What do you do? I uh, uh, I do, uh I do a lot…
I have entered and left multiple career opportunities and I left a full-time job I enjoyed after obtaining a terminal degree. Stopped teaching as an adjunct faculty member in a university honors program and returned to work in a field I started over 20 years ago that is totally unrelated to the terminal degree. I started a company with multiple facets including sassy artistic expression, supporting women searching for their dreams, interior design, and social justice education. The business plans include building a trailer (and I mean literally building the trailer with my own two hands) to bake in and use as a retail space for non-baked products. I will return to school in the fall for a degree in a field I have loved my entire life and it is closely associated with my bachelor’s degree and not my terminal degree.
This spattering of occupations leads me to this article and announcement:
I finally have my answer to “What Do You Do?”
Multi-passionate Opportunity Taker
After moving to a new state and no longer working outside the home, I have been nervous to meet new people and answer their question, “What do you do?” There are a number of reasons this question produces anxiety and I have struggled to find an answer that makes sense or doesn’t take a deluge of word vomit to explain.
I have been working on the answer and have identified broad, encompassing terms to describe what I do. It has been a work in progress until recently. I now have a succinct response to the question that makes sense and puts validation to who and what I am. I am a multi-passionate opportunity taker.
Being a multi-passionate opportunity taker is not being a flake, scattered or confused. I am not still searching for what I love or what I want to be when I grow up. I am adding to who I am and what I can do. My genuine curiosity and passion in what I explore is where I choose to find work. When an opportunity to know more exposes itself, I take it. I want to follow multiple pathways that don’t always cross or become one. I am a multi-passionate opportunity taker and I am proud to say this, own this, and continue on this journey!
Like so many growing up I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be in life. I thought about a career in interior design, teaching, construction, the travel industry, or hotel and restaurant management. I even thought about being a shop owner, grocery store clerk, cruise ship director, corporate executive, lawyer, truck driver, or fitness instructor. The truth is I still want to be some of these things, even as I experience my mid-life years.
As a high school graduate, I chose interior design. My design degree was completed in four years of college immediately following high school. It was great and I wanted to do more. Surprisingly, I wasn’t fulfilled with my answer to, “What do you do?” Enter opportunity. Because the opportunity presented itself, I pursued degrees and jobs in higher education and student affairs. Again, the work itself was interesting, yet still not quite fulfilling. A master’s degree, Ph.D. and work in various departments on campus later I had a career of 15+ years in the field. I enjoyed the work yet still wanted more.
While working in higher education, I was exposed to and became excited about social justice, advocacy, and privilege. Additionally, I found fascination in research, feminism and supporting others without judgment. I learned how to help women re-discover the art of dreaming and getting in tune with what they dream. Again, I found myself excited to explore all these topics and new opportunities. I was reminded of my own dreams of being an artist and took the opportunity to explore art with my personal unapologetic and sarcastic approach. Yet again, I followed opportunity and started my own business focusing on many of my passions.
I am not alone in being multi-passionate
As I welcomed new opportunities, I began to see the looks of confusion and head tilts from others when I pursued more and had more to add to the, “What do you do?” description. I started to internally tell myself, “I am all over the place and need to figure my shit out.” Therefore, I read self-help books. Unfortunately, most of these books say you must find your niche, your ‘one thing’ and run with this one single idea. I was internally struggling to identify my “one thing” and I felt conflicted because I loved the work I was doing. All of the work. It is not confusion, I am inspired and excited.
Finally, I found the right books, the right people who are talking about what I feel. I started listening to Marie Forleo, a self-described mutli-passionate entrepreneur. She was speaking to Koya Webb on her podcast about Koya’s new book “Let Your Fears Make you Fierce.“ Webb and Forleo were giddy as they reminisced on discovering they were multi-passionate individuals and relishing in the gifts this produced. In fact, they were not focusing on their inability to find their one thing, they were celebrating the multiple, unrelated subjects they choose to seek. I felt understood. It was me too. I am multi-passionate, not confused.
Loving and wanting to know more, do more and seek opportunities allowing me to explore the things I am passionate about in life is not a bad thing. Obviously, I can be this, that, or this and that and be successful. There is no need to abandon interests and focus on ‘the thing’. This is a revelation!
