Summary of “How to Be Everything – A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up“: This book is for multi-passionate people (multipotentialites) and shares many techniques to overcome our specific challenges, helping us to create a fulfilling life – to finally be EVERYTHING that we want to be!
By Emilie Wapnick, 2017, 228 pages.
Note: This review is written by guest, Sarah Gascoin from the Multipassionnés épanouis blog
Chronicle and summary of the book “How to be everything”:
Note: This book doesn’t exist in French currently, so I will be going off the original version in English. I originally wanted to give you the French version (translated by myself) followed by the original version for titles, subtitles and quotes. However, that would actually make the text much too ponderous. So, you will only have the French version. As soon as you see italicized text in the review, it’s a translation of the original book.
“This book will show you how to build a lasting and successful career that will allow you to explore the content of your heart – TO BE EVERYTHING.”
Part I. Everything? Welcome to the Tribe!
Chapter 1. There is Nothing Wrong with You
Emilie begins the book with a story about her own life.
She tells us that a few years ago she met a former teacher she had not seen for 10 years. She then asks her what she is doing, and she is stunned when Emilie replies (with enthusiasm) that she’s starting law school!
“Hmm, I thought you were going to become a film director.”
Emilie explains how this simple sentence overwhelmed her with distress, because it reminded her of all the changes she had gone through during her life in choosing her career direction.
“[…] it was as if I had realized a Truth about myself that I had always refused to see: I was unable to stay focused on anything.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This is a common question we are asked as kids. When we answer at the age of 5-6, we’re free to say what we want and those around us are supportive. However, as you grow up, this question causes more and more anxiety and inner confusion, because others expect you to tell them what you plan to do for the rest of your life.
The myth of having a single ambition
This question can be devastating, especially because it involves having to choose one thing.
There are many other contexts in which we feel that we must choose a single path. For example, when we have to choose our major after our high school diploma, or even how we highlight those who have discovered their calling very early on (doctors, writers, athletes, artists, etc.)
“A specialized life is described as the only path to success, and it’s highly romanticized in our culture.”
Because of all this, we are conditioned to believe that we all have one path in life, a calling, which is our destiny!
Here, the author returns to those who don’t find themselves in this situation. Precisely, those who are worried about not finding out their calling. And she reassures us:
“In fact, there is a very good reason for your tendency to often change paths, to devour new knowledge and experiences, and to try new identities.”
You are a multipotentialite!
Does this sound like you?
Then you are definitely a multipotentialite: a creative person with multiple interests. (In other words: a person with multiple potentials.)
What kind of multipotentialite are you?
All multipotentialites are different. Some may have a dozen projects simultaneously, and others may act more sequentially: one project at a time. f course, anything is possible between these two extremes.
This can be summarized as:
Sequential (one at a time) <————————————-> Simultaneous (many projects at a time)
Most multipotentialites are somewhere in between. It can move around during our life.
Road map of a multipotentialite (hint: it’s not a straight line)
In our society we have been taught that each field leads to a specific career. For example, we all expect a medical student to become a doctor, an architecture student to become an architect, etc.
“Each of these fields has an associated career at the end of a vertical trajectory.”
Multipotentialites don’t follow this vertical trajectory.
We move vertically AND laterally. That is to say: we go directly into one field, then change fields, move on for a while, change again, return to the previous one, etc…
However, at the same time, the skills we acquire in each of these different fields serve us in all others.
“Most of my ‘past lives’ have been useful in a real and practical way. I sometimes use my skills as expected, (…) but I apply them more often laterally.”
Being a multipotentialite in a world of specialists
Being a multipotentialite is great, but it also presents some challenges in 3 main areas:
- Work: finding a job that allows us both to continue to explore our multiple passions and at the same time to have financial stability.
- Productivity: defining our own productivity system so we can move forward on all our projects (and not drift).
- Self-esteem: accepting our way of working so that we won’t suffer from feeling of being “on the sidelines” in a world that is not fond of multipotentialites.
These three challenges will be discussed in greater depth later in this book.
Chapter 2. Multipotentialites: Slackers or Innovators?
In many countries, there is a common saying that goes something like this:
“Jack of all trades, master of none.”
This assertion may seem logical but, in reality, it doesn’t necessarily happen like that. For Emilie, creativity, ingenuity and passionate enthusiasm are just as important as the skills themselves!
Specialists and generalists (other names of multipotentialites) each have their usefulness, provided they are placed in the right context. Indeed, some professions require a high degree of specialization (example: cardiac surgeon), while others require more adaptability and versatility.
And “not being the best” does not mean that we are mediocre. A multipotentialite can be very good in several fields, or even an expert in some.
