Five Signs You’re a Multipotentialite.

At the brilliant Blognix on Saturday, the crowd were introduced to the word ‘multipotentialite’ by Emma Cossey, freelance presenter extraordinaire.  Emma and I chatted about hearing of the term from the very person who coined it in the first place, Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike. I know that for many people in the Blognix audience, it was all very new, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it here in the hope that it might prove useful.

I’ve known that I am a multipotentialite for years now. My About page goes into more detail about it and has been the catalyst for many people to realise that they too are part of the multipotentialite community!

Other ways of describing multipotentialite include scanner (from the remarkable Barbara Sher) generalist, multi-passionate, renaissance soul and polymath. I tend to use the terms interchangeably, as do most of us within this community. It feels rather fitting that we can’t stick to one of them…


Are you a multipotentialite too? 

Here are some common signs…

You never knew what you wanted to do when you grew up. And you probably still don’t. How to choose, when there are so many possibilities… My daughter currently wants to be a ballet-dancing doctor. And why not?

The idea of doing one thing for the rest of your life terrifies you. You feel stifled by the though of having the same job until the day you retire. You might have tried different jobs, different career options or studied completely different things in the hope of finding your passion. But that passion sometimes dries up and you move onto the next thing. Sometimes, you return to an old passion time and again, like you’re stuck in a loop.

You’re always excited by shiny new projects or ideas. Very often, scanners will be more excited by the planning of a project than by the execution of that plan. You should see the project plans I have completed but never done anything with. By the time something is ready to deliver, scanners are already horizon-scanning for what is coming next. We’re easily bored…

People call you a dilettante or ‘Jack of All Trades’. Sadly, people who don’t understand this kind of personality can be pretty scathing about it. But, the expectation that people would just choose one career path for life is a relatively new one. Historic polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin are two really high profile examples of people undertaking a huge range of activities within one life. Not that I’m comparing us with Leonardo, but the Renaissance period was definitely one in which a multi-passionate person would thrive.

You love to learn new things and probably have a giant, sprawling list of seemingly un-related interests. Learning is the Best Thing Ever for a multipotentialite. We’re really curious by nature.  I’m constantly learning new things, attending courses, studying, trying new things and generally getting giddy about note-taking… Recently, this has included spoon carving, wild swimming and letterpress printing. I love to develop new skills, even if once I’ve learnt how to do something, I never use that skill again. The fun is in the learning.

Did you answer ‘yes’ to any of these signs? Nodded your head a bit? Breathed a huge sigh of relief that it’s not just you? Hurray! Welcome to the multipotentialite community. It’s a good place to be.

Come back to Margot & Barbara next Monday to find out why NOW is a great time to be a multipotentialite!





11 Responses to Five Signs You’re a Multipotentialite.

  1. Meg says:

    I’ve always known I was a polymath – well, when your parents encourage you to aspire to be a Renaissance (wo)man, what do you expect?. However, your reference to “sprawling list of seemingly unrelated interests” made me chuckle. My list of things I’m learning currently include woodcarving, Gaelic, distilling botanicals – and maybe throwing my own alembic to do so -, concertina, Old Icelandic… Could you imagine taking that list to the careers adviser 😉

    Of course, the establishment frowns on our type. If you’re curious & always learning, you’ll pretty soon realise that you are capable of doing more than mindlessly consume stuff…
    Meg recently posted…A weakness for indie magsMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thats a fabulous list! I’m in the middle of a spoon carving obsession too, so we have a shared interest already. Cannot imagine what a careers advisor would say – it made me laugh 🙂

      But whatever it is, it’s authentically you and you’re not trying to fit into some mould that modern society has dictated is the ‘right’ way to behave. I’m hoping that we’re starting to see a shift back to the polymath being seen as a positive thing and not a dilettante who can’t stick to something. I certainly see it as a strength, not a weakness!

    • Kael says:

      There is such thing as spoon carving? I want to learn now

  2. Oh now this is me too! I was gutted I couldn’t get to Blognix – one of the joys of a husband who works shifts is that weekends are rarely free *sobs into my cup of self-pity*
    Mammasaurus recently posted…Editing photos with oil painting magicMy Profile

  3. Nodded the whole way through this and, incidentally, through Emma’s talk on Saturday, she pretty much summed me up and yet I am still utterly terrified of making that leap, leaving the “security” of my sickness and disability benefits. My son starts full time school in September, leaving my husband able to hopefully get a job again after two years of being my son’s care-giver, since I can have days at a time of not being able to look after him. Hopefully once the husband gets a job, I will be more confident to be able to!
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted…Mixtape MondayMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hello! I think it’s completely understandable that you’re terrified. I think you need to make any changes carefully and slowly. Perhaps once your son is settled in school, you might have a bit more opportunity to look at doing something for yourself, but honestly if there are days when you’re not able to manage because you’re unwell, then that needs to take priority over anything else you think you ‘should’ do. But if it’s confidence that’s stopping you, perhaps there are little steps you can take, so it feels a bit more manageable than one giant leap? Good luck with whatever you decide. And always feel free to come here for a chat!

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  5. Lisa says:

    Oh, yes! Yes, this is me! I am disproportionately excited to discover that there is a big and important word for what I am. I’m forever starting new and completely unrelated projects. Drives my husband mad.

    I am also excited to discover your blog and that it’s called Margot and Barbara. My two chickens are called Margot and Barbara. I am definitely a Barbara type myself, but this annoys me because Margot always got the best lines and I’d prefer to be her.

    Lisa @
    Lisa recently posted…A revolutionary tip to make your house look less crappy.My Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hello there! Your comment has made me grin! You can tell your husband that you’re a multipotentialite now! Or scanner, polymath, whichever you prefer.

      I wish I could have chickens. I have a yearning for lavender Pekins… And yes, Margot got ALL the best lines! She’s my favourite character really, even if I’m more of a Barbara these days too 🙂

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  7. nombuso tiny nzuza says:

    i am currently a fifth year medical student but the idea of being a doctor for the rest of my life terrifies me. i am constantly changing my mind about what i want to specialize in but most of the time i want to pursue other things that have nothing to do with medicine. my mind is in a constant state of flux. and i lose interest in things all the time. i thought there was something wrong with me. i feel like i understand myself now after reading this.

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