“Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling”: A Powerful Ted Talk

I came across this Ted Talk and a week after watching it, I am still thinking about some of the ideas. I completely identify with the personality type Emilie Wapnick encapsulates with the term “multipotentialite,” and her argument that the notion that we all have “one true calling” is heavily romanticized. The anxiety of growing up and the sense that the only way to establish a career is by “denying other passions” so you can focus on one are feelings I have experienced, mainly in college.

One of the ideas I find the most encouraging and refreshing from Wapnick’s talk is her elaboration of the benefits of being a so-called “multipotentialite”. In college when most of my peers seemed more narrowly focused and seemed to be succeeding in their endeavors in a specialized field, I began to view my many distinct interests as a disadvantage. Was I wasting time trying out so many subjects? Would I be more “successful” if I focused on one main interest and relegated the other to the status of a hobby? Was I sacrificing mastery in one subject by instead pursuing mediocrity in many subjects? College admissions publications most often market their education as balancing breadth and depth–was I valuing breadth at the expensive of committing and delving deeply into a single field?

Wapnick quells anxiety about limiting oneself narrowly to a single discipline by explaining that those with competing interests have “superpowers” when it comes to: (1) synthesizing various disciplines (I wholly agree with Wapnick that “innovation happens at intersections” and individuals with many interests are best equipped to innovate); (2) learning new things more quickly: and (3) adapting to wide ranging contexts and demands.

While it may seem that continuing to hunt for my “one true calling” will confer a simpler outcome with a clear trajectory, Wapnick reminds me that my intellectual curiosity need not be suppressed and can in fact be harnessed to my advantage. Several adults intending to comfort me in my struggle to decide on a career have persuaded me that non-linear career paths are rewarding, but such individuals are essentially insisting that I will eventually settle on a single interest to which I can dedicate my career. My personality is not one of a specialist, and rather than forcing it, I feel reassured by Wapnick’s encouragement and hope to find interdisciplinary work that engages several of my interests.

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