What do You do when You’re Stuck within a Rigid Structure that Doesn’t Value Your Multipotentiality?
Photo courtesy of Will Ellis.

What do You do when You’re Stuck within a Rigid Structure that Doesn’t Value Your Multipotentiality?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Lifestyle Design

I have mixed feelings about the time I spent in law school. I don’t regret going, because I learned a lot of transferable skills and one class I took in my last year is what lead me to entrepreneurship. Plus my choice to go to law school was a result of me listening to my intuition, so I know it was the right choice. It’s not up to me to second guess the universe, so I just trusted that the dots would connect— and they have.

But occasionally, I would be sitting in a class like Civil Law History or Equity and Trusts, and I’d just think, WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE?

Law school, for the most part, didn’t nourish the multidisciplinary side of me.

What do you do when you feel stuck within a rigid structure that doesn’t value your multipotentiality?

1. Get an Escape Plan in Motion

The first thing to do is figure out what you’d rather be doing, and get an escape plan in motion. If it’s an unfulfilling job that makes you feel stuck and unappreciated, begin looking into alternate careers that are fueled by multipotentialite strengths like synthesizing ideas, wearing many hats, etc., or better yet, start building up a smooshy side hustle.

If you’re a student, like I was, then your program will be over soon enough anyway. However, a word of caution. Do not simply keep your head down and tell yourself, “I just have to get through this.” We have a tendency to do that when we’re facing uncomfortable and temporary circumstances, and I’ve done this quite a bit myself. The problem is that it puts us in a state where we’re not appreciating time, and time is our most valuable resource in life.

Try to imagine yourself on your death bed looking back (gruesome, I know, but stay with me). Imagine looking back on your life. Don’t you think you’d be yelling at yourself for not appreciating every second that you’re alive?

You would.

Find a Way to Honour Your Current, Unfulfilling Situation

It’s all about how you view those unpleasant, temporary circumstances. I have a good friend who is working on building a Renaissance Business, but right now, he’s “stuck” in a day job. However, instead of cursing the unfulfilling job, he’s found a way to honour it. He views his job as the thing that is supporting him– the thing that’s going to make it possible for him to go out on his own.

Your mood, productivity, and emotions are entirely determined by the meaning you assign to your circumstances. The meaning my friend has assigned to his job, is that right now, it’s funding his dream, as opposed to it being the thing that keeps him from his dream. That slight shift in meaning makes all the difference.

As for the college students out there, I have a very important message for you: You have an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY right now. Do not waste this time.

Everyone wants to “quit their day job” and follow their dreams, right? Well, the best way to “quit your day job,” is to never have one in the first place!

These college years are prime time for you to be hustling. Start designing a career or business now, so that the stage is set to jump right in when you graduate, or shortly thereafter.

College provides a lot of freedom and distance from the “practical realities” of life (things like bills, being financially independent, repaying loans, etc.) I know there are exceptions and much variety in personal circumstance, but for the most part, you will never be as free of responsibility as you are in your college years. Take advantage of that.

2. Create Your Own “Smooshy” Opportunities within the Rigid Structure

One of the ways I got through law school was by focusing on intellectual property. That might sound like a specialization within law, but IP is actually a pretty “smooshy” area. It combines law and policy with art, music, technology, and so on. I gravitated towards it naturally.

However, at the time, there weren’t many opportunities to explore IP within the Faculty, just the basic intro course. So what did I do? Well, my friend and I started a student club called RIPP: Rethinking Intellectual Property Policy, and then we went ahead and created all of the events we wished existed. Things like a panel discussion on the IP implications of graffiti art, a talk on net neutrality, an art exhibit in the law school atrium, and even a karaoke night.

Looking back on my life, I notice that I’ve done this a lot. When an opportunity to express my multipotentiality didn’t exist, I created one myself.

When you feel stuck in a rigid structure, get creative and think outside of the box. Can you do what Joshua did and ask your boss for the “uncomfortable” opportunities to stretch yourself? Can you approach the powers that be with an entirely new initiative? What project can you create that will allow you to combine multiple interests within your limited circumstances?

