Emilie Wapnick

For Life on Purpose Episode #25, my guest is artist, entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and coach Emilie Wapnick from Puttylike. Emilie joins me to discuss what those she calls multipotentialites, people who have many different interests and creative pursuits in life. We also discuss her recent TEDxBend talk entitled Why Some of Us Don’t Have ONE True Calling, overcoming fear onstage and in life, and how she lives a life on purpose. NOTE: I consider myself a proud multipotentialite!

About Emilie Wapnick:

Emilie Wapnick is an artist, entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and coach. She says she was blessed with so many interests that she was unable to pick just one. She studied music, visual arts, film production and law, and graduated from the Law Faculty at McGill University. After years of feeling anxious about her zigzagging career path and hyphenated credentials, she finally decided to embrace her plural nature and start a movement for others who lean toward being what she calls “multipotentialites.”

Since launching her website, Puttylike, in 2010, she has inspired thousands of multipotentialites to stop trying to fit themselves into boxes, and embrace their plurality. She has been featured in Lifehacker, The Financial Times, and The Huffington Post. Currently, she is working on her forthcoming book, “Multipotentialite.”

This past April, Emilie stood in front of 1,400 people at TEDxBend and gave a talk entitled Why Some of Us Don’t Have ONE True Calling, which encapsulates her findings on multipotentiality.

puttytribe_300w_sidebarAbout Puttylike:

In September 2010, I launched Puttylike as a way of bringing together the multipotentialite community. I wanted to share the tools and resources I’d learned, which allow me to integrate all of my interests into my life– everything from productivity techniques to confidence building, dealing with naysayers, building a business around your passions, and designing a real life that matches your ideal life.

I want multipotentialites to stop beating themselves up about being unable to find their “one true calling” or fit into a box. I want them to see that their diverse background and insatiable curiosity isn’t some huge failing, but that there’s a very good reason for it…

Not only is your multipotentiality not a curse, but you can actually use it as fuel for your life and income. Once you stop fighting your scanner nature and embrace it, you’ll find yourself working on projects that are deeply meaningful. You’ll feel a sense of purpose that you never thought possible.

To learn more about Emilie and her work, visit: http://puttylike.com.

Episode Summary:

In just the first 10 minutes of our in-depth conversation, Emilie and I discussed:

  • Our previous conversation on Radio Enso back in early 2012 covering her backstory and the formation of Puttylike and the Puttytribe, her online community.
  • Being both proud of our multipotentiality and yet sometimes beating ourselves up for not being able to stick to one thing.
  • “We grow up in our culture with this idea that’s it bad to do more than one thing. We need to figure out what our ‘true calling’ is and just devote your life to that. And if you can’t do that, then there’s something wrong with you or you haven’t found the right thing yet. There’s all this anxiety around it.”
  • In her TEDx Talk, she says, “The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture.”
  • The ideal of a Renaissance Man or Woman as someone who did many things: “They [people in that time] believed that humans were limitless in their ability to evolve and learn about all these different topics – literature, science, politics, philosophy.”
  • How did that change? “I think it was really the Industrial Revolution. The whole point of that was that we each are one cog in the system. We each do one narrow task again and again and again. And that is how our industry flourishes. And then globalization took that model and brought it to our school systems and the job market. It comes from a particular place in history and it served a function, but I’m not sure how useful it is anymore.”
  • How multipotentialites are uniquely qualified to help solve the complex problems facing our society today.
  • “Having multiple backgrounds is really an asset in that kind of environment. I went through what I call the three multipotentialite superpowers in my talk, but there are a few others. And one of those is the ability to work with teams in different areas, across disciplines.”
  • Starting her TEDx talk by asking the audience: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been asked the question, ‘What do you want to BE when you grow up?’ Now if you had to guess, how old were you when you were first asked this question?'”
  • When adults first ask kids this question, it’s seen as this cute thing, almost like a Halloween costume. ‘What can we dress them up as?’ It’s not taken seriously at that age. But as you get older, it becomes a much more serious question. It actually has some pretty big implications. There’s a subtext of, ‘You need to answer with one thing.'”
  • The answer being both a function of our parents, the people around us, our teachers (and their particular interests) and other circumstances.
  • “On a deeper level, it starts to make kids think that they need to pick; that they need to narrow their focus.”
  • Being in high school and the pressure of having to figure this out. “It caused me a lot of anxiety. “