The Curse and Blessing of the Multipotentialite (or the Month in which I was a Rock Star)

The Curse and Blessing of the Multipotentialite (or the Month in which I was a Rock Star)

“Are you guys on tour?” the guy in the jean shorts asked me.

“Your song was really good. I would buy it, and I pirate a LOT of music,” another guy added.

“Thanks!” I exclaimed. “Nah, we were just here for a month to write and record the album. We’re leaving LA on Sunday.”

“Where can I find you online?” several people asked.

“Um. We don’t have a band name yet, but you can check out my other website. It’s P-U-T-T…”

It was the perfect end to our month of writing and recording the  album. Up until that night, we’d performed for a few musician friends, we had played our parts into microphones, for each other, for the internet. But we hadn’t yet played live.

The compliments felt good, but just being up there was what mattered.

It’s sort of frustrating to know that we could be really successful as a band, if we just committed– if that was what we wanted. But Rena is really involved in comedy/stand up right now, and I have a business and Tribe that I love running and a bunch of new projects in the works (to be announced shortly).

Earlier that day, I was sitting in my friend Arash‘s loft, watching him turn two bars from My Girl into a loop and lay beats down on top of it. I suddenly felt this surge of wanting to quit it all, and just become a producer. I could deck my place out with the most gorgeous equipment. I was pretty good at producing, but I could be great at it, if I only dedicated more of myself to it.

But then I remembered that if I were to fully devote myself to being a rockstar or a producer (not that Shammy is only a producer! Kid is a total multipod. Acting, singing, dance, etc.), it wouldn’t be sustainable. It would probably last a couple years before I would needed to play with a new medium.

I also wouldn’t be being true to myself.

So I will be a rock start for a month, a producer when I’m in the mood, I’ll take on an isolated web design project if something strikes my fancy, and morph into a public speaker a couple times a year.

There is no use in fighting who you are, so you may as well learn to enjoy the variety and work with your natural rhythm.

Such is the curse, and but mostly the blessing, of the multipotentialite.

Our album will be out as soon as I mix it. Probably near the end of the month. It’ll be available for free streaming on bandcamp, and we’ll have a reasonable, pay-what-you-want structure for download. I’m pretty proud of it. I may not be a professional rock star or a professional producer, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t pump out the odd kick-ass album.




Your Turn

What different careers or roles have you taken on for short periods of time? Maybe just long enough to make something that you’re really proud of?


  1. Joshua Lundquist says:

    Emilie, I was in the same place two weeks ago. Not in California, but in the same mental space as you.

    After a full weekend of being absorbed in music, on monday I was ready to quit everything else, chastising myself for not having “gone all in” with music and worried I would never get a chance to go on tour, for some reason…

    But I know even going on a tour would get old. I would crave home, and my comedy-minded friends, and I’m sure I’d start thinking about how great it would be if I wasn’t doing music full time!

    I would definitely feel like kind of a phony if I was playing music live and not into it, y’know?

    Since I’m a plate spinner, I’m frequently tending to the music interest, but then when the switch flips and I get inspired by film or css or autocad, I know now that it’s time to dive head first into that.

    It’s almost then, when my passion switches, that I know sticking to the old passion out of obligation or habit would only be to it’s detriment.

    The answer for some people is just to always keep their passions / interests separate from money, as if making a living off of those things was sacrilege to their purity, but I don’t believe that that is the magic key. I think creating a lifestyle where you are able to dive fully in to each revolving passion as it comes around is totally the way to go (for us multipods)! And you’ve been a good example of that.

    Good article!

    • Emilie says:

      Thank you Josh. It’s interesting to hear you say this after reading the discussion you started in the Puttytribe a couple weeks ago. It makes total sense. I love how you break it down and where you ended up.

      Are you still interested in mastering one of our tracks? I’m about to start the mixing process so let me know if you’d like me to throw anything your way. :)

      • Josh says:

        Aw, thanks Emilie, your writing helped me clarify the whole process that was going on in my head. Glad my dilemma synced up with your month of delving in to the musician identity, hah!

        And yeah, I would totally like to master a track, just put the stems in my dropbox folder!

