Choice of Directions

What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you find you are still, at your age, asking yourself this question? If you’re not sure you want to do just one thing for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. In an illuminating talk sponsored by Ted X, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls “multipotentialites” — individuals who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime. This idea is in contrast to those who have known since the day they were born that they wanted to be: an investment banker, an orthopedic surgeon, a primary school teacher. These laser-focused folks are specialists, and just like multipotentialites, the world needs them too. In fact, the most effective teams have been found to have a combination of mulitipotentialites and specialists.

The point is that being interested in more than one thing is not bad, though our culture may make it seem that way sometimes. The greatest strengths of multipotentialites are:

One: idea synthesis, or, the ability to combine two or more fields and create something new at the intersection. Innovation happens at these intersections.

Two: rapid learning. When multipotentialites become interested in something, they absorb everything they can get their hands on. They’re also used to being beginners, and this means that they’re less afraid of trying new things and stepping out of their comfort zones. Many skills are transferable across disciplines, and they bring everything they’ve learned to every new area they pursue.

Three: adaptability, or, the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in any given situation.

Many students in our University College population can likely relate to this concept. Are you a job changer? Near retirement and wanting to reinvent yourself one last time? Realizing that the decision to pick your college major, which you made at 18, was not based on your true strengths and interests? Maybe you are a miltipotentialite, and if so, here are some resources that might apply to you as you search for your next great success:

- Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, which explores vulnerability

- The Strength’s Finder or Strong Interest Inventory assessments offered by DU Career Services

- University College Career Coach Carolyn Sommers

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