Why can’t I concentrate on just one subject?

In honour of Puttyfest, Emilie Wapnick’s festival of everything Multipotentialite (shown here http://puttylike.com/puttyfest/ ) I’m republishing this post again.


Have you ever said anything like this to yourself?

• I know I should focus on one thing, but which one?
• I lose interest in things I thought would interest me forever.
• I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.
• I work at low-paying jobs because there’s nothing I’m willing to commit to.
• I won’t choose a career path because it might be the wrong one.

Help is at hand! You are not weak minded, strange or unable to commit. You are simply one of a group of people who are genetically wired to be interested in many things and not be content with just one.

There are various names for people in this group: Polymath / Renaissance Person; Scanner; Spinner; Multipassionate; RP2; Puttylike Personality, Puttypeep. But the one I like best is Multipotentialite.

What is Multipotentiality?

“A multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life,” says Emilie Wapnick, founder of www.puttylike.com , a website dedicated to lifestyle design for multipotentialites.

“Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both).”

How do you know if you have this trait?

Barbara Sher, who first recognised Multipotentialites (or as she called them: Scanners), says:

“intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive. A Scanner doesn’t want to specialize in any of the things they love, because that means giving up all the rest.”

So if you identify with that, you are most likely a Multipotentialite.

How do you cope as a Multipotentialite in a world of specialists?

It is very hard not to become bored once we learn what we want to from a subject.

The ‘norm’ (i.e. specialists) is to work at something until you gain a qualification or certificate, but multipotentialites don’t always do that.

Multipotentialites however, have our own ‘finishing points’—be it HOW something works, WHY it works or WHO it involves—we need to find out what it is and devise a method of doing what we need to do.

How can Multipotentialites have a great career and be happy in it?

In today’s world, it basically means designing your own life and career rather than fitting in with the current fashion of ‘specialize, specialize, specialize’. Maybe a few part time jobs instead of one; an ‘umbrella career’ such as writer or teacher, which encompasses many subjects; entrepreneurship- start a business around all your interests.

Multipotentialite or Scanner role models:

Current: Barbara Sher; Emilie Wapnick; Richard Branson; Steve Jobs; Coco Chanel; Oprah Winfrey; Clint Eastwood.

Historical: Leonardo Da Vinci; Albert Einstein; Isaac Newton; Aristotle; Gloria Steinem; Jackie Onassis; Eleanor Roosevelt; Beatrix Potter.

Because specialising in one subject or career is only a fashion. In the past, people were encouraged to be ‘well rounded’ and be interested in many areas. No doubt society will swing round again to that soon.

Helpful websites:






7 thoughts on “Why can’t I concentrate on just one subject?

  1. This is a good description of me, Catherine. My gradate (school) advisor told me that I was “too eclectic;” I thought it was natural (and still do).

  2. Welcome to the club. I’ve always called it ‘having a renaissance-intelligent brain’ as in one an interest and equal regard for all subjects. Unfortunately I don’t speak maths so most people think I’m thick.

    You have one of my uncles on your list. I’m descended from his half sister. If my relies are anything to go by scanning is a very dominant gene. 🙂



    • I am starting to think that humans are far more multipotential than is thought. Surely its part of human nature to be interested in a wide range of things and question why, how, where, when? Otherwise, if we’d all be focusing on one narrow specialism, we wouldn’t have evolved.

      • Maybe with the amount of knowledge we need these days, we are evolving towards a scenario where we specialise and away from our multi specialist past. Sad if we do, I think but…



  3. Pingback: Puttylike | A Home for Multipotentialites » The Puttyfest Wrap-Up Post (Including All of Your Amazing Blog Posts) #puttyfest

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