For those who may have dreaded the "What do you do" question or could never quite answer the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" because you loved everything--take heart, you are not alone.In fact, welcome to a community of Renaissance Souls or MultiPotentialites as coined by author Emilie Wapnick in her TEDxBend Talk "Why Some of us don't have one true calling."
In her talk she highlights how we need to nurture multipotentialites who offer three superpowers:
As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.
. . . let's say that you are, in your heart, a specialist. You came out of the womb knowing you wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. Don't worry — there's nothing wrong with you, either
. . . In fact, some of the best teams are comprised of a specialist and multipotentialite paired together. The specialist can dive in deep and implement ideas, while the multipotentialite brings a breadth of knowledge to the project. It's a beautiful partnership. But we should all be designing lives and careers that are aligned with how we're wired. And sadly, multipotentialites are largely being encouraged simply to be more like their specialist peers.
. . . embrace your inner wiring, whatever that may be. If you're a specialist at heart, then by all means, specialize. That is where you'll do your best work. But to the multipotentialites . . . to you I say:
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."
The Renaissance Soul
Margaret Lobenstine, author of The Renaissance Soul characterizes Renaissance Souls as folks who:
In fact, consider this role model Renaissance Soul who clearly demonstrates jack of all trades, master of all!
-Served as a journalist in Ghana & Egypt
-Composing songs for popular singers like Harry Belafonte
-Lecturing to packed auditoriums and appeared on innumerable talk shows
-Acting, both on camera and on stage
-Received nominations for both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize
-Working with Dr. Marting Luther King, Jr. For civil rights
-Holding a professorship in American Studies
-Dancing it the opera Porgy and Bess
-Speaking eight languages
-Serving as America's poet laureate
Who is this? The one and only Maya Angelou, my new hero. I had no idea the degree to which this woman mastered innumerable accomplishments across a wide variety of disciplines.
Case Study: Myself
When I was 18, I remember sitting in my Nissan facing the Columbia River. I said aloud to myself, "Is this it?!" I thought I had it all: ASB Vice President, Scholar Athlete, competing classical violinist winning several gold and silver medals, awarded numerous college scholarships, lead actress in a musical, voted by peers as most loving leader, had a hot boyfriend from the big city, and yet felt totally unfulfilled. In fact miserable.
I became consumed with the question "What's my purpose?" forcing myself to choose one pathway--convinced if I just mastered other areas, perhaps one area would resonate above all areas, then I would find my calling and be fulfilled.
So at 19, I interviewed ten human beings I looked up to and discovered eight of them had majors completely separate from their career! I concluded (in this field research) that I would major in whatever fulfilled joy in my heart.
I majored in art. Interdisciplinary (of course!) art. I dove in deep, spending hours and hours drawing, building wire framed pants, creating yarn spiderwebs at dawn. I studied abroad in Rome Italy, turning fish cartons into a palate for a painting. I got commissioned as an artist, had my work featured in a museum and local magazine, and was even told by my art professor (who are famous artists!) an affirmative "you can make it" as an artist. Despite all this, I found myself picking up a second major in Community, Environment, and Planning and founding a student organization InsideOut Leadership.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I commit?
Consider human beings live in a culture that calls for and even romanticizes the "one calling" versus multiple callings that often can have Renaissance Souls forcing themselves into a box by focusing on one specialty, feeling trapped to pursue for the rest of their life! No, you don't have commitment issues. As typical of a Renaissance Soul, I had mastered the challenge and once I knew the game could be won, went on to the next challenge, rather than expand and grow it bigger. I had no qualms about becoming a Financial Advisor as an art major...who soon sold her business after five years to be a stay at home mom. The go on sabbatical, publish a children's book, and yes, start a business in event production.
Pivoting, rather than growth and expansion, are far more delectable for the Renaissance Soul. Find out if you are a Renaissance Soul here. While I fear my community may be confused on the changes to different fields, the idea synthesis trait allows me to find a common thread in my mission, as well as find peace in pursuing mastery of many passions.
From one Renaissance Soul to another, here are two frameworks I've discovered that create peace of mind:
1. Draft a mission statement that embodies your top 3-5 core values. This mission becomes the umbrella theme over all your passions. My mission is to empower the next generation of leaders. This common thread can be found in my art, financial planning, gender equity activism, event production, and dancing. Your mission creates a personal brand that allows others to comprehend, remember, and connect for themselves how what you offer contributes to their communities.
2. Live life in 3-5 year increments. As the author of your life, make every 5 years (or whatever time frame works for you between 1-10 years) be a new chapter encompassing your new passion! Ie. I focused on art for 4 years, financial planning for 5 years, motherhood and children's education for 3 years, etc. Instead of waiting for retirement to have permission to create a new chapter, author many chapters in your life!
Thank you Margaret Lobenstine (who has since deceased in 2015) and Emilie Wapnick for your work in creating a home for us jack of all trades, masters of all! This Renaissance Soul can find peace of mind surrendering to her true nature. Home at last!
Anna S. Choi helps conscious companies grow their client flow through business and marketing coaching. She loves synthesizing, adapting, and distilling strategic marketing plans into executable daily actions to take that get results to grow your business. If you're interested in taking focused action on an intentional strategic marketing plan to energize more client flow, please watch this introductory video to see whether we are a fit. I look forward to connecting and supporting you! You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-330-6426.
Anna Sun Choi