Do you know any of those annoying people who have known what they wanted to do with their lives basically since they came out of the womb?
Those people make me stabby.
I have never been remotely close to being one of those people.
When it comes to life plans and professional interests, I most resemble a confused goldfish. I’ll be all set to follow one path one day, and then I read a news article that strikes my interest, annnnd shooom. There I go, in a seemingly nonsensical, divergent direction.
Believing what some people said about my being “lost”, “selfish”, or worst, a “typical spoiled millenial” –– the doubt crept in. Was there something wrong? Why did so many interests and life paths call my name?
DID I HAVE TOO MANY IDENTITIES OR NO IDENTITY AT ALL?
While breathing into a paper bag, I found some solace re: my evolving identity mashup in a book by Emilie Wapnick called How to Be Everything, where I learned that I am a “multipotentialite”, which is exactly what it sounds like it would be, unless you are confusing it with the word “troglodyte”, in which case, it is not.
Multipotentialism means having multiple potentials, or interests, skills, and passions. You refuse to get boxed in, because as soon as they’re done drawing the box, you’ve already escaped to the next thing. (#magic)
I thought that this distressing quality of mine meant that I would always be aimlessly wandering about with intermittent spurts of interest, bounding about to whatever caught my eye, like when you unleash your dog at a park with many different kinds of pee to smell.
Bad example. But my idea stays the same –– having lots of passions, especially in the social impact space, is a good… dare I say, GREAT thing.
And can actually help you figure out the perfect job or side hustle for you –– for now.
I Will Warn You
Being a multipotentialite is simultaneously awesome and terrifying. One day you’re clipping along, learning new chords on your ukulele, and the next minute it’s gathering dust as you nearly burn down the kitchen attempting to make pita bread.
Point being, your interests grow and change a lot, so it’s not such a predictable life you lead. No two days look the same.
This is a good thing for us multipotentialites, but in a world that loves specialists, what the hell are we supposed to do about what we do all day long?
You’re supposed to park your ass in a chair and stick around for a while. But if you’re anything at all like myself, that’s really hard (read: nearly impossible) to do.
Sometimes you end up fired, or worse –– micromanaged.
Luckily, though, I learned the hard way about generalizing and specializing when I started this very blog back in May of 2016.
One Multipotentialite's Journey to Making Sense, or Something
With lots of interests, I started writing without any real purpose or aim. Knowing myself to be a big fan of self-help books, I tap-tap-tapped on my keyboard about socially conscious living in Santiago, Chile, where I lived.
It wasn’t long before I drifted again.
I didn’t want to just talk about Chile, I wanted to talk about being an impactful person in the world –– bringing impact into everything that you do! Cue the next iteration of my blog, where I sought to provide self-help and life advice to people wanting to make an impact in their life, work, and travel.
Soon, I realized what a big undertaking that was. While I loved writing about whatever topic tickled my fancy from week to week, I started to realize that it wasn’t terribly productive. I would bounce from writing about bikes to food to travel to apps from week to week to week.
No compass guiding me, I just wrote. Which would have been fine, if I was interested in being primarily a blogger, just kinda writin’ around the web and hoping someone would notice me at some point and come over and say hello.
But I had other goals in mind –– I wanted to create a business, too. Make the big bucks, you know. (Or at least, you know, bucks.)
So while I quickly hopped onto getting Google Ads set up and checking out Amazon Affiliates, (all the while continuing to tweak the focus of my site), I realized that my lack of a direction with the blog meant that I would be in for a lot of aimless roaming. Every few weeks I would get bored with my topic and change everything altogether.
If you dive deep into the Impact Explorer archives, you will see what I mean.
There are articles for social entrepreneurs.
For fellow writers and creatives.
This went on for a while (six or seven months to be exact), until two things happened:
Sure, my interest in social impact had carried me through for a while, but that wasn’t going to cut it forever.
With the help of a mastermind group (shameless plug, Changemakers Association!), I started getting serious.
The question: How could I rein in my interests so as to create a business that would be worth my time and also help others?
Pick a Focus, But Not Just Any Focus
For those of you who have considered starting your own business, online or otherwise, you will often see the good advice to “niche down till it hurts.” Be super specific and focused (a multipotentialite’s nightmare.)
In other words, writing about food trucks might not be a good bet, but focusing on organic only food trucks in the Midwest United States? Now there’s where the money is.
Sigh. So, I considered the niches I could write about based on the things I like:
Bikes. Minimalism. Reading. Comedy. Social Enterprise. Travel. Food. Spanish. Service.
Sure, I like all of those things, but none of them made me feel like I could shift my entire blogging focus toward one of them. (Besides, if there’s one thing the world probably doesn’t need, it’s another travel blog. No offense to you travel-bloggin’ friends, there’s just a lot of market saturation over there.)
I started reflecting on other elements of what I was working on, and again, with the help of greater and more experienced social entrepreneurs, I started focusing on a different angle in my search for definition, being the kinds of clients I wanted to work with, and the problem I wanted to solve.
By focusing more on my ideal audience and what I could do for them, I went from wandering creative to thoughtful business builder.
Thread the Needle
After I considered my experience as a service member with AmeriCorps, nonprofit teacher, and social enterprise employee, I saw common threads running between all of them.
I realized that what I love doing, working on, pondering, puttering around and tinkering with, were projects.
Read: I love being a creative dorkface.
Gimme an idea, parameters, and I’m off and running. And guess who’s always doing projects!
Volunteers. Nonprofits. Social Enterprises. Community Leaders.
AND I COULD HELP THEM, HOLY SHET
The best part was that this thread didn’t limit me by topic. I could still write about subjects as diverse as mindfulness, crowdfunding, sustainable bike sharing, and service initiatives, but tie everything together with a common goal:
Making grassroots creative projects come to life.
Do you hear the hallelujah song playing?
It was my –– a multipotentialite’s –– dream.
From there, Impact Explorer’s real focus started to take shape, and continues to.
From week to week, I might talk with someone who founded a nonprofit that started from one-by-one book donations, to a local guy who mowed 100 lawns in pursuit of the Good Neighbor Project. Or a woman who started a clothing swap. Or a librarian who’s plannng a banned books exhibit at her branch.
I found the thread that pulled everything together but still allowed me to be diverse in my interests.
If you’re wondering what my tale of self-discovery has to do with you, let’s switch gears, and talk about you.
Finding a way to make an impact that matters to you really comes down to two things:
Seriously, it’s that simple. Go get a piece of paper or open a blank document right now, and write down the answers to those questions.
Go crazy. Don’t hold back. Fill a whole page with words.
Then, take a step back. Pick out the ones that make you the most excited or adrenaline-filled. Don't think about it too much, and ponder which one makes you look the coolest or that your mom approves of.
Circle, star, or highlight them.
From there, find the thread.
Where those things overlap is a great place to start, even if eventually you get led somewhere else.
(Spoiler alert: you will. And that’s the best part of the adventure.)
I'm rooting for you.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.