  2. Lovely article. Emilie

    Being a full time real musician is a very rough go and pretty much always has been. The allure of touring wears thin even for top-flight pop musicians who stay in hotels and fly on planes. Being a regular working musician means you load ten grand worth of gear into a 700.00 van and drive a hundred miles to make fifty bucks… and are rewarded by sleeping on a couch or a floor while a party goes on around you. Fun for a while, but it gets old.
    However, the joy of playing live is amazing. The joy of learning how to record is equally so. I have, in the corner of my basement, a drum kit set up with four mics. I can record a groove, track bass and guitar and keyboards over it, lay down some vocals and have a passable pop song. If I get in touch with a few other players we can play it live. Is it a viable lifestyle? Not really… most musicians I know, many of them extremely talented, scratch out what they could be making at Starbuck’s by being on the road weeks at a time and playing for largely indifferent audiences. They love it for a while, but there is no viable way that it can turn into a career.
    I think we get caught up with the idea that for something to be valuable it has to be financially viable. That is not the case, and in music was only the case for a select few out of many. During the 30s and 40s, hundreds of bands played thousands of shows across the US every night of the week and most of the musicians barely made enough money to survive, let alone support a family or any stable life. I know musicians in successful, label-backed bands that are facing the grim reality that even the moderate ability they once had to play music for a living is likely gone for good. They keep at it, but it’s worrisome. Many of them are learning how to apply what they know to other avenues, writing and recording music for films and commercials. We’re a commodity society as anyone who works in a service business can tell you… no work, no eat. If you make something once and sell it many times you’re in a better spot.
    I do a lot of things in life, among them playing drums. Being the kind of person I am, I studied drums for many years and got way, way into it. I’ve done that with more than a few things over the years: rock climbing, motorbikes, guitars, comics… on and on. When I do something I like to know all about it and I look at the history, the context, the individual parts that make up the whole. I try to get good at whatever it is and do it as often as possible.
    Drums were always something really special. It’s the oldest and the newest instrument, since drums have been around as long as people have had hands but the drum set as we know it didn’t really become what it is today until the early 1940s. I love drums, and like many drummers, became enamored with how they sound in context. The greatest drummers in the world are the perfect accompanists, musicians who play the perfect thing that makes everybody sound better. They are not showy or greedy for attention. These are guys like Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, Earl Palmer, Al Jackson, Jr… and more modern players like Keith Carlock, John Robinson, and the amazing Steve Gadd. This is not to say that these guys can’t play… all of them are superlative technicians. It’s just that they choose to serve the music instead of their ego. They become masters of many styles so they play appropriately for whatever situation they find themselves in.
    It’s what I always aspired to in drums and everything else. I believe any creative endeavor is worthwhile, especially if you really dig in and learn how to do it as well as you can.

    • Emilie says:

      This is so beautiful, Joshua. I love the way you approach drumming, and I agree with you about service. If you can marry creative expression and service (or engage in them both separately), that is key.

  3. Phil says:

    Your question reminds of the last time I ever went to an Employment Agency. I met this very young chap and handed him my resume which only included anything strictly relevant to work practices. he looked down it, looked up at me and said,
    “I don’t believe it.”
    “Sorry?” I asked. “What don’t you believe?”
    “I don’t believe that you can do all the things you say.”
    “I see. So how many of them can you do?” I asked
    “None of them”
    “So, if you have no idea how to do them, how do you know I can’t?”
    “Because its impossible for one person to be able to do all of these things. You’re lying.” Now I don’t like being called a liar by someone who has just admitted that they don’t know what they are talking about. So the devil entered me, I sat back in my chair and smiled by bestest evilest grin.
    “OK. Here’s what we will do: put me in any company of your choosing to do any or all of the skills I mention and I will work there for a month free. If at the end of the month, I have failed in anyway, you can kick me out the door. However, if at the end of the month, they are happy that I can do these things and want to keep me, you will resign because it will show that you don’t know what you are talking about and are taking wages under false pretences.” I saw genuine fear in his eyes. Of course, he declined. As I got up, I said
    “Do you know the really sad thing here is not that I can do all of these things but that you can’t even do one properly at your age.”
    I meet someone who has a deep passion for something and I say,
    “Tell me about it.” And usually by the time they stop, I have become fascinated enough to learn more and sometimes I learn enough to do things with that knowledge either for myself or for other people.
    It’s not my fault, the universe really is an interesting place and today really is an interesting time to be alive

