Watch: The world needs ‘multipotentialites’

"At some point, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' goes from being the cute exercise it once was to the thing that keeps us up at night. Why?" 


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick takes on this age old question kids of every generation have been asked. She talks about people who are “multipotentialites” and have a range of interests.

She remarks in this Ted Talk, “At some point, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ goes from being the cute exercise it once was to the thing that keeps us up at night. Why?”

Wapnick elaborates, “See, while this question inspires kids to dream about what they could be, it does not inspire them to dream about all that they could be. In fact, it does just the opposite, because when someone asks you what you want to be, you can’t reply with 20 different things, though well-meaning adults will likely chuckle and be like, ‘Oh, how cute, but you can’t be a violin maker and a psychologist. You have to choose’.”

The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticised in our culture, she comments. “It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.”

Wapnick asks, “But what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way? What if there are a lot of different subjects that you’re curious about, and many different things you want to do? Well, there is no room for someone like you in this framework. And so you might feel alone. You might feel like you don’t have a purpose. And you might feel like there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. What you are is a multipotentialite.”

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A multipotentialite, according to Wapnick, is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. She concludes by saying, “Embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.

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