Here’s What Happens When 100 Multipotentialites Get Together for 4 Days
Photo courtesy of Anthony Ongaro.

Here’s What Happens When 100 Multipotentialites Get Together for 4 Days

Written by Claire Nyles Suer

Topics: Everything Conference

Maybe you already heard: this past week, we had an incredible “Multipotentialite Meeting of the Minds” in Portland, Oregon. One hundred people from several continents made their way to a beautiful local community center called Taborspace, where we hosted our first-ever Everything Conference (also known as ETC).

It was a brand-new, participant-driven event; it was bold and a little experimental. None of us could really say we knew what to expect before we got there—no matter how much we excitedly pored over the list of sessions in the weeks leading up to it!

Those of us who were lucky enough to participate in person are going to be talking about #ETC2019 for a long time. And as I left to fly back home, I kept thinking about how I could share some of the important lessons and stories with our larger Putty community. So if you missed it, and you’re feeling some serious FOMO, or you’re just a bit curious about what went down: here’s a few of my initial takeaways.

ETC was about ideas, learning, and growth.

Multipods are idea people. It’s not that we’re not also doers, but wow, this weekend was a true brainstorm, almost a “braintornado”! As we discussed, well, everything—there was never a moment when a group was staring at each other and feeling stuck. Our super powers for connecting dots, smooshing interests, and synthesizing knowledge were on full, glorious display.

We had sessions on event planning, relationships and love, branding and marketing your work, public speaking, the Enneagram, building a business, music-making… the list goes on. During ten different session blockseach with four to six different workshop optionswe dug into tons of ways to improve our lives, rock out our careers, and expand our skills. I’ve never been at a conference where after every session (not just a few), I was thinking “Wow, these insights are going to change my life.” Here’s a tiny sampling of some sessions I personally loved:

  • In my very first session, “Tackle Your To-Do Lists With Better Systems” by Nadia Charles, I gained a new framework for eliminating low-return-of-investment tasks, as well as how to prevent my productivity being derailed by other peoples’ crises.
  • Anthony Ongaro presented an amazing case that we should all be using video to share our passions, and gave us a step-by-step process to everything from getting less camera-shy to outlining a successful YouTube video.
  • Aja Marsh’s “Money for Multipods” session was one of several offered about the financial side of things. I loved her approach for working with the emotional aspects of our relationship to money.

As you can imagine, being inundated with so many new ideas to engage with was pretty overwhelming. Luckily, we had some amazing event organizers (thank you, Joel Zaslofsky, Vanessa Tharp, and Emilie Wapnick!) keeping us grounded in the middle of the “braintornado,” and helping us turn our new learning into actionable steps for growth.

From the very first evening, at the Welcome Party, we were invited to connect with each other more deeply than people usually do with new acquaintances. We were given amazing questions to start conversations with, like “What’s one thing you care about?” or “What do you want to be known for?” We had long lunches and outside meet-ups galore, which gave us time to relax, but also time to further explore ideas, projects, and partnerships.

I loved that Vanessa, Joel and Emilie didn’t just pay a little lip service to “taking things with us” on the last day of the conference, either. From the Welcome Party onward, ETC had future-geared nuggets baked into the entire experience: setting intentions, creating actionable plans for our goals, and building accountability support. That might sound intense, but wasn’tit was more like a steady stream of gentle nudges, reminding us to reflect and put structures in place to help us use the knowledge we were gaining. Even if structure just meant making plans with another participant to chat on a Zoom call after the conference, check in, and encourage each other.

For me, I think this is the biggest reason that ETC is changing my life: this wasn’t just a break from routine to think about some fun, theoretical things I could try, “sometime.” I left the conference with dates on my calendar, lists in my notebook, a lot more clear direction, and a hotter fire for my passions than I walked in with.

ETC was also about people, connections, and belonging.

But on second thought… there is actually a bigger takeaway for me, one that I’ve been thinking about even more than everything else I’ve written here.

As a community builder, I know the importance of gathering, of finding belonging, of building together, of spaces to be ourselves. But even though these ideas live in my brain, and I even work towards this daily within my home communities, I felt a different kind of emotional impact at ETC.

It could just be that I didn’t realize how much I need in-person interaction with other supportive people who have lots of interests. Or maybe it was just the relief of not having to do a lot of mental work when meeting someone new, deciding whether to (or how to!) show them my multiplicity upfront… instead, I already knew I was with folks who “get it,” and weren’t trying to put me in a box.

But I think what was really hitting me are some other particular qualities that everyone seemed to share. These are three qualities that I think are often true of multipotentialites in any context, but they stood out in sharp relief at ETC.

The incredible people I met were:

1. Relentlessly genuine.

Have you ever been to a conference where, even if the focus was on education and learning, you found that everywhere you turned someone was trying to sell you something? This was not that conference. Sure, there were sessions on business and discussions of how to better sell your personal brand. But the conference itself was about how to show up as our fullest selves, and we did a lot of emotional work together. In almost every conversation, I was struck by how honest and vulnerable we became with each other in such a short amount of time.

