What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, if you’re not sure you want to do just one thing for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls “multipotentialites” — who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime. Are you one?



  • anxiety – a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome
  • boredom – the state of feeling bored
  • elicit – evoke or draw out (a reaction, answer, or fact) from someone
  • luthier – a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars
  • affliction – a cause of pain or harm
  • wiring – the connections of the nervous system or brain perceived as determining an innate behaviour pattern


Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets.

  • Why did the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” cause Emilie anxiety? (1:24)
  • For what two reasons did Emilie feel bad about the pattern of jumping from one interest to another? (3:14)
  • Why does the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” turn from innocuous into a harmful one when it’s asked repeatedly over the years? (4:58)
  • Who are multipotentialites and why is it difficult to agree on a single term? (6:42)
  • What are three multipotentialites’ superpowers? Summarise each of them briefly. (10:17)


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

One: idea synthesis. That is, combining two or more fields and creating something new ________ the intersection. Sha Hwang and Rachel Binx drew _______ their shared interests ________ cartography, data visualization, travel, mathematics and design, when they founded Meshu. Meshu is a company that creates custom geographically-inspired jewelry. Sha and Rachel came ________ with this unique idea not despite, but because of their eclectic mix of skills and experiences. Innovation happens at the intersections. That’s where the new ideas come ________. And multipotentialites, with all of their backgrounds, are able to access a lot of these points of intersection.


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