The superpowers of multipotentialites
1. Idea synthesis
“We are great synthesizers. Combining two or more concepts and creating something new where they intersect is totally our cup of tea.”
2. Rapid learning
Multipotentialites learn quickly for three main reasons :
- We are used to feeling like beginners and as such, we don’t become discouraged at the first sign of difficulty. In addition, we gradually gain confidence in our learning abilities, which allows us to learn faster and faster.
- We are passionate; therefore, we want to learn the maximum in a minimum of time.
- We rarely start from scratch, as our previous learning can serve us.
Multipotentialites can easily and quickly adapt to different roles and skills according to the needs of their employers. It is also an asset for those who are freelancers or entrepreneurs.
“Being adaptable makes us more resilient in an unstable economy, which changes very quickly.”
4. Big picture thinking
“Multipotentialites are able to see how individual ideas are connected to the world. We are ‘big picture thinkers’ who love brainstorming, designing noble projects and finding solutions to improve the world.”
Since we have knowledge and skills in many different fields, it’s easy for us to see how these areas are connected and can interact. And as such, we can anticipate problems that may arise and/or solutions to provide.
5. Relating and translating
Just as well as we like to connect different ideas with each other, we like connecting different people from different ‘worlds’. We are able to understand the specific language of each and translate it for others.
Emilie quotes Barbara Sher who, in her book “Refuse to Choose”, likens it to being a “conductor”. A conductor understands the individual language of each of the instruments and can make them play together, thus showcasing a greater vision.
The relationship between multipotentialites and innovation
“Multipotentialites have always been innovators and innovators have often been multipotentialites.”
Emilie cites us three known multipotentialites: Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci!
Taking into account our natural inclinations, it seems normal that a multipotentialite isn’t content with what exists but seeks to create new things.
The real problem
Finally, the main problem for multipotentialites today is that there is no model highlighting multipotentialites who succeed professionally and who are fulfilled.
So it’s complicated to imagine how to create our lives without having examples to follow.
This is the problem that Emilie wanted to partially solve by writing this book!
Chapter 3. Components of a Happy Multipotentialite Life
Emilie tells us that she has interviewed many multipotentialites to write this book (she shares their stories throughout). She realized that:
“Happy multipotentialites can be found in any role of any industry, including some that may seem specialized.”
So, she raises the following problem:
If we can do any profession, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another…how to find a common model that will help multipotentialites seeking answers??!
However, similarities emerged from these interviews.
“They have all designed lives that provide them with three common elements: money, meaning and variety.“
It’s about designing your life, not planning your career
“As I learned more about the stories of the participants (in this book), I realized that their sense of accomplishment did not come only from their careers. […]
In other words, the subject of this book is not the planning of our career. It’s about designing your life as a whole.”
Let’s look in detail at the 3 essential elements we need in our life to be happy and fulfilled.
Here is a subject that can be complicated to tackle, very emotional and affecting strong beliefs. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that we need money to live in our society. It’s real.
The “ingredient” approach
The author presents here the approach of John Armstrong that tells us to consider that money is an essential ingredient of a happy life, but not the only one. It must be combined with values and desires that are important to us!
Money is all the more important for us, multipotentialites, because we have many hopes and desires that we want to satiate, and it can require financial investments to pursue them.
Differences in financial goals
It’s therefore very important to start by defining how much money we need to live comfortably (and to not feel financially insecure). Because this amount can vary enormously from one person to another.
“Just looking for ‘more’ without defining how much you need and why will contribute to a chronic feeling of never having enough”.
Meeting your survival needs first
Building a career that is consistent with our multipotentiality can take time. As a result, it can be useful to start by taking a “day job” to meet our basic needs.
This temporary solution will allow us to feel secure financially until we build our dream life. Furthermore, we will feel freer to explore different possibilities and this will take away the pressure of having to make money NOW with our passions!
Earning money doesn’t matter if what we do doesn’t resonate with our deepest aspirations.
Doing an activity that makes sense motivates us, fills us with energy and carries us even when we are tired.
“When the work itself is difficult, we connect with a deeper meaning that we are doing something important, to help us continue.”
The importance of asking why
We may wonder why all the activities we have had so far bring us a sense of meaning.
“The better we know ourselves and the forces that drive us, the easier it will be to make career choices that will not only meet our financial goals, but also those that are right.”
Understanding our important Whys will help us to:
- Make better choices in our career
- Find a link between all our activities (old and present) – and be able to better explain them to others
- Consider and experiment with new career plans!
It’s OK to have more than ONE why
Emilie warns us here not to try to return to a “specialist” vision of life. Therefore, we can have many whys, even if they look different!