There are always ways to make a dull situation more dynamic and multipod-friendly. And if there really isn’t, then go back to point 1 and get that escape plan in motion.

Multipotentialites are Creators, so Create

Creating your own opportunities that will allow you to smoosh together your interests exemplifies my approach to life in general. It’s funny, when talking about my work with my mom, she often says things like, “It’s amazing. It’s like you’ve invented this whole job for yourself.” Yup, it sort of is.

But that’s the lifestyle design approach. Instead of using the traditional model of career selection, which involves assessing your strengths and interests and matching them up with PRE-EXISTING job titles, you ask yourself, “what kind of life do I want, and how can I create that?” Totally different starting point, and one that is far more harmonious with multipotentialite needs.

Specialists are really great at being craftsmen. We are great at creating new things, and bringing new ideas into the world. So do this in your work, whether it’s within a rigid structure or more generally. Don’t look to fit within an pre-existing role. Instead, invent your own opportunities.

Your Turn

What do you do when you feel stuck within a rigid structure that doesn’t value your multipotentiality?

8 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    I completely agree with you in this post, Emilie. I’m always going on about how you have to create your own opportunities and I’m coming to the end of my second degree and planning to not get a serious job so that I go after the things that I want.

    Great post :-)

  2. Bruno says:

    I used to endure, but in the last couple of years I simply quit. And last December I made the last quitting ever (from a 9-5 job that is) and embraced freelancing and entrepreneurship.

    So far so good.

    Only if I were on the brink of extinction I would resort to a day job. Eating sandwiches while building my own business is far better than a fancy dinner payed by a coffin job.

  3. Joshua says:

    This is really good advice, and so vital to those of us at jobs and putting plans in motion but who haven’t yet made the jump. It’s scary, for anyone. I have a kid and live in a foreign country which also adds scary factors, yet I refuse to keep up this underutilized situation I’m in working for a company not aligned to my objectives.

    So this came at just the right time for me. I was in a position where I was about to give up and throw in the towel, mentally, and sort of ‘resign’ myself to my situation (or just try to get fired).

    But then if you do that, your motivation to make moves towards independence and meaningful work in your off hours might weaken. You might feel less empowered and it’ll be harder to pick up that project you started.

    It’s a struggle to stay positive in a WTF AM I DOING HERE? stuck situation, akin to Steven Pressfield’s description of resistance. Then, like often happens when I’m open to it, something tells me to embrace the freaky, tough, uncertain circumstances I’m facing and use it to empower myself. Thanks for this post.

  4. Margaret says:

    A ‘coffin job,’ says Bruno. What a perfect descriptor!
    I have a day job, and I was working on the escape plan all this year, but I was hesitating big-time because I hadn’t committed to letting go of certain expectations… I was weighing on one hand the scourge of staying in a place that literally makes me feel mentally unstable and on the other hand the ‘scourge’ of being without a steady paycheck. I was trying to feel out the best possible moment in time for leaving, building up an audience and some products before leaving the job, but it wasn’t ramping up as quickly as I wanted to be able to leave.
    So… I’m on my third deadline, have a better escape plan, am totally jazzed about the new opportunities that will come in future!

  5. Jenn Staz says:

    I’m new to puttylike and am soaking everything in like it’s my job! Your tip #1 really resonated with me, because I feel like I’m stuck in a dead-end job that sucks the energy out of me and therefore gives me less energy to pursue my dreams at the end of the day or on the weekend.

    BUT – your friend’s positive attitude has inspired me. In fact, I just taped a small sign to the border of my computer monitor at work, which says “FUND THE DREAM”.

    I know I’ll get out of here someday, but in the meantime, it is allowing me to have a relatively nice life.

    Thank you!

    • Hannah Stephenson says:

      Same here! Ever since I discovered Puttylike I am literally like a dry sponge in water! So much motivation here to get going and so much acceptance of having different interests! I checked out your blog and it’s super cool! Love all the Colours! And it’s great to see and honest About page where you admit to many different talents! Kudos to you Jenn!

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