What do you want to be when you grow up?

How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick (WildmooBooks.com)

A couple years ago I stumbled across Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk — “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” — and I felt like I’d found a soul mate. In that presentation, Wapnick talks about how she had a life-long pattern of getting very deep into a subject and then eventually losing interest. Repeatedly. She thought there was something wrong with her.

I’ve gone through the same struggle in my life and felt as if there was something wrong with me. I bounced from the Marines to hospital work to college/graduate school, teaching, retail management, marketing, library work, massage therapy, et. al. Luckily for me, I had parents who were interested in a variety of things that modeled taking the time to pursue those interests, so I didn’t feel like a complete alien. I can still hear my dad and his sister, one of my favorite aunts, laughing about how they hadn’t figured out what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were in their 40s then. However, both my dad and my aunt were gainfully employed and I, back then, sometimes worried about my ability to support myself.

In 2007 I took Tom Rath’s Strength Finder test and my top strength was learning, which, according to his definition, means I’m more interested in the process of learning than in outcomes. No surprise there. That helped me feel better about my jumping around on the career stage. I’ve also come to see how skills gained at one job or area of interest have helped me in subsequent jobs or interests.

However, it was seeing Wapnick’s TED Talk that helped me let go of my worries and actually embrace the fact that I don’t have one true calling when it comes to career. All that I’ve done thus far has been awesome–it’s fed my soul (well, not everything did that), advanced my knowledge and skills, and helped me make great connections with people. She gave me the freedom to let go of some of the shame I’d been carrying around about not completing programs, staying in jobs for way too long, and interests that I once proclaimed were IT that fizzled out.

I jumped at the chance to review Wapnick’s new book, How to Be Everything: A Guide For Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want To Be When They Grow Up, for TLC Book Tours and now available from HarperOne.

From the publisher: What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a familiar question we’re all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don’t.

Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn’t make you a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Your endless curiosity doesn’t mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything helps you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. Based on her popular TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick flips the script on conventional career advice. Instead of suggesting that you specialize, choose a niche or accumulate 10,000 hours of practice in a single area, Wapnick provides a practical framework for building a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.

You’ll discover:
• Why your multipotentiality is your biggest strength, especially in today’s uncertain job market.
• How to make a living and structure your work if you have many skills and interests.
• How to focus on multiple projects and make progress on all of them.
• How to handle common insecurities such as the fear of not being the best, the guilt associated with losing interest in something you used to love and the challenge of explaining “what you do” to others.

Not fitting neatly into a box can be a beautiful thing. How to Be Everything teaches you how to design a life, at any age and stage of your career, that allows you to be fully you, and find the kind of work you’ll love.

The book has three parts:

Part I: Everything? Welcome to the Tribe. This section is all about giving consolation and encouragement to world-weary multipotentialites, Emilie’s word for those who have multiple interests and creative pursuits. There’s nothing wrong with you! She goes over the strengths of being a multipotentialite and offers advice on how to live a happy life balancing money, meaning, and variety.

Part II: The Four Multipotentialite Work Models. Different Strokes for Different Folks. Wapnick has found that there are four major ways multipotentialites work and offers strategies on how to figure out what your style is and how to best work it/them. Fascinating perspectives that will give you insight into yourself and how you might work most effectively.

Part III: Common Multipotentialite Stumbling Blocks. Slaying Your Dragons.  This section was the most interesting to me because it’s where I am now. I’m working on my personal productivity system, embracing all the things that make me unique, and gaining confidence in my choices. Wapnick offers advice on how to talk with people in various contexts about your multipotentialite life. This section is helpful for me and I think it would be INCREDIBLY helpful for younger folks just starting out on their journey or those who are embracing their various passions for the first time, no matter what their age.

How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick (WildmooBooks.com)
My Reading Buddy

Wapnick’s ideas as presented in her TED Talk were a big part of my decision last year to jump into entrepreneurship with my wife Laura. She’s a personal coach and we’re taking her in-person workshops and transitioning them into online classes. My love of learning, teaching experience, customer service skills, and marketing background, among other things, are all coming into play. It’s been a fun and challenging year and Wapnick’s book is full of hope and helpful tips for the work I’m doing with our business and my own projects. All of Wapnick’s advice is geared toward helping multipotentialites enjoy the work they’re doing and the life they’re living. This is a book I’ll read again and dip into here and there for reminders.

Graduation season is here and this would be a great gift for the high school or college graduate in your life. I wish I’d had a book like this when I was in my 20s. It would’ve saved me from a lot of worry, self-flagellation, and sticking around in programs/jobs for too long. The way our business world is changing–relying on and rewarding people who are adaptable and well-versed in a variety of fields–this could be a success manual for those who aren’t satisfied being specialists in one field.
Watch Wapnick’s TED Talk:

Title: How To Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
Author: Emilie Wapnick
Publisher: HarperOne (May 2, 2017) 240 pages
Bottom line: Highly recommend to seekers with multiple interests that are trying to figure out how to do everything they want to do.
Source: Review copy via TLC Book Tours

About Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick is a speaker, career coach, blogger, and community leader. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production, and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011. Emilie is a TED speaker and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling,” has been viewed over 3.5 million times, and has been translated into 36 languages. She has been hired as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator at universities, high schools, and organizations across the United States and internationally.
Find out more about Emilie at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


  1. […] A view from the front tables looking toward check-out.  Love the paperback cover of Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief. Have you read it yet? Fascinating historical fiction set in three very different time periods. On the table just behind this one is Emilie Wapnick’s How To Be Everything, which I recently reviewed. […]

  2. […] How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They … by Emily Wapnick. This book was not written for teens, but I think it offers great advice for older teens on how to embrace all of their passions and start thinking of the future. It drives me nuts when I see a parent pushing their kid toward conveyor belt thinking. We don’t live in a one job or one career world anymore. And even if your kid chooses a highly specialized field, their “extra curricular” passions will help their work and their mental wellbeing. Rant over. […]

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