Have enough money and meaning
Warning! We have the right to do things that are not profitable (in the financial sense of the word). Moreover, we have the right to have a professional activity that doesn’t make much sense to us.
“As for money, the important thing is not that everything we do meets our deepest meaning, but that globally, we have enough meaning in our lives to feel that we have a positive impact in the world.”
“You probably have already heard the maxim: ‘Find what you like to do, and you will never have to work a single day in your life.’ This advice is rather useless for multipotentialites, who, by nature, need variety to be happy. “
Even if we find something we like, we will not want to do it every day for the rest of our lives.
However, when we have to choose a career, it’s very rare that we take this need into account. All of the possible counselors we meet point us to a specific job, rather than help us to create a multi-faceted profession.
While we need to switch projects regularly.
If we don’t have enough variety in our lives, we get bored and frustrated at not being able to fully express ourselves. However, if we have too much, then we risk overwork and also the frustration of not being able to do everything.
The key is to find the right level of variety for us, by observing ourselves. The “right” level varies from one person to another but can also vary during our life.
The variety can be between several jobs or within one
It’s interesting that some fields require several areas of expertise. For example, filmmakers master writing, drawing/storyboard, direction, image, editing, music composition, etc.
In the case of interdisciplinary areas like filmmaking, our need for variety is already partly met by the variety that exists within this field.
“The more interdisciplinary a field is, the less variety we need on the side. The opposite is also true!”
The importance of experimenting
It’s important to observe and experiment in real time to sense the level of variety you currently need:
- Am I satisfied in my life right now?
- Am I bored (lack of variety)?
- Or am I overwhelmed (too much variety)?
How to get the money, meaning and variety we need in our lives?
This is what we will see later in this book!
Part II. The Four Multipotentialite Work Models
- The Group Hug Approach
- The Slash Approach
- The Einstein Approach
- The Phoenix Approach
Emilie details each of these models in the next 4 chapters.
It’s OK to mix and match
“I would not dare tell my multipotentialite readers to choose only one model! Mix and match the four approaches as you please.”
Chapter 4. The Group Hug Approach
The author compares this approach to grouping all our interests in a “big hug”.
It’s therefore a question of grouping the maximum of our passions in one and the same profession. The career will fully meet our needs for money, meaning and variety.
This approach is for people who love multi-faceted projects that require different skills and involve multiple fields, and also for people who want “what they are doing to make money” reflects the entirety of who they are.
Mixing our interests together
Of course, for that we will have to mix together our different passions and see what results.
Let’s take a look at five strategies to perform this mix and transform it into our dream career!
Strategy No. 1: Work in a naturally multidisciplinary field
“Working in an interdisciplinary field requires that you have an understanding of different industries and perspectives.”
In these fields, we are naturally led to do different tasks, to wear different hats. Because the field itself requires different skills.
Examples of interdisciplinary fields: filmmaking, architecture, artificial intelligence, art therapy, environmental preservation, video game design.
Strategy No. 2: Where do multipotentialites fit in?
Even fields that seem specialized at first glance may have a niche for multipotentialites.
Emilie gives here the example of Katy Mold who studied chemistry and began to feel limited in having to choose a specialty. Then she discovered scientific communication, which consists of communicating scientific ideas to non-experts. And it’s a “specialty” that requires many skills!
“What seems to be a niche in the discipline of science is actually a multi-faceted paradise for multipotentialites.”
Therefore, it’s possible to find niches rich in variety for multipotentialites in any field! Just look where other multipotentialities are hanging out.
Strategy No. 3: Work for an open-minded organization
We can apply in companies that are looking for creative people and want to take advantage of our multiple skills. More and more companies are looking for generalists.
The important thing is to read the job offers and find out (among other things by the vocabulary used) whether the company is looking for a multi-faceted person or not.
Strategy No. 4: Make an existing job more plural
“But what do you have to do if you already have a job in a company that does not seem interested in your multiple skills?”
It’s possible to enter a company with a fairly specialized job. And, over the years (with good work), we can take on more roles than originally planned by offering ideas/solutions to our employer.
For example, Margaux Yiu was originally hired to compile multimedia presentations. When she wanted to use her skills in website creation, she explained to her boss that a presence on the web was super important. She was put in charge of the project!
“The best way to get permission to mix your other interests in your work is to emphasize the value you will bring to the company.”
Strategy No. 5: Create a business
Lastly, we can simply start our own business.
“There are few careers that are richer in many facets than entrepreneurship.”
In fact, just running a business requires a lot of different skills!
The Renaissance Business
Even so, you have to be careful because a company can be very specialized. In this case, we would not have the necessary variety and we would end up bored.
