081: Your One True Calling Doesn’t Have to be One Thing: Interview with Emilie Wapnick [Podcast]

If you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll get answers like astronaut, football player, artist, and superhero. As grown ups, we often can’t answer the question with such clarity or conviction.

081 Emilie Wapnick Multipotentialite

Bonus: Tomorrow I’m hosting a LIVE webinar on how to escaped my desk job and started writing for a living. Space is limited so claim your spot here.

The unspoken assumption behind the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is that the what is just one thing. Once you become a fire fighter, accountant, writer, or plumber, that’s it.

But we know better, don’t we?

Emilie Wapnick coined the term “multipotentialite”. This one word summarizes the idea of The Portfolio Life. We’re more complex and our interests are more varied than a single occupation can contain.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Emilie and I talk about why we should embrace our different gifts, and how creativity is fostered when we are willing to work in different fields.

Listen in as we discuss how mastering a craft and being a multipotentialite are not mutually exclusive, and the three essential ingredients to achieve fulfilling variety in your career and life.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you are reading this via email, please click here).

Your calling is not one thing

A commonly accepted objective of college is to help you figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, and prepare you for an occupation in a given field.

That’s a lot of pressure (and debt) to place on the shoulders of someone who can’t even rent a car on their own.

Perhaps the root problem lies in the question itself. Instead of asking yourself what you want to be, first define who you want to be.

I’m a writer, but that’s not all I am. I’m also a marketer, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant, and coffee snob.

After I quit a day job to become a full-time writer, I assumed that meant writing for 8 hours a day. What I quickly discovered was not only did I not enjoy writing all day, but trying to write that much didn’t lead to quality content.

When I focused on just one thing I wasn’t doing my best work.

It turns out, we’re not designed for a solitary function. We want to do other things. To explore and experiment with new interests. And it is those other things that actually work together to make all of the work better.

Show highlights

In this episode, Emilie and I discuss:

  • The origin of “multipotentialite”
  • Finding a middle ground between single-minded mastery and jack-of-all trades
  • How task switching leads to invigorating your work
  • Wrestling with questions of commitment and calling
  • The value of shape-shifting and evolving interests
  • Why taking an intentional break can boost productivity and creativity
  • Rejecting the romantic notion of destiny
  • What it looks like to make a living as a multipotentialite
  • Albert Einstein’s secret to creative time freedom
  • How the difference between quitting and growth boils down to mindset
  • Where discipline fits into a multipotentialite lifestyle
  • Practical steps to embrace your various interests
  • Four models to incorporate multipotentialite values into your work

Quotes and Takeaways

  • Multipotentialites don’t quit when things get hard. They quit when things become too easy.” —Emilie Wapnick
  • To think that we can each only be great at one thing is really undervaluing what humans are capable of.” —Emilie Wapnick
  • Flipping mediums completely enhances your other work.” —Emilie Wapnick
  • Once I no longer feel inspired in a field, I simply move on.” —Emilie Wapnick
  • Your one true calling is to not have a one true calling.” —Emilie Wapnick
  • Not all hours are equal.
  • Projects are a space for you to escape.
  • Set aside some tinkering time.
  • Don’t go back to school because you don’t know what else to do.


Bonus: Tomorrow I’m hosting a LIVE webinar on how to escaped my desk job and started writing for a living. Space is limited so claim your spot here.

Are you a multipotentalite? Which of the four models describe how you approach your work? Share in the comments