldwide, wherever books are sold. However, I think it’s coming out at different times in different countries. You might want to check with your local bookstore. But you should be able to get it!

Leave a Comment