Emilie therefore proposes to create what she calls a “Renaissance Business”: a business in which several topics/fields are integrated.
“The key is to make relationships between topics and offers crystal clear.”
Mix or not to mix, that is the question
It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that we are not obliged to put ALL our interests in our job or business.
We can explore some passions in our free time, as hobbies. In fact, that’s what most multipotentialites do, even those who have opted for the group hug approach.
Chapter 5. The Slash Approach
“The slash approach, also called a portfolio career, is having two or more part-time jobs (and/or businesses) that you flit between on a regular basis.”
Unlike the previous approach, here we keep our passions quite distinct. Our need for variety is then met not by working in an interdisciplinary field, but by alternating between very different fields.
For some, having multiple jobs is only temporary, until finding something better. But for multipotentialites this can be a real career choice!
It’s perfect for people who don’t want a full-time job.
With this approach we can just as well be employed in different companies as own several companies. And of course, all combinations between the two are possible!
Is the slash approach right for you?
“Do you do your best work when you frequently alternate between different topics? Do you have a crazy passion for a highly specialized topic, but you feel trapped by the mere idea of only doing only that one thing, all the time? Does the project of combining your passions or skills into one entity tempt you?
If you answer yes, or Hallelujah to just one of these questions, you could become a slasher in the future.”
This approach suits you particularly if you like juggling multiple projects simultaneously!
Part-time is the dream
Some multipotentialites simply do not want to do the same thing all the time. They appreciate each of their slashes (their different careers) but would not like to do them full time.
On the contrary, being able to alternate between each of them makes the week fun, flexible and full of variety.
“For slashers: part time + part time + part time = the dream!”
Each of our slashes will allow us to use a skill and express a different part of us.
To h*** with boredom
Although multipotentialites are often attracted to interdisciplinary fields, sometimes we fall in love with highly specialized fields. And in this case, the slash approach is ideal.
Moreover, the more specialized our slashes, the more of them we will need in our life to get enough variety.
Freedom and flexibility
The slash approach can be very interesting for artists who need flexibility in their schedule to attend auditions, participate in creative projects, give last-minute concerts, etc. In addition, since a career in the artistic field can take time to set up, it’s worthwhile to have at least one other activity on the side while waiting for it to work.
The blessing and curse of autonomy
Be careful though: becoming a slasher requires from you good time-management and self-discipline. Slashers are typically autonomous, independent or entrepreneurial.
If you prefer that others tell you what and when to do something, this approach is not the most suitable.
“It is common among slashers to be opposed to traditional employment and even to hate authority.”
Make the jump to a slasher career
There are three main ways to start a slasher career:
1. You want out of full-time employment
“Some multipotentialites are making the transition to the slash approach after working in a full-time job and realizing that they wanted more control over their work and their time.”
Our first slash is often a part-time freelance version of our old job. Then we gradually add others when we are ready to.
2. You’re given a part-time opportunity
Someone has noticed one of our special skills and offers to pay us for it. This can mark the beginning of a new professional activity in our life and even our slasher career.
3. You just dive in and refine as you go
We can also begin by taking a mishmash of diverse and varied jobs and gradually refine our portfolio by looking at:
- Which jobs do we prefer?
- Which ones are the most profitable?
- What opportunities present themselves?
Leading multiple companies
Another way to become a slasher is obviously to create/run multiple companies. Each company will provide a relatively specialized service and different from others. And they will bring a different level of meaning and money into our lives.
Chapter 6. The Einstein Approach
In the early 1900s, Albert Einstein worked for almost 10 years at the Swiss government’s patent office. It was during this period that he produced some of his most famous works, such as his theory of relativity.
“How did Einstein find the time to develop his theories and still have a full-time job?”
Emilie explains that it’s mainly related to the work model that he chose! In fact, his employment at the Patent Office ensured his financial security. And, at the same time, it was a fairly quiet job that enabled him to have plenty of time and energy at the end of the day for his personal projects.
Einstein had a “good enough job”, a term used by Barbara Sher in her book Refuse to Choose.
“The Einstein approach is having one full-time job or business that fully supports you, while leaving you with enough time and energy to pursue our other passions on the side. In other words, the Einstein approach allows you to be everything without having to monetize everything.”
This is an attractive approach for people with a passion that is difficult to monetize.
Stifling or liberating?
“For some of us, the idea of relegating our multipotentiality to evenings and weekends is unacceptable.”
But for others, it’s liberating!
“By removing the pressure of having to generate revenue from each of our interests, we free ourselves to explore without worry.”
We have seen in Chapter 5 that slashers have the highest priority for flexibility and independence. The Einsteiners (term used by Emilie that I will keep for the future), on the contrary, give much importance to stability. They like routine and structure.