Keeping the Passion & Honing the Focus
There are many multi-passionate people and we should embrace their curiosity. We can follow the subjects we love. When the topics don’t have paths with crossover that is okay. It is important to realize how you can be successful being multi-passionate. While you can follow a multitude of opportunities, there is still a need to hone in and focus on one thing at a time. This is out of the need to build a foundation from which to grow. I am still figuring out how to manage my multi-passions and I feel like I am further down the path. I have reflected and I am moving forward after time which left me feeling pulled in all directions.
There are a few things to take into consideration while you follow the multi-passions. This requires focus on one thing. I know that may sound contradictory to all I said above, but hear me out. You must focus on one thing, for a time, in order to achieve success. The best part is we get to decide what ‘success’ means, what we focus on, and how it plays out in our lives. Here are a few thoughts on how to organize, prioritize and work multi-passionately. It takes some reflection, forward thinking, and commitment to the journey, not just the moment.
First things first, you need to organize all the things! I mean it. Sit down. Write it all out. Otherwise you have all the things floating and may not have direction which can result in some floundering. For me, organizing includes markers, oversized post it notes on the wall and walking around talking to myself. Do what works for you! You need to name your passions and decide where they are prioritized in your life. For me, it includes personal, professional and dreams. I don’t separate my personal and professional lives, they are interconnected and dependent on each other.
For some, this term and idea may not resonate with you. You may have your one thing and you are killing it with life. My friend, AWESOME! I am excited for you and support and celebrate you. It isn’t my thing and I am relieved to know that is okay! For those still searching for their ‘thing’ be it one or multiple things, I say “Keep going, you’ve got this!” Forleo offers some great advice in working toward discovery and purpose. I am learning and deciding which of my passions will be businesses, careers, hobbies and opportunities. I will continue to love life and if I feel unhappy or unfulfilled, I will continue to seek those things!
Now it’s time to prioritize all the passions. Look at what you’ve written and prioritize what your life needs at this moment. In my life, this includes being mom to the two kids living at home (high schooler & middle schooler) for the next 7 years, at minimum. It means needing to have some steady monthly income and setting myself up for my best future. I want to have some money to help with kids’ college costs, I want to retire before I am 65 and I want to retire comfortably so I can travel and frankly do whatever the hell I want. These are goals I keep in mind.
I will prioritize my passions by sliding them into my timeline. This gives me an outline of a plan. I say outline because the plan will not be strict or absolute. It can and will change. What this does is align my current life stage with my life goals and provide perspective on the timing of indulging in my passions. For instance, I need a steady income right now, so I must work on something that provides that income. I know what opportunities currently present themselves and what goals I have with those opportunities. I will outline the sequence of building the pathway and add that to my timeline.
The next step is making decisions, which as a multi-passionate person I find difficult yet necessary. I need to decide which of my passions I will monetize. Not every passion will be monetized – some will be hobbies, some will be careers, and some will be supplements to careers. It is important to determine which passion is which. Again, nothing has to stay permanently in the realm I place it, especially because I am an opportunity taker. If a decision I make today runs up against an unforeseen opportunity…I just might take the opportunity!
Here is how I currently gauge whether or not I take an opportunity, I ask myself if I will look back in a few years and regret not taking the chance. If there is even a possibility I would have regrets, I see how I can make the opportunity work and I take it. Marie Forleo says (and writes) everything is “figuraoutable.” I believe when you want something, you can make it happen, not without consequences, and you can make it happen.
So, I will continue to follow my passions, I will confidently tell people I am a multi-passionate opportunity taker and I will re-evaluate my plan outline as new opportunities present themselves. Ultimately, I will continue to seek joy, and explore the interests that bring me curiosity. I am learning to be me and to accept me as I am. When I start to doubt myself or wonder what other people might think of my path, I will remember how their opinion fits into my happiness. Consequently, most people’s opinion have no place in my happiness. We must own our stories. Dana Andalora talks about steps to take to achieve freedom in removing masks we wear for others in her blog “3 Ways to Own Your Story…” By allowing myself the freedom to accept my way of being multi-passionate is owning my story.
I do all things with kindness, respect and pay attention to do no harm to others. As long as I am continuing these actions…I will carry on with my multi-passionate opportunity taking self!