SASM 026 – Multipotentialite Crimes and Triumphs with Emilie Wapnick

MultipotenialiteEmilie Wapnick is someone you should know.

Especially if you’re like me and have resisted the push to “specialize” all your life.

Or if people think you have ADD because you jump from one interest to another, and then to another… and then back to that passion from a decade ago.

“Multipotentialite” probably isn’t a common word for you, but you’ll be glad it’s in your vocabulary after listening to this episode. You’ll also dig this Smart and Simple Matters classic if you’re on the lookout to become a happier, well-rounded, better integrated business person.

This is more than a conversation about being a stellar generalist, scanner, or slasher (the good kind). This is a chat that explains why everyone can’t be a specialist and what could be potentially more rewarding.

As you’ll hear her say:

I stopped beating myself up about this [scanner] pattern and I started celebrating it to find a way to make it work. – Emilie Wapnick

And while you’re rockin’ your multipotentialite world, Emilie has resources to:

  • Build your confidence toolbox
  • Simplify your goal-setting and goal achieving
  • Help you combine the things you love into an income-generating dynamo

If ever there was a person qualified to bridge seemingly separate topics like simplifying, organizing, and being money wise, Emilie’s the one.

And just wait until you hear how Emilie turns the tables on me like no guest ever has. It’s fun, insightful, and reveals a personal story that very few people know.

In This Episode You’ll Learn About:

  • How to evolve from a dabbler to a multipotentialite maestro.
  • What it’s like to be a “leader of the weirdoes and dorks.”
  • What happens when you try to specialize … and you’re so not a specialist.
  • How to effectively (and enjoyably) “smoosh” your interests into an umbrella business.
  • Why you should set a launch date for any personal or professional project.
  • Using positive accountability as a motivational force.
  • Why stifling your multipotentialite nature is a crime.
  • How to flip the switch between focus time and scanner time.
  • What the original Value of Simple website name was supposed to be (I’m blushing).

Resources and Items Mentioned in This Episode Include:


  • [07:55] Emilie’s seeds of awesomeness
  • [16:31] What a multipotentialite is and how you know if you’re one
  • [21:40] How to overwhelm overwhelm
  • [29:09] Positive accountability
  • [35:20] Fighting internal resistance and finding focus
  • [39:20] Finding your overarching theme to bridge your passions
  • [43:59] Joel tells the origin story of Value of Simple

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11 Responses to SASM 026 – Multipotentialite Crimes and Triumphs with Emilie Wapnick

  1. Denise says:

    I’ve been reading Puttylike for about 2 years-ish, so I was glad to see you got a chance to interview Emilie :)

    I’ve also read Renasaince Business, which I loved, but the hardest thing for me was that over-arching theme.

    Creating a list, like she mentions in the podcast, is helpful but I think finding that theme isn’t going to be a quick brainstorming session for *everyone* — especially if the person is young or hasn’t had a whole lot of life experiences. I’m 33 and I still experiment with new interests and discover new over-arching themes to my values and passions.

    I’m not sure if Emilie has touched on this in the past, but I wonder – does how much life experience you have in pursuing multiple interests play a factor in how easily you determine your over-arching theme?

    (and that’s just an open question, anyone can answer)

    • I’m 33 too Denise and my life over-arching theme(s) – not to mention my business umbrella brand – evolves constantly. I view this as a good thing since it means I’m growing (mostly in a positive direction). But there’s no doubt that twenty-five year old Joel would have had an almost infinitely easier time creating an over-arching theme than thirty-two year old Joel did.

      So to me, more life experiences is a double-edged sword when it comes to tying together the threads that run through your passions, interests, and skills. Your self-awareness should increase as you age, but the number of experiences can get unwieldy at the same time. This is overly simplistic, but my “back of the napkin” equation for how easily it is to discover and properly implement your business over-arching theme is:

      Level of Self-Awareness x Number of Interests/Skills/Passions = Ease of Over-Arching Theme Discovery (and Implementation)

      I’m sure other variables could be added like how supportive your friends and family are, how savvy you are with technology, and more. Someone else should come along to improve upon this crude attempt at answering a question I’m probably not qualified to address. :)

      • Denise says:

        That was pretty good answer! I didn’t even think about it in the opposite direction, but that makes sense.

        If the goal is to successfully handle multiple interests and evolving themes then the sooner a person discovers their multipotentiality, the better. Fortunately, by means of Puttylike, Emilie is paving the way for that to happen more frequently.

