How do you answer the dreaded question: “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
For many, that question has never posed any difficulties, as they’ve always had a clear idea of what career they wanted to follow. For some of us, however, that question was often met with uncertainty, which led to an “I don’t know” as an answer or a different profession each time we were asked. As a child, my answer to that question was always the same: “I want to be a singer-dancer-actress-therapist!”
As cute and endearing as that appeared, the pressure eventually seeped in and I chose one career path. Over time, however, the career enveloped me so much that I eventually wanted to leave it altogether and try new things. However, after watching an insightful TED Talk by author and entrepreneur Emilie Wapnick about multipotentiality, I learned that I wasn’t alone. In fact, it is quite common for someone to have multiple interests and not just one “calling” in life.
As opposed to specialists, whose interests lie mostly within a single field, Multipotentialites, or polymaths, are defined as having “diverse interests across numerous domains and being capable of success in many endeavors or professions.”
Some signs that you may be a multipotentialite or polymath are:
- You enjoy learning about most subjects in school.
- You feel easily bored after spending a long time working on one project.
- You had a difficult time choosing a major or double majored.
- You worry that you won’t be able to exploit your full potential and you may fail.
Unfortunately, our society is not structured in favor of multipotentiality. As early as middle school, we are pressured to choose one path, while being indecisive is often frowned upon. College is designed for specialization in one career to be maintained throughout life, even though 30% of students change their major at some point. On top of that, our families, teachers, and colleagues—despite having good intentionss—add extra pressure by constantly asking us to decide from an early age.
If you relate, consider the following:
1. It is okay to NOT commit in college.
You can always change your major, pursue multiple minors, join clubs, or graduate early in one field and pursue other things afterward. Or maybe college isn’t even for you. Once you’re out in the real world you realize that not everything is so straightforward, and there are actually many options available to you.
2. Learn about business and entrepreneurship.
As a multipotentialite, you may want to start new things altogether that combine multiple of your passions. However, you may not know much about business unless you majored in it. Learn about entrepreneurship and freelancing and you may be able to earn an income through several of your interests.
3. Stay curious!
Don’t lose your passions because of societal pressures. Keep following the breadcrumbs to those new ideas, even if it means taking one pottery class, going to a dance workshop, or reading a programming book in your spare time.
4. There have been numerous polymaths in history!
Leonardo Davinci used his interest in anatomy, art, and math to create the Mona Lisa, the Vitruvian Man, and hundreds of inventions.
Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, has won multiple awards including a Grammy and Golden Globe, thanks to his work as a musician, writer, actor, stand-up comedian, and director.
Aileen Xu, the founder of Lavendaire, used her passion for lifestyle blogging, traveling, and personal design to create a professional life design blog and YouTube Channel.
Other famous polymaths include Noam Chomsky, Pablo Picasso, and Oprah Winfrey.
If you’re a polymath there’s really no reason to feel pressured or anxious. On the contrary, embrace and explore all your talents and interests! The world awaits to see your multipotential in action!
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”