2. Curious, curious, curious.

Everyone, everywhere, seemed to be asking lots of questions. And not fill-the-air questions, either, but ones that strike to the crux of things, like “Why did you approach it that way?” and “Can I try that?” This crowd had an endless appetite for learning, and seemed to view challenges with less fear than excitement.

A few times, when I humorously mentioned my desire to “figure out” my career path (humorously, because of course there’s no one correct answer), my new friends dug right in with seriousnessbut not with prescriptive advice. Instead, they got intensely curious about what was making me joke about this, and what had I tried, what my goals were, etc. Often, by the end of the conversation, they were offering me amazingly deep questions that helped me find clarity on truths I didn’t know I held inside myself.

3. Embodying generosity.

“Generous” was the word that kept popping into my head, over and over, all weekend. Or more specifically, “generosity of spirit.” It wasn’t that everyone was throwing their money around (though more than one person nabbed the tab from me over the weekend, so that was a little true too). Rather, the way people were offering each other their time, energy, skills, talents, meaningful stories, and even their healthy boundaries, literally brought me to tears several times.

One of the ways ETC was designed to help us become an interwoven community was through the Offers and Needs Market (OANM), presented by Joel and Katie Sobolewski. The market gave us even more structure around sharing our gifts and finding ways to ask for help, and for me led to several connections I’d never have made otherwise. I’m so grateful to have one more tool in my community-builder’s toolbox for harnessing the natural generosity so many of us have, and to help heal the problems we have with stating our needs and wants.

4. Whatever the combination of genuine, curious, and generous is!

As usual with multipotentialites, a lot of the magic happens at the intersections of our interests and particular qualities. It’s important to me to highlight that any one of these qualities alone could come off really differently. Because folks wanted to genuinely connect, their curious questions felt life-giving, not nosy. Because curiosity came hand-in-hand with a generous spirit, people’s desire to connect felt less draining, and more like coming home.

I said earlier that when I first introduced myself to people at ETC, it was a relief to know they weren’t trying to put me in a box based on one fact about me. But what surprised me was that the individuals I met also wanted to go beyond, dig in deep and find out who I am. That authenticity, that curious spirit, that impulse to give of themselves, is a takeaway I’m going to be carrying for the rest of my life. It’s something I want to cultivate in myself.

Keep ETC with you, all through the year…

Here’s my closing theory, that I want to share with all of you: as magical as it felt, perhaps ETC wasn’t a truly supernatural experience. Perhaps there was nothing inherently different about the people who were at ETC. Perhaps we don’t have to fly to Portland to find this community (although I’d sure like to again!).

I think the ability to create intentional events, the ability to gather together groups of multipods in veritable “braintornados,” and the ability to offer each other the spirit of ETC, are things we can all find wherever we are. It will take a lot of work and some wide-open hearts to make something like this happen again, or happen smaller-scale at home in our local communities. But I firmly believe this was just a first sampling of something pretty revolutionary.

Your Turn

Do you think multipotentialites are naturally genuine, curious, and generous? Have you ever had moments of “braintornado,” or intense feelings of belonging when you’re with other multipods? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments!

Claire NylesClaire Nyles Suer (she/they) is an editor, writer, designer, and community builder. They are the Director of the LGBTQ Community Center in their city, and are working on their first novel (which includes disgruntled millennials and pirates). They also like hiking, facilitating workshops, organizing systems, designing logos, and playing the ukulele. They’re all about empowering people by helping them communicate and connect – to ideas and to other folks.


  1. Claire, everything you shared is spot on for my own experience at ETC, so much generosity, genuine curiosity, and a feeling of being at home with people who get me and appreciate me. I’m just getting familiar with puttylike and I just wanted to say, you’re a fantastic writer! It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and I hope I get to see you again!! p.s. I’m so glad my workshop was memorable enough for an honorable mention :)

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Aw Nadia :) it was such a pleasure meeting you!! Your workshop was such an awesome start to the whole thing. I’m glad this resonated with you. And thank you– I’m appreciate the compliment to my writing! I really appreciate it :)

  2. Ryan says:

    Claire, your thoughts and reflections sum up near identical feelings to my ETC experience. The conversations we shared with each other drew us closer together in a genuine feeling of sharing. I think Multipotentialites are curious, lifelong learners, who know how to get the heart and gut of each other. I posted my thoughts in the forum and believe I found me a home with all at the ETC.

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Ryan it was so good to connect with you. Ohioans unite! Lol. I really loved your post on the forum, I just read it :) Thanks for this comment!!

      • Ryan says:

        The rest of the US and the world benefit because of the work and ingenuity of Ohioans! There’s a unique toughness about us, a rugged honesty, a F the world come hell or high water we will succeed. Glad I’m in good company with you!

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