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Are You A Multipotentialite?

Image via Unsplash — Greg Rakozy
Are You A Multipotentialite?
(Confessions From A Man With
Obsessive Learning Disorder)
Niklas Göke
Dec 2, 2015 · 8 min read
I’m sorry Mum.
But I have to tell you something.
I have OLD.
Obsessive Learning Disorder.
There’s no cure for it.
If you’re born with it, you’re stuck with OLD for life.
My question today is: Do you have OLD as well?
Maybe we can be friends.
Or start an OLD Anonymous group together. Although my public confession might
make this kinda tough.
More importantly though, I want to show you how to find out if you have OLD, and if
so, that there’s nothing wrong with you.
But first: a story.
Passion #387 — growing up with OLD
Being a kid with OLD can feel lonely. Incredibly exciting and never boring, but still
lonely. Maybe you can relate.
Here are the first 3 answers I can remember, that I gave to the question “What do you
want to be when you grow up?”:
Astronaut, secret agent and race car driver.
I think race car driver was the first one. I always had a big picture of a Ferrari F40 on
my wall.
Passion #1 — Cars — via Rev To The Limit
Of course that meant for Christmas I’d often get car models and Hot Wheels. Eventually
though, I got a Lego car — and that triggered passion #2.
Because one of the first Lego sets that I got included a space shuttle. I already imagined
myself in a space suit, with the big helmet, going to the moon.
Passion #2 — Space
However, the coolest part of building with legos was that there were no limits — if
you could imagine it, you could build it.
Which, in turn, triggered what I thought would be my true passion: inventor!
I built the models, took them apart, modified them, combined them, and made them
even better.
Until they came up with Lego soccer.
Passion #4 — Ball sports
This set was so cool and close to playing a real soccer game at the time, that it actually
made me go outside — and play real soccer.
When I was 7, me and the neighbor’s kids played outside 24/7.
But we didn’t just play soccer.
We played every ball sport you can think of.
Hockey, Soccer, Football, Basketball — we even had a Baseball set and played on
someone else’s property, not that we knew the rules or anything.
Until the next thing came around. The original Game Boy.
Don’t get me wrong, we were still outside all the time — but from now on we just sat in
the grass, playing with our Game Boys.
If you know where Game Boy stands in the dictionary, then you also know what word
comes right after it:
Passion #6 — Pokémon
Like everywhere, Pokémon was huge in Germany. We played always and everywhere.
Even in school. And when we weren’t playing Pokémon, we were watching the show on
Eventually it was forbidden to bring Game Boys to school. But that didn’t matter,
because right then, the Pokémon trading card game came out.
Passion #7 — Card Games
There was even a Pokémon league, where you could go every week to play against
others and trade cards.
I’m going to stop here, because by now I’m not even 10 years old and you probably
already have ADD just from reading this.
Was my childhood exciting? Yes.
I never got bored. There was always something new to learn. To explore. To invent. To
adapt to.
However, there’s a downside to Obsessive Learning Disorder:
You never fit in.
Or if you do, it only lasts for a short time.
When I turned 16 I was wondering: “How can these other guys from my class go to
soccer practice 3 times a week for 10 years and not get incredibly bored with it?”
I was always switching friends and cliques, which meant I got along well with
everyone, but didn’t really belong anywhere.
Round peg. Square hole.
Alright, time to see which category you fall into.
The OLD test — diagnose yourself
The good thing about OLD is that you can easily diagnose yourself, by checking for
symptoms. Here are the most common ones:
When someone asks you what your hobbies are it causes you anxiety, because
you have so many of them that you don’t know how you could possibly answer
that question.
You love learning new things. Love love love it. How can you NOT learn new
things? You love it so much that you’re not even worried about forgetting old
All it takes to fire you straight into research mode is one well written article, one
touching video or one Google search. If you find something new that excites
you, you can immediately spend the entire afternoon venturing down the rabbit
You’re terrible at sticking with things. Whenever you learn something new,
you pick up the basics really well and really fast. However, once you get past a
certain point, that new thing becomes boring.
Ideas come naturally to you. You have so many of them, that all you can do is
write them down, because you can never find the time to execute them all.
You don’t have a problem with pivoting. You can turn around 180 degrees
from one day to the next, whether that’s in relationships or in business.
Does that sound like you?
If you’re still not sure, here’s the final test:
Has the answer to the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
changed more than 5 times throughout your childhood and time in high school?
If the answer is yes, chances are you have OLD as well.
This diagnosis, however, should not make you feel bad. To the contrary. It’s a cause to
Welcome to the club. Share the love:
I just diagnosed myself with Obsessive Learning
Disorder. It’s okay though. I’m a multipotentialite
and I’m just fine! (click to tweet)
The world of multipotentialites
OLD is not a bad thing.
Feeling a little bit ADD with your passion doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with
What you are, is a multipotentialite.
Note: The term multipotentialite was coined by Emilie Wapnick, and I’ve learned most
of what I know about it from her great TED talk.
You just happen to be someone with many passions, purposes and destinies.
Not just one.
And that’s okay.
In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s great!
Multipotentialites are highly adaptable, very innovative and rapid learners.
But how do you embrace that?
OLD: A life in circles
2 days ago I watched a great movie: Finding Joe.
It explains the underlying concept of almost any movie, book or story ever told: The
Hero’s Journey.
Every journey can be broken down into 3 major parts: separation, initiation and return.
Screenshot from Finding Joe
After receiving a call to start his journey, whether in the form of an actual phone call, a
vision from above or a literal knock on the head, every hero has to be separated from his
familiar territory.
Neo receives his call in The Matrix (1999)
Having overcome the fear of starting the journey and “taking the red pill”, the hero’s
initiation begins, followed by trials and adventures in the forest.
Thanks to courage and many helpers along the way, the hero eventually makes it to the
final test: the battle with the dragon.
Harry Potter’s rst ght with a dragon — via Tumblr
After having faced his or her fear, the hero finally returns with a treasure, which can be
a chest full of gold, a bunch of diamonds, or a whole lot of cash.
Robbing a bank in Now You See Me — via Youtube
In all cases though, the best thing the hero brings home is a story.
Sometimes, that’s also all the hero returns with, ain’t that right Indy?
Yeah, right… — via Ugly Owl Films
The beauty of the hero’s journey is that it’s not a straight line.
It’s a circle.
After the return, the hero can receive another call and start another journey.
The life of a multipotentialite is very similar.
You’ll see over time that even though you seem to be obsessed with learning new
things, eventually, you’ll return to topics you’ve studied before.
If you’re trying to force your life to be a straight line, you’ll just make yourself
Accept that your life comes in circles, and you’ll finally be able to breathe and give
yourself a break.
You don’t have to know what your passion is right now.
Even if you’re 35. Or 47. Or 52.
You don’t have that one purpose in life, that one thing you are destined to do.
What you do have is time.
You have hundreds, thousands of circles of learning you can go through.
You can start over at any time. It’s up to you.
But please, accept yourself, so you can finally become the hero of your own journey.
Okay, let me come full circle.
Whatever you do — Don’t. Stop.
It’s not your job to hack the straightest path through the forest of career options you
find yourself in.
Right now, your job is to explore the entire forest.
And then the next one.
Whatever you do: Don’t stop learning.
Let your OLD blossom. Go full throttle. All-in on your strengths.
Be innovative. Adapt. Learn rapidly.
And jump boldly from topic to topic.
Eventually you’ll find a common thread.
But in order to find it, you have to keep going.
We need you.
Life Lessons
Career Change