Emilie Wapnick – Founder of Puttylike

[quote style=”boxed”]Sometimes being an entrepreneur is really lonely, especially if you work online and have a tendency to be introverted and work at home. If this is you, push yourself to get out in the world and do things. Take a class, start a Meetup group, even just do your work at coffee shops. Don’t let your business be your whole life. Explore some of those other passions.[/quote]

Emilie Wapnick is the founder of Puttylike, an online community for multipotentialites. She is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, coach, violinist, filmmaker, web designer, and she recently graduated from the Faculty of Law at McGill University. She believes that you do not need to pick one focus in your life and deny all of your other interests, but rather, you can find ways of integrating all of your passions into your life. She also believes that innovation happens in the intersections of multiple disciplines, and that the trend towards mastery in our culture, not only causes anxiety for people who aren’t wired that way, but actually slows down innovation.

Emilie lives in Portland, Oregon with her schnauzer puppy. She is the author of Renaissance Business and has been featured in The Financial Times and Lifehacker.

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing a new book and preparing to put on my first live seminar. One of my big goals for the remainder of the year is to start speaking regularly to students. I want to take my message to bigger audiences.

Where did the idea for Puttylike come from?

I was in my last year of law school and I knew that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Entrepreneurship was a passion of mine and so I decided that I would start a business. Unfortunately, practically every business training program tells you to choose a niche. I couldn’t. There were too many things that I was passionate about. You would think I’d have plenty to choose from, but the problem is I couldn’t choose. The idea of focusing on just law or web design or film or psychology totally turned me off. I could never imagine doing only one thing only. I knew the work would eventually get boring and I wouldn’t be able to stick with it.

Then it hit me while I was tossing and turning in bed one night. This “inability to choose one thing” could be my niche. Thinking back on my life, I realized that I constantly zigzagged around between my passions. It was how I lived and what I knew best.

What does your typical day look like?

I have the most creative energy in the morning, so I usually wake up, walk my puppy, think about the things I’m grateful for (people, experiences, etc.), make a healthy breakfast and then either bike to a coffee shop to do my work or settle in in my office at home. I spend the next 2-3 hours doing my most important creative work, which might be writing a blog post, working on my new book, preparing my seminar, or something else. Then I usually make myself lunch, take Grendel to the dog park, and take a nap. Afternoons and evenings are pretty open. I might do a bit of work, possibly some more administrative type stuff like emails, support, or marketing. Or I might get together with friends, work out, go to a show, or pursue one of my other passions like playing the violin or going to Bollywood dance class. I like to maintain a balance of ritual and flexibility in my day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I make sure to dedicate some of my morning creative time to the project, and I continue until I feel like it’s time to move on. I usually have about 3-4 priority projects on the go at any one time. As a multipotentialite, variety is really important to me.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Seeing more and more people embrace their multipotentiality and stop beating themselves up for not being a specialist.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I once designed a website for a department at a university. The whole thing was done by committee, so every decision had to go through half a dozen people and I got cc’ed on all the emails. It was a nightmare. It taught me that in my organization, I will never let bureaucracy  slow things down.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Nothing. I always listened to my heart, and while my multipotentialite nature sometimes caused me anxiety due to the specialist-oriented culture we live in, I never denied it. I always pursued my passions and switched things up as necessary. In the words of Steve Jobs, I “trusted that the dots would connect,” and they have.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Sometimes being an entrepreneur is really lonely, especially if you work online and have a tendency to be introverted and work at home. If this is you, push yourself to get out in the world and do things. Take a class, start a Meetup group, even just do your work at coffee shops. Don’t let your business be your whole life. Explore some of those other passions.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Like many entrepreneurs, I hit a point where I felt like I was doing too much in my business. I was running the whole show alone. To overcome this, I found myself a “Director of Tribe Happiness” as well as some volunteer Ambassadors to help with community moderation. Relinquishing control was tough at first, but it’s truly rewarding to work with a team of awesome people that believe in your message. It’s been great, and has really allowed me to take things to a whole new level.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Being a “jack-of-all-trades” is incredibly valuable when running a business. Take a look at the sorts of activities that you enjoy, and find a way to integrate them into your work. Make your diverse background work for you.

If you could change one thing in the world – what would it be – and how would you go about it?

Every kid in the world would grow up understanding that not only can they be “anything they want to be,” but they can be everything they want to be. Through my work at Puttylike and my new speaking project, I’m hoping to spread the message to as many young people as possible that they do not need to settle on one path and deny all of their other passions.

Tell us a secret.

I’m fanatic about the game Clue. I’ve got mad strategy.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

1. Ning. A beautiful and functional community site platform that I use to run the Puttytribe.

2. Google+ Hangouts. Video conferencing for up to 10 people. We use it for “Huddles” in the Puttytribe, which are like group masterminds. There is tons of potential for using this tool in creative and profitable ways in your business. Most people haven’t even begun to tap into the possibilities.

3. Songza. Great music playlists curated by experts. Free, with no audio ads. My latest obsession/productivity tool.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar by James Marchus Bach. It changed the way I think about education. Brilliant.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

1. @TheDailyLove. Mastin Kipp is so inspiring. He has smooshed together personal development and pop culture, and Twitter is one of his major platforms for accomplishing this. I like watching from both a “process” and “substance” perspective. It’s neat to see how he’s using social media.

2. @AHAbraham. Abe is my homeboy, and a funnel of amazing leads. He’s also hilarious.

3. @brainpicker. Always a good read.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Earlier today when I was trying to clean and my puppy kept attacking the broom.

Who is your hero?

Angela Chase

What are some of your most recent “multipotentialite” interests?

Lately I’ve been dabbling with musical theatre, the idea of becoming a Private Investigator for a short period of time, brainstorming ideas for a novel that takes place at the dog park, and learning about functional medicine and the Paleo diet.

If you could go back in time, what would you have told yourself 10 years ago?

Don’t hide the things that make you unique, feature them.


Emilie Wapnick on Twitter –
Puttylike on Facebook –