Book Review by Sapphire Ng
How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
by Emilie Wapnick
Hardcover, 240 Pages
A simple but profound book. Remarkably empowering and uplifting to the multipotentialite reader, this book creatively puts into context the seemingly unorthodox phenomenon of multipotentiality. Brimming with abounding positivity and channeling a hearteningly fertile approach to life, this is a valuable self-help book capable of affecting the reader on a deeper emotional, psychological, and even spiritual level.
This book is almost life-changing for multipotentialites previously unaware of their unique identity as such. The author’s lucid verbalization of the subtleties of the multipotentialite identity is liberating. This book helped me considerably in reconciling with various facets of my multipotentialite personality that I've only previously perceived as disparate, unrelated to a greater picture, or even confusing at times.
Having never personally nor formally identified as a multipotentialite, I found it almost redeeming to see various aspects of myself described within the pages of this book in a way that synergistically make sense as a whole. I would daresay that this book has helped ease, even if only slightly, a bugging discomfort I’ve been feeling with regards to pinpointing my true purpose in life. With the author rather cohesively and coherently laying out various complementary pieces to the multipotentialite puzzle in an easy-to-read manner, this might just be one of the most important books that a multipotentialite could read in his or her lifetime.
The multipotentialite reader would naturally benefit most from perusing this book by engaging in self-reflection at fitting moments. A predominant strength of this book appears to lie in its rather creative, well-crafted, and even fun exercises that guide the reader on the journey of self-discovery. Having tried several exercises in the book, I daresay that my newfound self-awareness have begun to effect, even if to a rather microscopic extent, my decisions in everyday life. On one occasion, I caught myself actively adding more variety into my daily activities, a privilege that I’ve mostly denied myself in the past for one reason or another.
Arguably the most refreshing content in the book pertains to the four multipotentialite work models as concocted by the author, namely the Group Hug work model, the Slash work model, the Einstein work model, and the Phoenix work model. I personally related most to the Slash approach—also called a “portfolio career”—and thus also found it most captivating. It was mind-blowing and even transformative to realize that a lingering sentiment I have had pertaining to my general hesitation in pursuing any of my beloved passions full-time could actually be construed as an absolutely valid viewpoint and even a viable way of life. I never could have imagined that the idea of “feel[ing] trapped by the very idea of committing to [a passion] full-time” could be perceived as reasonable or even sane, especially in today’s society.
The Slash approach exercise “Make A List of Possible Slashes/Revenue Streams” was particularly fun and more so due to its unconventionality. It certainly amazed me that the author would suggest the possibility for Slash careerists to run multiple businesses, a suggestion that more likely than not could be deemed as idealistic in contrast to mainstream advice. The author’s willingness alone to voice such a perspective certainly made an impact on me; I distinctly felt the horizons of my world expanding, alongside the dissolution of certain psychological barriers. It was yet another bonus that my association with the multipotentialite identity has brought along for me a renewed understanding of my seemingly perplexing chronic run-ins with boredom that has only been intensifying.
The author certainly did a satisfactory job expounding on the other three multipotentialite work models. For the Group Hug approach, it was most astounding to be acquainted with the notion of discovering multifaceted niches and specialties within broad disciplines. It was also a joy to read certain segments of writing that potentially reflect the creativity of multipotentialites and of like-minded individuals. It was inspiriting that the author followed the exercise “Pair Together Your Subgroups and Individual Interests” of the Group Hug approach with the remark—if even just to “see what kind of ingenious/hilarious career ideas you can come up with.”
I particularly loved the notion of “Dedicated Tinkering Time” as introduced in the book. I could certainly foresee myself putting this idea into practice in the near future to grant myself guiltless freedom to explore what I’ve always wanted to explore, and as an almost necessary neutralizing force to my predominating results-oriented instinct.
This book is undoubtedly inspiring at times. At other times however the book presented content almost painfully bland and generic. Certain advice supplied in the book at worst seemed like plain regurgitation of common sense items easily and freely accessible on the internet. In Chapter 7 about the Phoenix approach for example, considerable space was dedicated to regrettably banal “strategies” to help the reader “break into a new field.” The generic accompanying descriptions to absolutely predictable strategies, such as to “reach out to your existing network,” “expand your network,” “volunteer,” or “get some training” seemed almost redundant. It certainly does not help that the book features a retail price of USD24.99.
Whilst generic, it is undeniable that there certainly is value in advice such as “be humble and be open to learning. Show your enthusiasm,” “the best you can do is listen to your heart and be brave,” “get an accountability buddy” or “take a break.” However it becomes potentially problematic when such general advice is present in sizable amounts in the book, possibly even giving the impression of redundancy surpassing the stimulating parts of the book. Some readers might thus find the cost of the book unwarranted. It is of course entirely possible as well that others might find such advice to be more of icing on the cake, and thus inconsequential to the overall value of the book. That aside, this book remains a promising guide to fellow multipotentialites.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.