Puttyfest is a few days dedicated to celebrating people who boldly choose to follow many passions in life. Emilie Wapnick, founder of Puttylike.com, is the pied piper of multipotentialites and anyone who’s ever wanted to be more than one thing.
I found Emilie’s blog a couple of years ago and instantly felt at home. Emilie’s message is that we can and should fully express our own fabulous combination of talents and interests.
The dominant message is: choose one.
Putty people say: select all that apply.
If you don’t believe me, believe Itzhak Perlman. On the Great Performances special, “Rejoice”, he observed, “We are all a combination”. Multipotentialites live the combination.
Would you tell a prism to only reflect green light? No. That would be silly and against the prism’s natural properties. It’s the same for people, we just forget.
I agree with Itzhak Perlman. Everyone is a combination. Some of us have recognized and embraced our prism-like (err, puttylike) qualities more completely than others.
I had a Twitter exchange with Emilie a few weeks ago and learned she’d designated September 23-25 “Puttyfest”. As part of the celebration she asked her followers to spread the word about what it means to be a multipotentialite and how this quality has been a positive force in our lives. This post is me fulfilling my Twitter promise to Emilie and the puttypeeps.
Multipotentiality is a big part of why I have a day job I’ve loved for the last 8 years. One of the reasons I was hired was because I ditched the standard cover letter I’d written and wrote how my eclectic experience matched each one of the program’s goals.
I work with and for people who would fall under the multipotentialite umbrella: interdisciplinary researchers. Interdisciplinary researchers are researcher/teacher/scholars following their curiosities and questions wherever they lead without much regard for where one discipline ends and another begins. Structures in academia and funding agencies aren’t well-equipped for this sort of thing. Interdisciplinary researchers find a way. And our program helps. It’s great fun.
I still have that cover letter.
It reminds me that letting the multipotentialite in me shine pays off even when (especially when), it feels daring.
It’s common among multipotentialites to feel baffled about this whole personal legend/life purpose/niche/ mission, etc. thing. We simply don’t get what that is about. It’s not how we roll.
The movie Rise of the Guardians has another approach- one that make sense to me. It may make sense to you. Guardians introduces the idea that each person has a Center. In this clip, North (a.k.a Santa Claus) explains his Center to Jack Frost, who is trying to understand why the Man in the Moon chose him to be a Guardian of the children of the world. Using a metaphor of the matryoshka dolls, North goes through various facets of who he is: big/intimidating, jolly, mysterious, fearless, caring, and at his Center: WONDER. North explains that wonder is his Center because,
“It is what I was born with….This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children. It is what makes me a Guardian.”
As a multipotentialite, the idea of having a Center that can be expressed many ways feels orders of magnitude lighter than searching for some life path in the woods of the world. I’ve watched this movie over and over with my daughter and never get tired of that scene.
One day I heard the phrase “…what I protect in children” differently. I remembered a conversation I had where I said one of my most important jobs as a parent was to keep my child’s curiosity intact.
And I understood myself differently.
My “Center” is curiosity.
It’s what I was born with, it’s what I protect in my child, and it’s what I bring to others through any work I’ve ever loved.
I’m not sure if curiosity “counts” as my multipotentialite theme, nor do I have the slightest clue how to turn curiosity into a renaissance business for myself. Yet.
And that’s OK. I’m fortunate that I get to live curiosity every day.
It rings true and I’ll claim it.
That’s what multipotentialites do. We follow what rings true and claim it.