Tweet Share Share +1 Pin7 EmailShares 7 I’m currently sitting in my former law school library, trying to keep my internal giggles internal. Just a year ago, walking into this building would bring about feelings of bitterness and misery, but

I’m currently sitting in my former law school library, trying to keep my internal giggles internal.

Just a year ago, walking into this building would bring about feelings of bitterness and misery, but since graduating, the few times I’ve been back have been tremendous.

It may be sort of sick, but I get this overwhelming sense of glee when I walk through the law building now, listening to all the chatter about what firms everyone’s applying to or why you shouldn’t take a class on animal rights because “then you’d have to justify it to potential employers.”

Apparently, to most firms, having diverse interests just means that you’re not serious. It’s something that needs to be justified.

As a “Multipotentialite,” None of this Resonated with Me

My inherent urge to continuously explore new fields and bring disparate ideas together in creative ways clashed with much of the law school curriculum. The funny thing, is that it’s precisely this tendency to seek out new ideas that landed me in law school in the first place!

I always find it odd when people ask me why I “chose” not to practice law. The truth is, it wasn’t much of a choice at all. I never wanted to be a lawyer. I was simply interested in learning about law. That’s it. And you know what? Mission accomplished. Time to move on.

Exploration v. Specialization

Most people view law school as a form of professional training– a means to an end. But to me, law was just one stop along an ever-evolving journey of exploration.

Before law school, I spent 4 years writing and producing short films. Before that, I designed websites and studied art and before that I wrote and performed songs, learned jazz guitar and taught myself audio production.

That’s what multipotentialites do. We find something new that fascinates us, dive in, absorb all we can and then when we feel satisfied, we move on to the next adventure.

It’s not that we’re unfocused or non-committal. In fact, we pour so much energy into our pursuits, that we end up being extremely well-versed in many different disciplines. We’re fast learners because we’re driven by a need to understand.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret going to law school. I actually learned a lot of useful skills while I was there. It’s just that those skills aren’t going to help me be a good lawyer. They’re going to help in other ways.

Leveraging Your Multipotentiality

So no, I’m not a lawyer. But I did successfully register my company and apply for a trademark this year. I can make videos for my projects and products that look nice because I studied lighting in film school. I can design my own websites because of my background in web design. I can even record a professional sounding podcast because of my audio production days.

My aim here isn’t to brag or to convince specialists that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s just that we live in a hyper-specialized world, and specialists need to stop imposing their values on the rest of us.

Some of us are wired to jump around between interests, and there’s tremendous value in that. I’m not even talking about abstract value like “developing your mind.” I’m talking about financial value.

You Don’t Need to Specialize

Here’s some advice that you won’t hear very often: If you have many interests in life, don’t give them up. Don’t specialize.

The truth is, leveraging your multipotentiality is financially lucrative. It makes you an asset in any organization (assuming you have a boss who’s smart enough to recognize this talent), and it’s even more of a strength when you’re working on your own to build something you believe in.

Instead of choosing one path to the exclusion of all others, I became an entrepreneur and built my own “Renaissance Business,” fueled by my many interests and drive to master new skills. It works.

Don’t listen to the law firms. Don’t listen to the specialists. You can be everything you want to be.

Your Turn

Have you found a way to combine and leverage your many interests? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Emilie Wapnick is a writer and multipotentialite at Puttylike.com. She is the author of The ‘Undeclared for Life’ Manifesto and co-hosts the podcast Undeclared for Life.

0 Comments

  1. Dr. Janet Civitelli

    I love the “undeclared for life” idea, but only for people who are entrepreneurial. Many hiring managers don’t understand Renaissance people, and the unhappiest people I meet are those with diverse and generalist skills who are looking for a safe harbor and are unable to find or create one. Key skills for multipotentialites to develop are (a) Flexibility in the face of dynamic situations, (b) Self-promotion. Without these skills, there is too much struggle and not enough reward.

