THE BLOG
01/22/2015 10:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can You Be a Successful Entrepreneur Without Picking a Path?

Do you find yourself struggling to find that one thing you're "meant" to do? Do you want to "follow your passion" to build a career you love, but can't seem to settle anywhere? Do you find yourself quitting even the jobs you thought you loved, ready to move on to the next thing?

You might not be as lost or frivolous as you feel.

You might be a multipotentialite.

According to writer/entrepreneur Emilie Wapnick, a multipotentialite, in simple terms, "is someone with many interests and creative pursuits."

The creator of the Puttylike community for "multipods", Emilie describes herself as "some combination of artist, entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and coach." She launched Puttylike in 2010 to share her experience and tools with others who weren't satisfied choosing a single creative specialty.

I reached out to Emilie to learn more about multipotentiality, and how multipassionate entrepreneurs can build successful careers with room for all their passions.

Dana: In your words, what does it mean to be a "multipotentialite"?

Emilie: It comes from the term "multipotentiality," which is a term used in psychology to refer to people who display aptitude across multiple disciplines. You may also be familiar with the notion of the polymath or Renaissance person. Multipotentialite is a modern version of that same idea.

If you look back on your life and notice that you've been heavily involved in many different projects or disciplines, there's a good chance that you're a multipotentialite. Multipotentialites are highly curious and they move on once their curiosity is quenched and they got what they came for.

How do I know whether I'm a multipotentialite or just uncertain and experimenting to find the right path?

Everyone does a certain amount of exploration, but monopaths will usually have no problem settling on a narrow field for the longterm. Multipotentialites, on the other hand, require variety and will always become bored with a subject unless that subject is multifaceted enough or they have found other ways of getting variety into their life.

If you are worried that choosing one of your interests means denying all of your other passions, then you are likely a multipotentialite. This fear can hold you back from making decisions. But remember that life is long and there is a middle ground between doing everything under the sun and doing only one thing -- a vast, vast middle ground.

What does a multipotentialite career look like (e.g. compared to a traditional job and/or with freelancing)?

Multipotentialites need to have three factors in their careers in order to be happy: variety, meaning, and money.

Variety is the one factor that is really unique to multipotentialites, and there are countless ways to obtain this variety. In the dozens of interviews I conducted for my forthcoming book, I spoke with multipotentialites who were making a living in all kinds of different ways. I noticed that there were four commonly used work models:

1. The Group Hug Approach: One multifaceted job or business that allows you to wear many hats.
This might mean working at a startup or just at an organization that is forward-thinking and wants you to be involved with several facets of the business. The goal with this work model is to combine many of your passions in one career. Imagine your passions joining together in one big group hug.
2. The Slash Approach: A few different jobs, businesses, or random revenue streams that keep your multiple passions separate and distinct.
3. The Einstein Approach: One "good-enough job" that isn't too draining and provides enough time and creative energy to pursue your many interests on the side.
4. The Sequential Approach: Dive into one field for several years and eventually switch gears and begin a new career or business in a new field.

It is worth noting that most people are hybrids to an extent. It's okay to shift between work models periodically or mix and match as necessary.

Can you offer a few top tips or steps to transition to a multipotentialite lifestyle/career?

Make a master list of your interests, passions, skills, hobbies and curiosities, past and present. Cross out the items that you are totally over, and underline the ones that really pull at your heart. Then try fitting the items on your list into each of the four commonly used work models: group hug, slash, Einstein and sequential.

It's important to not only brainstorm in the abstract, but to begin experimenting in the real world. Is there a way that you can make your current career more plural or integrate some of your other interests into your work? Do you already have some free time during which you could begin pursuing a new curiosity or a project that you've been wanting to try?

Why do you do the work you do?

I believe that multipotentialites are the innovators of the future. They are in the best position to solve some of the world's biggest problems, which tend to be complex and multifaceted.

Suppressing your multipotentiality and trying to fit yourself into a box doesn't just hurt you, it hurts the rest of us. Who knows what you might create, what problems you could solve, or what kind of positive impact you could have if -- instead of denying your multipotentiality -- you embrace and use it.

Why is it important to talk about multipotentiality now?

The economy is changing drastically right now. Many highly-skilled specialists have seen their industries become defunct in recent years. These situations are always sad, but we should try to learn from them. The best way to deal with uncertainty and to indeed thrive, is to be flexible, learn how to adapt, and to see how problems (and potential solutions) fit into a broader global context.

Thanks, Emilie!

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Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. She is the author of Renaissance Business, and is at work on her forthcoming book, Multipotentialite.

Find more of Dana's resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path at WritersBucketList.com.