In addition, this model also brings the benefit that it is easy to explain to others what we do in life.
In fact, the great interest of this approach is that there is no pressure on our interests to bring us money. There is no pressure on our job to be the passion of our life. It may not be exciting but it’s enough!
What makes a job “good enough”?
It should meet three essential criteria:
- Be enjoyable, somewhat challenging and fun and in a field that really interests us. It doesn’t need to be multidisciplinary though, but it can be.
- Offer us a high enough salary to meet our financial goals.
- Leave us enough time and energy outside of work to live our other passions.
“How do the Einsteiners have the stamina to go from a day at the office to, let’s say, a musical class?”
The secret here is to have hobbies that use skills and ways of thinking very different from those used during our working days.
For example, Charlie Harper works in the field of computer science, which allows him to use his logical and analytical skills. His hobbies revolve around art, theater, music and carpentry. He has the energy to do everything because he fulfills two very different parts.
So, when we look for a “good enough job”, it is also very important to make sure that it’s not too similar to our other hobbies.
Variety: when less is more
Most Einsteiners still have a multi-faceted job, but they look for less diversity than those who choose the group approach.
They are looking for a more “boring’ job that will really give them the time and energy to pursue their other passions on the side. A job that requires too much skill does not allow that. So, it is not “good enough” for them.
“Too much variety can sometimes be counterproductive.”
The “good enough” business
Obviously, the possibility of having one’s business also exists here. According to the Einstein approach, this business involves providing a single localized service that brings in enough revenue and… gives us enough time and energy to do all the rest, yes!
“It’s an approach that works well for multipotentialites who have a specialized skill that is highly sought after.”
The relative value of skills
The key point of the Einstein approach is financial stability. It’s therefore logical to choose our job based on our most “rare” and sought-after skill, because it’s the one that will bring us the most money.
So, it’s not surprising that most Einsteiners have technical or information-based jobs. Artistic skills are harder to monetize and require more commitment to live off.
The Einstein approach is great if we want to explore these skills without having to live off them. And if one day it works, we can go to the slash approach!
“One of the best things about being a multipotentialite is that we have a wide range of skills and interests.”
Might as well capitalize on it!
“Good enough jobs” and professional training
“What if you want to have a good job that requires years of training?”
Here, Emilie shares the story of Matt Lambert, a surgeon. At first it may seem that Matt is a specialist, but in fact he explains that, in his spare time, he writes, plays guitar in a band, engages in wood carving and in Chinese brush painting, makes collages, etc…
So, in fact, even a job that seems highly specialized like medicine, can be a “good enough job” for a multipotentialite.
“It’s possible to be interested in a profession that requires years of training. There are plenty of multipotentialites who complement their passion for a field that requires years of study with many other unrelated hobbies.”
Chapter 7. The Phoenix Approach
According to legend, the phoenix that reaches the end of its life ignites and then is reborn from the ashes.
It’s a good metaphor for what some of us experience. Indeed, if some multipotentialites thrive while having multiple projects, others are fascinated by a single topic for a long time.
“The phoenix approach is working in a single industry for several months or years and then shifting gears and starting a new career in a new industry.”
This approach is definitely more suited to multipotentialites who prefer to explore their passions one by one.
Finding a balance between depth and width
“The phoenix approach is best suited for multipotentialites who like to go deep and do not require a lot of variety in their daily lives to be happy.”
The big difference between this approach and the other three is that it does not bring much variety to everyday life. It only appears when looking back on our life.
What if you need more variety?
If you do not feel as focused as the Phoenix, it’s always possible to combine this approach with others. It allows:
“[…] to go deeper into a field for long periods of time, without closing your world to your other interests.”
The rebirth of the Phoenix is rarely linked to chance
From the outside, a Phoenix career may seem random and disjointed, but in fact, there is often the same “why” that underlies every job. The Phoenix is just trying to satisfy that why in different ways over time.
How to know when to change fields
“As a Phoenix multipotentialite, one of the biggest challenges is knowing when to say goodbye to a particular path and start something new.”
To do this, Pamela Slim, a professional coach, suggests that we rate our feelings about our current job on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 meaning everything is perfect and we love our work. 10 meaning you feel sick just thinking about going to work. The ideal is to begin to consider your switch when you get around 5-8.
Most Phoenixes begin to talk about boredom when they feel that the moment of change is coming. They have no more enthusiasm or desire.
Exploring on the side before making the jump
Of course, in real life, we don’t exactly follow the legend of the Phoenix. We don’t move abruptly from one career to another.
There will be a transition phase.
“In fact, exploring on the side is often what makes the transition possible, since it exposes you to professional opportunities.”