    • Morgan Barnhart

      This couldn’t be more true! I used to go to job interviews with a plethora of different jobs on my resume. It wasn’t because I was flaky or didn’t like the jobs, it was because I absorbed and put my whole self into them, that I had to move on and explore something new. That’s why I’m an entrepreneur now. I can use all of the skills I’ve acquired from my own and from the jobs I’ve had and put those towards what I’m doing now. 🙂 I love being a multipotentialite!

    • Emilie Wapnick

      I agree. There are specific skills that are really important for multipotentialites to develop. But I do believe that entrepreneurial tendencies can be fostered. I’d love to see the world change so that the default isn’t getting a job, but creating your own job.

      One of my long term goals is actually to create an education program to teach kids about entrepreneurship and unconventional work strategies. Most students graduate without realizing that it’s even an option. The idea’s totally foreign to them. So who knows how many unhappy multipotentialites could be doing awesome things if they had just learned about entrepreneurship earlier- or at all.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Melimoriarty

        So what specific skills do multipotentialites need to develop to avoid becoming part of the unhappy people that their diverse interests lead them to be?

  2. Morgan Barnhart

    Emilie, you resonate excellence. We have so many skill sets and you’d think that’d be an asset in the real world. But people are still in a very narrow train of thought. They’re still back in the old days when people would start a job when they were 18 and stay there until they died. That’s just not how it is anymore. At least not for everyone. There are still those people (the ones in management positions) that see no problem with staying in a job they hate for their entire lives.

    This has always been a huge subject of mine. One I could go on and on about for a long time. It’s nice that you’ve taken action on spreading the word about us multipotentialites! 🙂

    • Emilie Wapnick

      Thanks, Morgan! Our skills are most definitely assets in the real world. They’re just not often recognized. I think that’s changing though, with the new economy, solopreneurs, digital distribution, etc.

      Thanks for doing your part as well! You’re doing awesome work. 🙂

  3. Luana

    Yes, yes, YES!
    I have always had such a hard time trying to squeeze myself into one field. I have so many interests in completely unrelated fields that when I tell people about all the things I’d like to do mostly I just get something along the lines of “You’ll have to focus on SOMEthing…”. What if I want to have a go at all of those? I want to try, experience and grow in different areas. After all we are multifaceted beings, so why try to set rigid boundaries?
    I’m loving this multipontentialite thing.
    I’m in a job not directly related to my Psychology degree but I am learning so much. The way I see it: anything you do will always add, not take away from your experience and learning repertoire.

    • Emilie Wapnick

      Absolutely! Is this your first time hearing about multipotentiality?

      Multipotentialites show up everywhere, and yet for some reason, people still seem to believe that you need to be “one thing”. It’s so ingrained in our culture, I guess.

      But once you break free of that false belief and embrace your multipotentiality, you begin to see that basing your life around many interests can work.

      It’s also amazing how the knowledge you pick up in past ‘lives’ becomes useful in new pursuits. Psychology is hugely applicable in many areas, I’m sure! It’s almost an overarching theme in and of itself.

      Thanks for the comment, Luana. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    I’ve never heard that word — multipotentialites — but I love it! This is such a fresh take that I feel like many need in this economy.

  5. Fellow Multi-P

    So what were you doing on your old campus? Stealing the free wi-fi?
    😉

    • Emilie Wapnick

      Haha… I’m designing a website for a professor friend. Had a meeting on campus.

      But to explain my venturing into the library?… That was mostly for self-amusement purposes. 😉

  6. Brian Cormack Carr

    Interesting…law was almost a path I took; but then I thought I might want to be a journalist; or a psychologist; and then ended up as a charity CEO and career coach, by way of retail management!

    It is possible to combine and leverage many interests – the simplest way is to follow what you enjoy (even if it’s only a sideline at first). I call it finding your “vital vocation” – either by earning a living by doing your ideal work, or finding a paying job that provides you with the resources and time to pursue your interests. I discuss this in a complementary video series: http://www.vitalvocation.com/freevideos

    Also worth checking out Barbara Sher’s great book, “Refuse To Choose”, which is all about doing EVERYTHING you love…

    • Emilie Wapnick

      I agree, Brian. That’s a good approach. Also, I second Barbara’s book. Good stuff!

