First off, can we all agree that “How to Be Everything” is an amazing title for a book?
If you read enough self-help or management books, after a while they all seem to be just the same message repackaged over and over again (Not that anything can be totally original, but you know what I mean).
I watched Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk about “multipotentiality” close to a year ago on the recommendation of one of my best friends and deeply connected with the message. I’d read the book The Renaissance Soul years ago, and I figured How to Be Everything was just going to be another repackaging of the same idea. So wrong.
How to Be Everything is a flexible guidebook to adulting and creative fulfillment for when you want to do all the things. It builds off of the ideas of The Renaissance Soul and similar books, but it offers so many brilliant, concrete examples and exercises. It is a must-read for anyone who has struggled to find their “passion” when everything sounds interesting.
In fact, I have a feeling that just about every Financially Independent, Retiring Early (FIRE) individual could be considered a multipotentialite.
Let’s tackle some terminology here. There are a ton of names that are thrown around for this “multipotentialite” concept: putty-like, polymath, generalist, renaissance person, scanner, and multi-passionate, for example. They are all terms for someone who doesn’t have one, driving passion in life.
Inspirational speakers inundate us with this concept of “following your passion.” Passion, singular. Has that ever depressed you? Have you ever felt like a disappointment because you haven’t found your one true calling? Do you secretly despise, at least a little, anyone who seems to Have It All Worked Out(™)? You, my friend, might be a multipotentialite (Emilie even has a quiz you can take to confirm and even further define your amorphous joie de vivre ;).
How to Be Everything Highlights
Broadly speaking, How to Be Everything covers strengths and weaknesses of multipotentialites, as well as general work models and related exercises. This book does not offer a “one-size-fits-all” solution for career management; it spreads out a buffet of tools and lessons, where you can pick and choose as you see fit.
In a world seemingly catered to specialists, Emilie is helping fellow multipotentialites find fulfillment and craft personalized plans of action.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Being a multipotentialite is awesome in a ton of ways (continuing with the amazing branding, Emilie calls these “superpowers” <3 ), but there are also some downsides.
- Idea Synthesis (combining things)
- Rapid Learning
- Big Picture Thinking
- Relating and Translating
- (Meaningful, Sustainable) Work
- Productivity (damn procrastination)
Due to many interests, multipotentialites are good at bridging different worlds (like the Puttylike tribe and Personal Finance blogging community, heyo!). It’s just hard to do things like get paid for that sometimes. Emilie has great guidance for these struggles and ways to market the strengths in her book.
The work models are where How to Be Everything really shines. My favorite parts were highlights of real-life examples — I’ll add one or two in each section here just for a taste, but there are SO MANY more in the book. It’s almost worth it to read the book purely for the multipotentialite inspiration.
A group hug job is where you get to exercise multiple interests in one job that pays the rent. This is kind of the dream, in my mind. Like, I can’t be the only one who’s ever wanted to be a Mythbuster, no? It’s education, acting, science, invention, discovery, interviews, and explosions, for goodness sakes — what could be better?
Of course, mythbusting jobs are few and far between, especially since, *sniff*, the show ended earlier this year.
There are more realistic ways to a group hug job, especially in fields that just naturally touch on many other fields. An example would be mobile app development, or other software projects that involve mixes of design along with straight-up coding. One of my favorite examples from the book was the company Marketing for Hippies (I’m such a sucker for an awesome name).
A slash approach involves two or more part-time jobs, each job touching on a different interest(s). You might design web pages and have a bespoke carpentry business, or maybe you manage a number of rental properties and also tutor calculus. If you do two (or more) jobs you enjoy part time and get paid for them, you’re a slasher!
Know how Einstein made money? Well, for seven years he worked at the Swiss patent office, after two years of being unable to obtain a teaching position. Working at the patent office was not Einstein’s first choice, nor where he stayed indefinitely — but it sure did keep a roof over his head and gave him time to devote to academia in his downtime. An Einstein job is a “good enough” job that allows you to pursue your interests in your spare time.
Side note — Einstein’s friends were #squadgoals. They met just for funsies to talk about science and philosophy, calling themselves “The Olympia Academy.” Excuse me while I come up with a kickass group name and design matching leather jackets for my friends. 😉
Just like a phoenix rises from the ashes and starts anew, so does a phoenix-inclined multipotentialite. A Phoenix approach means shifting focus/jobs every few months or years, often bridging gaps between interests.
Multipotentialites on FIRE
One of the key points of the book covers the three elements of career planning for multipotentialites:
Love, love, love the inclusion of money in this list, to no one’s surprise. Money is almost never a topic of discussion in the “find your passion” cult. But you know what money does? It puts food on the table, a roof over your head, and ensures your continuing well-being, at least physically-speaking.
What are we doing as FIRE-seekers if not trying to simply eliminate the money variable in the “fulfilling life” equation? There is a definite trend among us where we work in an “Einstein” / good-enough job (or worse jobs — don’t do it! It’s not worth it!) for a decade or so, then quit to pursue photography, writing, carpentry, gardening, etc. After all, would there be much point to FIRE if we were already 100% satisfied with our lives as-is?
Not having to worry about money is such a freeing thought.
I’m more conservative than most, at least money-wise, and the thought of not knowing how I’ll sustain myself is terrifying. Yet I am interested in things like writing, independent game development, and other things that don’t tend to be lucrative for the vast majority who try to make a name for themselves. I even dabble in knitting, crocheting, and sewing, which are even less marketable (but they have way more opportunity for Cthulu-themed accessories, so there is that).
I would love to be able to make a living pursuing random whims like producing music videos starring Fluffster (the first song would be “I will follow you,” for sure), but this seems unlikely to be profitable. Instead, I have an engineering job that, while fulfilling and interesting, is not something I would do if money was not an issue. It’s my Einstein job, with a potential for group hugging if I play my cards right.
In my heart of hearts, call me Tonks, ‘cause I’m Order of the Phoenix all the way (and would freaking love being able to change my hair color at will). My ideal life would be to pour my heart into something really cool and awesome for a fixed amount of time, take a break, and repeat. I could participate in a hackathon every month, or I could finally finish that sci-fi novel I’ve had 1/10th of the way written for years, all while plotting out my goals for the next quarter.
Am I onto something here? Is every FIRE-seeker a multipotentialite or what? Email, tweet, or DM your examples to be included in this article, or, simply comment below!