Reinventing yourself: tips for a smooth transition
It can be difficult to break into an area in which you know anything. Here are six ways to do this:
- Use your existing network
- Expand Your Network
- Become a volunteer
Volunteering is a good way to both grow your network and both gain skills and experience. It’s a good generator of opportunities.
- Do “free work”
This is particularly useful if you want to start your own business. The idea is to find an existing company that you would like to work with and offer your services for free. This may (possibly) lead to future professional collaboration.
- Get training
- Focus on your transferable skills
You will not be able to compare yourself to other industry candidates in terms of knowledge and skills. On the other hand, you can extract from your career the skills you have acquired that will be very useful for you in this new job.
Some Phoenixes prefer to be their own boss. Suddenly they become serial entrepreneurs!
“A serial entrepreneur starts up a business, grows it to make it profitable, and then slows down to some degree – either selling it or hiring someone to run it. Then they start a new business in a new industry and start all over again.”
Part III. Common Multipotentialite Stumbling Blocks
Chapter 8. Your Personal Productivity System
“How can a person focus on many things and move forward with each of them?”
Productivity is the act of taking actions to advance towards our goals.
Except that the advice given to specialists in this area is not necessarily suitable for multipotentialites. We need a flexible and non-rigid approach. In fact, like everything else, the ideal approach depends a lot on the type of person.
“Basically, all of us need to design (and sometimes redesign) our own customized productivity system.”
There are four fundamental points on which multipotentialites must focus:
- Choosing what to focus on
- Finding the time
- Knowing when to stop
- Getting to work
Choosing what to focus on
“One of the biggest challenges for multipotentialites is deciding which of their ‘potentials’ they will develop.”
Because, of course, we cannot truly do EVERYTHING. Our time is limited. So, we will have to make choices.
For this we can remember that a choice is rarely permanent;we always have the opportunity to change. We can also consider the path that we choose as an exploration rather than a binding contract.
To help us, Emilie suggests dividing our projects into two categories:
- Our priority projects
- Our projects waiting in the wings
When we are ready to stop one of our priority projects, we can replace it with one of the second category.
Time dedicated to “odds and ends”
Lastly, although staying focused on one’s project (s) may work for a specialist, it’s not suited to multipotentialites. We need to feel free to explore all our passions! (Even if we may never do it.)
For this we can schedule some “tinkering time”. This is time during which we let ourselves to explore everything that we desire! This will give us a breath of fresh air that will help us to get back at it.
Finding the time
We must now find time in our lives to work on these projects.
When to work?
We can observe that we don’t have the same level of energy at every moment of the day. It is therefore appropriate to place our work periods during times when we have the most energy.
It is during these moments that we will have the most desire, that we will be the most creative, and lastly, that we will be the most productive!
What about busy or inflexible schedules?
This is the ideal situation. However, in reality, our schedule does not necessarily allow us to work at these optimal times.
“So, when should you work on your priority projects? The answer is: when you can.”
We can get up earlier, go to sleep later, work on lunchtime, on weekends. A moment to move forward with these projects and then to be able to define our schedule by ourselves.
Structuring your time
Here are the methods most used by multipotentialites. (As always, it is possible to combine or modify them as you like!)
- A flexible working schedule
It’s an intuitive approach. We choose what to do based on the time we have available, the desire we have, emergencies. During this time, we only focus on a single task.
Then we repeat the same process with each new slot of empty time.
- A programmed schedule
For those who like to plan in advance and have a minimum of structure!
We can either create our schedule day by day or make one for a longer period.
- A project immersion
The idea here is to dedicate an entire period to ONE project (a weekend, a week, a month, etc.). This is a good way to make good progress on this project.
And of course, if you are rather sequential (see the multipotentialite spectrum), it is much better to focus entirely on your project of the moment! You don’t need to schedule your day to juggle different projects, it will be rather counterproductive for you.
Knowing when to stop
When Emilie says stop here, she means completely stop a project to embark on a new one.
The challenge is to be sure to stop for the right reasons.
“People who quit (resign) are seen as weak people, who give up when things get tough. On the contrary, multipotentialites don’t stop when something becomes too difficult; we stop rather because something has become too easy. […]
What may seem like giving up from the outside may simply be the finish line for a multipotentialite.”
We stop an activity when we got what we came for. We don’t necessarily know what it is when we start, but we sense when we have achieved it.
At that moment, you start to get bored and it’s time to move on.
This is the natural process of a multipotentialite.
Your Personal End Point VS Resistance
“However, there is another force that can cause almost identical symptoms of boredom and fear: Resistance.”
Resistance is the process that wants to keep us in our comfort zone in order to avoid any danger.