  4. I totally get that, Emilie. I want to teach kombucha classes about 3 times a year or so. I enjoy doing one-on-one coaching with people, but only a few people a year (it’s intense being a coach and guiding/mentoring people through transformations! and I have a lot of other projects that I want time for). I’m fine with leveraging my own rhythms to work for me, and lots of what I do is related to healthy living. But it feels very difficult to build a business. For example people contact me a lot about kombucha classes and when they do, they seem disappointed that I only do them a few times a year. I hope that with time, I can amass a body of work within my overarching theme that other people (non-multis) see me as consistent. Thanks for writing this, it really struck a chord :)

  5. First one that came to mind was managing a circus school. I did it for a year and a half, and u rocked the joint.

    It was a multipotentialite’s dream job, as it had so many elements to it. Managing, teaching, mentoring, budgeting, marketing, video editing, stage managing, producing, occasional performing.

    I feel I made a great impact, and still here about that impact I made on people and programs.

  6. Kaitlin Maud says:

    I feel this way ALL. THE. TIME. It’s hard not to get down about it as you get older as well.

    I was a ballerina from the time I could walk. I advanced quickly and adults spoke about me as if I was some sort of dance prodigy. I had the “dancer body” and routines and new moves came effortlessly….

    But even as a child, my multipod mind couldn’t “commit”. I was a tomboy at heart and after about 5 years of dance, I wanted to play boys league baseball. I am grateful that my parents supported the change despite the fact that I was TERRIBLE at baseball. I loved the game and they loved seeing me have fun.

    I often wonder what my life would be like if my parents had encouraged me (dare I say- MADE me) stick with dance. Would I be a professional dancer? Would I be famous?

    I will never know. And I will never know about a lot of the different choices I’ve made now in my adult life. Could I have been a great graphic designer? Probably. But I am a good designer. And a good dancer. And I’m still not a great baseball/softball player, but I have fun. And I’m learning to be okay with all of that.

    • Emilie says:

      I totally get this. I bet if my parents had forced me to stick with violin, I would have become resentful and quit eventually anyway. I might even be so bitter towards the violin that I wouldn’t have picked it up again, ten years later. Can’t ask “what if,” just gotta trust your intuition and trust that what it’s telling you is for the best.

  7. Cristina says:

    Hey Em,

    Once, reading about kids and their artistic talent, I read an article that said that the capacity of becoming a great art teacher for kids relates directly to the moment when you decide to take the paper out of their sight and prevent a mess, leaving just a great work of art, and garateeing that they don’t get tired of it, leave them wanting more.

    I guesse I find a relation with this question you found these days; you can continue and be great, but who knows if it isn’t greater like this, maybe this is the moment of taking out the paper from you, leaving a great work of art instead of letting you mess around more with it. Leaving you with a feeling of ‘i want more’ instead of an ‘I’m tired of this’ that it would be in the future.

    I guess this is the motivation.

    Hope to hear that album soon! ;)

    Oh, and BTW, that Puttylike tweet party was crazy! thank you!

  8. Erin says:

    Hi Emilie! I am so excited and can’t wait until your album comes out! Congratulations!!

    I’m often in this spot of feeling like I could do one thing forever… I have 3 current passions :: writing, life coaching and Reiki. Thankfully they can go hand-in-hand in many ways BUT sometimes I wonder, if I had to choose just ONE which one would it be, and I have to say I would choose writing. All three light up my life and make me feel truly connected to my core, my purpose but writing is just a little bit more me.

    That’s why I participated (and rocked) NaNoWriMo last November – because I wanted to dedicate an entire month to writing. And I did it – I wrote my entire novel (over 50,000 words) in 30 days and it was crazy amazing! Probably similar to your last month.

    Anyways, I’m happy to celebrate my Multipotentialite personality but I have to say that moments of pure focus is beautiful too. I guess it’s just about :: figuring out what works best for you and embracing your passions.


    • Emilie says:

      Way to go, Erin! I tried doing NaNo this year and failed. But the experience was great and actually helped me gain the confidence to give this music challenge a go.

