Is Every FIRE-Seeker a Multipotentialite?

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.

Multi-What-Now?

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.

Super powers:

  1. Idea Synthesis (combining things)
  2. Rapid Learning
  3. Adaptability
  4. Big Picture Thinking
  5. Relating and Translating

Struggles:

  1. (Meaningful, Sustainable) Work
  2. Productivity (damn procrastination)
  3. Self-Esteem

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.

Work Models

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.

Group Hug

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).

Slash

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!

Einstein

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. 😉

Phoenix

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:

  1. Money
  2. Meaning
  3. Variety

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.

Fluffster typing on keyboard

Fluffster tries, but he’s really not a great writing partner, sad to say!

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!

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11 thoughts on “Is Every FIRE-Seeker a Multipotentialite?

  1. ” Money is almost never a topic of discussion in the “find your passion” cult. ”

    Yessss. This is something that really sticks out to me. My partner is definitely a scanner. He’s also a spender and likes STUFF. It sounds mercenary but I say hey, if you don’t know what to do, do what pays the most. At the least you’ll have the $$ to afford all the toys you want.

    • Yeah, I totally get that!

      My elementary school self wanted to be an artist, an actor, or an author…all professions where even getting by on your craft is unusual. Engineering may not be my one, driving passion in life, but it sure does make me afford all my random whims. 😀

  2. I’ve never heard of a multipotentialite until I read this post. I’m not sure EVERY Firey person is a multi-potentialite, but everything here resonated with me, so I feel like I’m totally one! I have a lot of random skills and I’m not afraid to try things. Even things I’m bad at. I could have gone so many different directions in my career, and have sort of hopped around in different industries. At some point I kind of went through a crisis and quit my job without one lined up. I knew that job wasn’t for me, but I didn’t know what WAS. So I bought one of those self-help books to figure it out. I don’t know if I ever got to the bottom of it, but I’ve been able to identify my must-have’s for every job. I have to be doing something creative, building something from scratch, autonomy, etc.

    In my current job, having lots of interests and knowing a little about everything only helps. And that’s why I can call ppl out on their BS when they try to trick me on stuff!

    • That’s so awesome! What self-help books were the ones that helped you most? 🙂

      I can so relate to the knowing a job isn’t right, but also not knowing what exactly is right. I’m still figuring it out, too! My work is thankfully pretty good for multipotentialites, as I might work on 1-3 projects at any given time, and there’s a lot of variety in the types of projects I can work on. Right now I’m on a project that is slowly killing me…so I’m actively looking for something new that meshes more with my work style. It definitely feels like a different approach than most take when looking for work and marketing themselves. My must-haves are something more like creativity, diversity of work, human touch, collaboration. ^_^

      Love that your current job is helped by variety of interests (and calling out BS is boss AF)! Did it start off that way, or have you had to build out your current role to some extent?

    • I bought Strengths Finder 2.0. I should look at the results again.

      I think part of the reason I majored in English was because I knew I could spin that major so many ways. I felt like if I majored in CS, Accounting or Engineering, I’d be kinda stuck on that path. And I didn’t want to make that decision when I’m only 19 years old 🙂

      I definitely have a role where you can kind of craft it toward your own interests. Naturally I’m around people in other departments and I kind of learn from them. Then I can use that knowledge to become more well-rounded.

    • I’ve totally taken the Strengths Finder, too! My top five are Restorative, Harmony, Futuristic, Individualization, and Analytical.

      That’s so interesting how you chose English so you wouldn’t be pigeon holed — I actually chose engineering because it could be used in so many industries! I can totally understand how you could rock the English degree, though, despite Avenue Q’s opinions on the topic (a good friend of mine also majored in English and loves that song). The most important thing in any industry or profession is communicating your ideas, and you have a brilliant way with words. 🙂

    • I just looked mine up (kudos to me for remembering a password from 2 years ago). I got:
      1 Achiever
      2 Deliberative
      3 Individualization
      4 Ideation
      5 Analytical

      I actually have wondered if I could be have been an engineer in another life. I’ve also thought I would have been a really good paralegal. Haha at that song! I’ve been meaning to write a post on how to major in Underwater Basketweaving and still end up OK. And I agree that communication is key wherever you go, and even more important as you rise through the ranks.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this, I never knew there were so many of us floating out in the universe. I’m definitely a multi-potentialite, and I always felt so aliented and alone from being the one person who just couldn’t settle on one thing. There are just so many different things that interest me, but I also want to maintain the freedom to jump to something else if it catches my eye. I think to outsiders it just looks flighty. My reason for wanting financial independence is definitely related to trying to obtain the ability to explore my other creative interests without feeling like I need to be stuck doing it or making it profitable.

    • Thanks so much, Jing!

      Yesssss — I feel the same way. One of the awesome things about Emilie’s book is the structure it can help provide. Like, how do you know when it’s truly time to move on to something else, or if you’re just having a momentary roadblock? Or, how do you prioritize (and re-prioritize) your current interests, so that you’re able to actually finish projects? Those were the questions I needed answering, anyway — sounds like might be useful to you as well. 🙂

      I actually read the book something like 1-3 months ago, after borrowing from the library. Talking about it again here makes me want to actually have my own copy for reference and regular check-ins with myself! Man, this will be my first book purchase in YEARS — that says something. XD

    • Just realized I didn’t reply to this yet!

      That’s so nice that slashing works for you — with the mental load, have you tried time boxing or some other signal that says, “Hey mind, stop it. We’re not working on that thing anymore”?

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