It is therefore very important to differentiate between the two as to be sure not to drop a project that is still close to your heart.
To do so, you only have to pay attention to what is happening in your body.
Our Personal End Point:
- It appears gradually.
- With time we feel less and less desire.
- We almost find that it has become too easy.
- We feel a sense of accomplishment.
- And often, we want to ignore the signs that we’re coming to the end.
- It appears suddenly and intensely.
- You may feel panic, excitement.
- We don’t find our project too easy, on the contrary, we are rather struggling to move forward.
- It’s impossible to ignore it!
- Getting to work
“There is a big difference between knowing what you should be working on and actually getting to work.”
Here are some tools to help us do this – which will also help us overcome resistance.
- Put yourself in a positive emotional state before working
For this we can use different techniques:
- Physical movement
- Exercises of gratitude
- Reorganize our environment
- What’s the next small step?
Rather than looking at EVERYTHING we have to do, let’s focus on the next 2-3 steps.
- Use a timer
The timer is a great way to get to work, in the sense that it allows us to define a work period. And then we are free to stop if we want.
Special tools for days with “zero progress”
1. Lower your expectations
Rather than making an extended list, let’s just do one thing for the day to move forward with our priority project. Let’s do it and that’s it.
After, either we can stop there or continue (but it’s a bonus!).
2. Track your small victories
“We are excellent at seeing all the areas in which we don’t advance, the work that has not been done, and all the things going wrong. We are not so good at seeing what has worked.”
What to do?
- Take a notebook. This is your official journal of small victories!
- Note inside every small victory. Either as soon as you do it, or at the end of a work period.
- Focus only on what you have done, not about answers or results related to others (because their feedback does not depend on you!)
And remember that no victory is too small!
3. Get an “accountability buddy”
It’s much easier to act when you are supported and/or when you commit to doing things with someone.
So, finding a person who wants to move forward with their projects and supporting each other is a great way to move forward.
If all else fails…
And if resistance is really strong and the rest doesn’t work, you can:
- Free your emotions. By writing them in a notebook, by screaming, by crying, etc.
- Take a break. Yes, it’s allowed! Here, you can do any activity allowing yourself to take a breath and recharge your batteries.
The only thing left to do is to test these different methods to build your personal productivity system!
Chapter 9. Fear, Confidence, and Dealing with People Who Don’t Understand
Here we tackle the last big obstacle in the lives of multipotentialites.
This obstacle is related to our doubts and personal beliefs, as well as to the view that society and others bear on us. Not easy to live in a world that does not recognize our strengths (or even our existence).
“The call comes from within”
The first aspect that inhibits us here are our own doubts, fears and limiting beliefs.
1. Guilt and shame
“It can be overwhelming to realize that you have reached your Personal End Point in something you once loved.”
At this moment we may feel that we have missed something and thus feel lost, guilty and ashamed.
Here are some tips to help manage these emotions:
- You are a multipotentialite and it’s normal that you switch regularly.
- This is the beginning of a new adventure in which you will learn new things, meet new people, etc.
- You aren’t what you do!
- You must stop thinking that you will one day find THAT thing. Instead, address each new interest by telling yourself that “you are going to explore something new for a while“.
2. Feeling bad about being a beginner again and again
How to manage the vulnerability and discomfort that we can experience when we start in a new field?
- Remember that it’s normal at first not to be good! And that’s the first step to becoming good.
- Keep track of all your small victories. (As seen in the previous chapter!)
- Work for short periods of time frequently, rather than for a long time but less often.
- Be kind to yourself!
3. The fear of not being the best
“One of the most common beliefs among multipotentialites is that we can’t compete with specialists who have been working in the same field for decades.”
Things to remember in this case:
- Being efficient is more important than being the best.
- It’s impossible to be actually THE best. Even while completely dedicating yourself to a single discipline.
- You should learn to explain how your different experiences can help with the job. How you can bring them value.
- You are an expert until someone says otherwise (and they usually don’t). So, put your trust in yourself and your skills, and everything should be fine!
4. Impostor syndrome
“Impostor syndrome is the belief that, basically, we are an impostor, that we should not be there and that one day, everyone will wake up and realize it.”
This syndrome tends to reappear with each new opportunity and breakthrough in our journey.
What we can do:
“If you were really an impostor, you would not have impostor syndrome.”
- Refocus your attention on what you have to do. This occurs mainly when you start asking yourself what others think. So, stop!
- Remember that everyone who tries to make a difference in the lives of others experience this syndrome one day or another. You are not alone.