  9. Livia says:

    Dear Emilie, I’m always impressed when I read your posts, it almost always feels like my own thoughts and feelings. Almost always when I become interested in something new I get this idea “now I’ll commit” or “I’ll do this forever” and “this is it” – and then gradually these things lose their attraction for me as something new arises. But they don’t vanish at all, they remain in my life. And so I’ve learned to live with all of my interests: I’ll take a weekend workshop in painting (or a semester), or I’ll take part in a short-term theater activity, or I’ll take classes in mindfulness or qigong for half a year. Or I commit to writing what I need to write. It’s like I’ve come to realize that it works best for me if I make definite appointments for these interests. They belong to me and from time to time I’ll treat them and give them time to develop…
    And @Phil: good story ;-)
    I’d like to know how multipotentials can write their resume or cv at all – what a task, we are special.

    • Emilie says:

      Awesome, Livia! A post on resume-writing for multipods is a great idea. I might have to put out a call for guest posts for this one though, seeing as I’ve had like one traditional job in my life. I was always self-employed, even back before I knew what that meant.

  10. Eurobubba says:

    When you say you wouldn’t be true to yourself if you made a deeper commitment to something, I can’t help but wonder if you’ve invested so much into the “multipotentialite” idea that you’re limiting yourself now. If you’re passionate about something and have some foundation to go on, why not go ahead and dive in? You can still always move on to something else if and when you do get bored with it — it’s not as if you’re selling yourself into indentured servitude or something.

    Anyway, congratulations on the album!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Eurobubba,

      I really appreciate the thought. I didn’t actually mean that I was afraid to commit, simply that I know better than to make my whole identity about one thing, forever and ever. That will only lead to disappointment. I know because I’ve done it many times before. I have no problem committing and diving in deep and then switching it up when the time comes. It’s how I’ve always operated.

  11. E.K. Carmel says:

    Emilie, that is so friggin’ cool! I like that you’re able to put your music-making into perspective. I think that might be what I like best about learning I’m a multipotentialite – the ability to understand these needs and tendancies and work them into my life without feeling ashamed in any way.

    I got my degree in education, but quit after only a few substitute gigs. I worked at my family’s business doing a variety of jobs from secretary to graphic design, marketing, CAD drafting, quality assurance, office manager, etc. I guess now I know how I was able to pick up each of these things easily.

    Then, I became a wife and stay-at-home mom. My marriage and daughters are the things I’m proudest of in this world. But I learned I needed a creative outlet for my sanity.

    I just spent the last five years writing a first draft of a novel and getting half way through the first revision before deciding I couldn’t continue. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. Now, I realize I just burned myself out. I’m taking time to look around and try my hand at some other things. I kind of hope that, like you, I’ll get back to the novel eventually.

    • Emilie says:

      Very cool, E.K. Yeah, take a break from the novel and it may return as an interest in the future. For now, have fun with some other projects.

  12. Janet says:

    I don’t think Emilie has a lack of commitment. Her work ethic is definitely stronger than mine at this point and is awesome! But it’s always great to see the ‘grass is greener’ on the other side and dream what your life would be like if you took this route or that… the comments showed you *could* be a rockstar if you dedicated yourself towards it, but the one-off album here and there is a nice achievement! Or you could be an ‘accidental rockstar’ based on demand… if this take takes off and you just go with the flow, who knows! I love Derek Sivers story on how he started CD Baby, it was very much of the ‘accidental’ realm as well.

  13. Carlo says:

    Woohooo on your album, Emilie!! I guess it’s really just a matter of going for it. :-)

    I used to think that I’d be a graphic designer forever. Spent over a decade in that profession. But during that time I was also a PR writer, and a comics illustrator. Even taught basic web design at university and acted in professional theater for a bit. Now I make comics most of the time, then do small design projects, plus write business articles for an entrepreneur magazine.

    These new things come in spurts but, while it’s happening, we kind of obssess over it in a good way, to the point that we learn enough that we can make a bit of money on the side. :-)

  14. sarah says:

    Wow I wish that i could do anything near that. I destroy everything i touch because I’ll try something new and do well but as soon as anything good comes out of it i get bored and lock everything away. I put so much hard work and effort into a subject then it works and for some reason i just stop. I HATE IT!!! being good at one thing and keeping to it than being good at multiple things but never improving youre skill

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