      Thanks for the comment, fellow multipod. 🙂

  7. KT

    It seems to me that the legal profession is one of the very few professions in which you can redesign your practice to fit your “multipotentialite” being when you feel like you need a change. Feeling limited to one area of practice because of your employer/firm is no different than feeling limited by your employer/work environment when you are a non-attorney.

    In fact, I believe most law schools focus on the practicability of a legal education and do not pressure their students to specialize. At least, that was the case with my law school and the alma maters of my fellow associates and partners. What I love about the legal profession is that you have the skills to redesign your practice and explore new areas as often and for as long as you wish.

    • Emilie Wapnick

      That’s true. I guess it depends on how diverse your pursuits need to be, and that’s different for every multipotentialite. If you’re happy working on cases from many areas (and you work for a firm that allows it), then a legal career could be great. But if you want to, say, explore a path outside law like television writing, you’re a little stuck. Sure, I could be an entertainment lawyer, but that’s not the same as writing for television. It just isn’t.

  8. Kristen

    My sister went to law school only to find herself unemployed, in extreme debt, and unable to pass the bar so far. Law school these days can be pretty tough if you don’t have a game plan. Way to find your niche!

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written article. I find myself struggling with this everyday. I love so many different things and want to learn about everything. I have found that people who are “multipotentialites” usually also have an entrepreneurial spirit and start their own businesses where they can utilize their unique and varied skills. Also, going to law school and learning about the law would help tremendously with incorporation and business law knowledge.

  10. Joyce Tipping

    Thank you so much for this perspective! I’ve always been a natural multipotentialite, but over the last few years, because I admire my husband’s success as a specialist and because every piece of career advice I’ve read has pushed specialization, I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to force myself to settle into something specific. It’s made me unhappy and even panicked at times. I’m really grateful to hear someone say that it’s not the only way!

  11. Phoenix SEO

    Hi Emilie
    I agree with you.Nowadays specialization is not much useful.And this is the reason why I’m a Law student in day,SEO practitioner in Evening and English teacher in night.In my opinion job industry has has totally changed in the last few years especially after the financial crisis of 2008.It doesn’t matter anymore that what Qualification you have or how experienced you are. The only thing which employers want to hear from prospective employees is how they can help them in increasing the bottom line .

  12. Lakshpri_mgm

    Wow, this touched a chord within me. I have multiple interests, too, and feel the same way. I am a big admirer of Leonardo da Vinci, he was one of the ultimate multipotentialites.

    Great post!

  13. Isaac Kennen

    You’re making an assumption that I did as well upon graduation. I thought that because I did not enjoy law school that I would not like being a lawyer. The truth of the matter, I’ve found, is that the best lawyers do not strive to be lawyers. They strive to be advocates and students of civilization and how law helps civilization keep kicking. They maintain interests in a wide variety of areas and even explore other professional interests. The thing that makes them successful advocates is not a consistency of legal career progression, but instead the aura of competence that comes with having a breadth of experiences and interests. At the fundamental level, a lawyer is nothing more than the orator standing in the public forum – an advocate. An advocate’s job is to convince people to see the world in a particular way. To do that, great advocates have to not only appear credible to people who are not lawyers; they have to actually be credible. They have to be the real deal – not a carefully sculpted mimicry of one. The successful advocate isn’t putting on a show – they are divorced from the ivory tower of the legal profession, they are living in the real world, they are interested in things and thereby interesting. That’s what makes non-lawyers give a damn what they think. So, I think awesome lawyers are exactly like you. They advocate for others because it interests them to do so, they pontificate upon legal doctrine and its proper application because they care about the civilization at large – not just themselves and not just the legal establishment. I’ll quit because I’m rambling… which is probably not one of the characteristics of a compelling advocate.

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