Dealing with external criticism
The second aspect that inhibits us is the outside itself: the way others (for example: a parent, a teacher, a colleague, etc.) react to our way of doing things. Even if they want to do well, their criticism and negative feedback create many insecurities.
“Let’s discuss some strategies for dealing with people in our lives who don’t understand, or don’t approve, our multipotentiality.”
Announce your multipotentialite coming out!
If the person concerned is really important to you (for example, a relative or a close friend) it is worth explaining to them that you are a multipotentialite and what that means.
For others, it will be easier (and more enjoyable) not to justify yourself or seek their approval.
Give them time
It is also important to respect their doubts and let them choose their own way of acceptance.
In this case, you will focus on yourself to build a fulfilling life. And it’s a safe bet that your loved ones will eventually realize for themselves that everything is fine and that there is no reason to worry.
Give up on the nonbelievers
Last, we may just have to leave our old friends who don’t/no longer understand us. We can then create a new network of people who will support us and accept us as we are.
In any case, it’s important to always keep in mind that you live for YOURSELF and not for others, even relatives.
How to respond to the dreaded: “So what do you do for a living?”
We finish in style with the multipotentialite’s most feared question!
Context is everything: tailor your response to the person asking
“Is the person asking the question a potential new friend who seems open-minded or is it just someone who is trying to be polite?”
If this is the second case, you can simply answer with what you mainly do (example: I work at Google), without going into more detail.
If you want to open up more (and therefore have a deeper conversation) you can say that you have several projects in progress and even…that you’re a multipotentialite!
“It’s OK to have several answers to this question and to choose the one that seems most appropriate for the occasion.”
Chapter 10. Conclusion
I want to finish this review with the Emilie’s final words:
“We started our journey together with a story about social pressure, misunderstanding and shame. If you remember, I came across an old acquaintance who was baffled by one of my radical changes of direction. I realize now that this person did not want to be rude. She just didn’t understand what it meant to be a multipotentialite and I didn’t have the confidence or the words to explain it to her.
I hope that you have begun to develop this self-confidence and that you feel better equipped to address internal or external criticisms that may make you doubt. More than that, I hope you see that you don’t have to justify your choices to anyone.
What would your life look like if you gave yourself permission to be everything you want to be?”
The book ends with two interesting appendices:
- A list of famous multipotentialites
- Examples of interdisciplinary professional fields. For those interested in the group approach in Chapter 4!
Book critique of “How to be everything”:
I will be honest: ordinarily, I hate to read books about personal development or entrepreneurship. I began relatively few books concerning these areas and finished even less. (In all, I might have finished two.)
However, as for this book, even in English, I devoured it in a week!
It really struck a chord with me on all points. Throughout the reading, I was more and more delighted to see that everything that I had, up to that point, considered abnormal about myself wasn’t! And that I could build my life according to these diverse and varied desires, that I no longer needed to seek my “calling”.
I was particularly surprised and very relieved that Emily repeated regularly in her book that we did not have to choose ONE method, but that we could mix methods as we pleased. Because she knows how that feels and would never ask us to choose!!
That’s when I realized that other people actually thought like I did. So, I’m not “weird” or abnormal. In fact, I’m not the only one to react like that!
I was also surprised to see that some “problems” I had for a few years were related to that. For example, I had never considered that my productivity problems were related to my multipotentiality before reading this book!
I tried to focus on one task at a time and not to do the next one before finishing the first one. It’s very hard for me. At the moment, I am working on three simultaneous projects and I have never been so happy AND productive!
It’s thanks to this book that I allowed myself to accept this whole part of myself and that I’m learning to work with who I am, rather than to keep trying to be something or someone I’m not.
A real eye-opener and release for me!
If you recognized yourself throughout this review, I highly recommend it to you. Every multipotentialite should read it!
Well, I know it’s in English and that it can be complicated for some of you. That’s why I tried to make this review as complete and detailed as possible. That way, you already have all the most important points to move forward.
Sarah from the blog Multipassionnés épanouis dedicated precisely to support multipotentialites. (Which, on the other hand, is in French!)
Strong points of the book How to Be Everything:
- This book is very complete: there’s an answer to every question that we may ask ourselves as multipotentialites.
- There are concrete exercises offered at the end of each chapter to help us advance personally in relation to the topic of discussion.
- There are really many examples of genuine multipotentialites throughout the book.
- The way Emilie writes makes us almost feel like she’s explaining all of it to us live (as in a discussion) and it’s very pleasant.
- We truly feel understood and fully accepted with our needs for variety and freedom.
- We no longer feel alone at the end of the book, and that’s great!
Weak point of the book How to Be Everything:
- The book has no French version. For me, that’s all!
My rating :
Have you read “How to Be Everything”? How do you rate it?
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