  2. David Delp says:

    Great interview Joel. I love Emilie. She has an unusual and valuable mission and approach to life. I certainly share her aptitude for multiple skills and experiences, and feeling overwhelmed is ever present. One version for her is just the fear of the unknown. I love how she identified as “The Big Dork” and overcame her fear of public speaking because she was so dedicated to overcoming her fears. Plus, she has a powerful message worth speaking about. So she just booked a date and gave a talk! That’s what I do, too! Yow.

    Unlike Emilie who looks for opportunities to “smoosh” different roles together, leveraging many of her interests, I actually separate my roles so I can see the power of each and focus on them one at a time. For me, and some others, that approach works as well. The smooshing actually comes naturally after the separating.

    Thank you Joel and Emilie.

    • Separate first, then smoosh. I like it!

      To steal a Shanna Mann metaphor, I see the Renaissance Business being like a yo-yo. You need to be able to plummet into the depths of the nitty-gritty for a while, but then be able to quickly jump back up to the strategic level. I think that would be a good general philosophy for “non-business-y” roles too like being a papa, lover, igniter, and so on. Perhaps it’s just me, but whether you’re smooshing roles, passions, or experiences, it’s great to take giant steps up before you try to move forward.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the episode, David.

  3. Rob Farquhar says:

    I’ve been planning to interview Emilie for my podcast, Joel, but I think you covered off most of what I was going to grill her about anyway! 😀

    That was a great chat, by the way. I took three main things out of it:

    – Launch Dates. I liked the way you two talked about these; especially as the way you treat them is diametrically opposed to the way many others do, mostly because they call them Deadlines. Making them Launch Dates instead turns them into something to look forward to and not dread, a reason to celebrate finishing something; “I get to share this with my friends on day X” instead of “I’ve got to have this done by Day X”. That is very liberating!

    – Smooshing Takes Time. I’m a recent joiner of the Puttytribe (which is where I found out about you and your show) and I have problems with patience – I’ve been wanting the process of finding the Overarching Theme to go quicker than it has been. Hearing you and Emilie discuss how long it took you and the people you’ve helped gave my impatience a bit of a spanking, but it was also re-assuring; just because I haven’t got there yet doesn’t mean I’m failing at it.

    – Five Things. That’s something I can pick up immediately – on my lunch break after I finished listening to the episode, I listed the five main projects I’m doing right now and noted down the ones I’d like to do soon. I’m just going to go write them on a post-it note and stick it by my screen. Or put it in Evernote so I can get to i ton my PC, netbook and smartphone. Or both… (Yep, Organising is one of the “to do soon” projects!)

    • Thanks for the groovy and insightful takeaways, Rob. You nailed the way I think about launch dates and why I prefer that term to “deadlines.” I mean, “deadlines” has the word “dead” in it. How fun is that?!

      Also, the image of your patience getting a mental spanking is making me chuckle for some reason (I hope that’s a good thing). The whole smooshing process does take a ton of time for most people I know. And sometimes it just doesn’t work because you’re trying to smoosh the wrong things together or just aren’t at the right stage in your evolution to find that overarching theme. I think you’re going to rock yours when you find it… and I bet you find it soon.

  4. Chris says:

    Great episode Joel! I loved the idea of the umbrella. I never consciously thought about it like that before.

    I’ve heard it said before that we’re moving out of the Information Age into the Integration Age. I think we’re in the early adopter stage of the multipotentialite style of living and working.

    I liked how you probed out how to have a healthy relationship with consumption as a scanner. Emilie’s thoughts on rituals was cool.

    • It’s damn hard to have a healthy relationship with knowledge and skill consumption when you’re a scanner. There’s always the new awesome thing floating on the horizon, just begging you to pay attention to it and pursue it. This is where habits come into play to sub-consciously overrule the urge to give into “shiny object syndrome.” Without the fundamentals in place, multipotentialites are toast in my opinion.

      By the way, you have quite the diverse business and skill set, Chris. You could show a lot of us a thing or two about smooshing many seemingly separate passions and talents into a business that pays the bills (and fills us up with fulfillment).

  5. LindaMay says:

    Wow. I am a multi-potentialite, no question about that. I could totally relate to the description of having a lot of interests and not wanting to have to choose. Also I will get totally absorbed in a topic and read every book or blog on it out there, then suddenly go cold on it. I tried to start a niche business but was bored with it before it got going. So thanks for bringing Emilies work to my attention, it’s just the right thing at the right time for me.

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