How to Get Paid to Explore the World

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike.

Last weekend I got paid to make art, take my dog to the farmer’s market, play the violin, brainstorm with my friends, cook a new Paleo meal, and open an investing account.

None of these activities generated income directly (well, except maybe the investing account), but they all added to my experience on this earth as a multipotentialite, which is the foundation of my business.

I’ve set up a system for myself whereby I must explore multiple fields and report back, or my business doesn’t run.

If I’m going to speak to a community of multipotentialites, I had better be a shining example of a multipotentialite or I lose all cred and have nothing to talk about. In other words, my income is reliant upon me being the biggest, boldest multipotentialite I can be, and then using my experiences to help others do the same.

This, I believe, is the key to getting paid to exist. You create a business that not only grants you permission to step into a bigger version of yourself, but requires it.

We Teach What We Most Need to Learn

We’re fascinated by the things that are, or have been, personal challenges for us. When looking for a theme for your business, consider the deep, scary, personal issues that you’ve you’ve struggled with. What values, if you allowed yourself to truly embody, would make you feel free?

My inability to settle on one path used to cause me a lot of anxiety. I felt ashamed, I felt like a quitter with a serious commitment problem, and I felt like there was something wrong with me. Creating Puttylike was me putting a stake in the ground and saying, “Enough! There is nothing wrong with me.

In redefining my inability to choose as a good thing, I gave myself permission to be myself. By accepting myself in this way, I also gave permission to other multipotentialtes to do the same.

Take a Look at Your Personal Challenges

Whatever your drives and values are, they will most likely scare you at first. Not only will they be deeply personal, but the idea of building a career around them will feel impractical and unrealistic, since they won’t match up with traditional job titles like “doctor” or “electrician.”

Your identity will be something more all-encompassing and representative of the many sides of your personality. It might be something like Image Maker, Health Detective, or even Day Job Crusher.

Or perhaps you won’t have a title. You don’t need one. Maybe you will just create a business that focuses on spreading love or helping people tell their stories.

As you begin designing a career that allows you to get Paid to Exist, think about the types of feelings and activities that you would like to experience on a daily basis. Your overarching theme will not be a skill or specific medium, but rather a drive, philosophy or world view. It will be something that matters deeply to you and likely something you’ve struggled with yourself.

Q: Have you given yourself permission to step into a bigger version of yourself through your work?

About the author: Emilie Wapnick is a writer, coach, violinist, filmmaker, and law school graduate. She works with multipotentialites to help them build lives and businesses around ALL their interests. She’s the author of Renaissance Business and the troublemaker behind

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jonathan October 18, 2012 at 7:16 am

I guess we are the modern day version of Renaissance men and women. Personally, I am a financial analyst, classical/jazz pianist, pistol & rifle marksman, future problogger, liberty advocate, extraordinaire!


Emilie October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

Yeah! I love it, Jonathan. Those are some seriously awesome titles.

Milo October 18, 2012 at 8:55 am

Love this Emilie, especially the final question – and you’re doing a great job representing and encouraging all of us multi-passionate people!

I’ve had a similar experience with my own blog. I was a little daunted by the name and concept when I started it. I wasn’t sure if I could live up to it. I had quite a few long dark nights of the soul wondering if I was fooling myself.

But it’s definitely driven me forward. This year I’ve left my full-time job to become a freelance copywriter,written and published 3 ebooks, travelled to Portland for the World Domination Summit (as you know!) and have quit alcohol for a year to raise over $1k for Charity: Water. I’ve even made it to the gym a few times ;)

I’m definitely edging closer to being the clear-minded creative I set out to be at the beginning but I had to take a leap of faith at first!


Emilie October 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

Very cool, Milo. I like the idea of strategically taking on roles that you want/have to “live up to.” It’s like turning the multipotentialite plight of feeling pigeonholed on its head, and using labeling in your favour.

And I love what you’ve built. You’re definitely a shining example of what your digital home stands for. :)

Joel Zaslofsky October 18, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hey Emilie,

It’s fun to see you pop up here. If this post just said nothing but, “You create a business that not only grants you permission to step into a bigger version of yourself, but requires it”, I’d say it would have been a successful one. There’s a lot of power behind that.

I try to embody that statement each day. I thrive off of knowing that I’ll only be as successful as how big I can grow into the version of myself I’m projecting. That’s why I did the Continuous Creation Challenge. That’s why I get so much joy from meeting new people in various places online. And that’s why I put big metrics on whether I’m fulfilling the promise that leaving Corporate America granted me almost eight months ago.

Oh, and my ears perked up when you mentioned opening an investment account! I was looking forward to helping you with that one but I’m excited I don’t have anything to do now. Way to take the initiative!

Feel free to take me up on my case study offer though.


Emilie October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hey Joel!

You absolutely embody this idea in everything I’ve seen you do. I love the way you always challenge yourself. You have such drive and you’re constantly trying new things. It’s really inspiring to be around.

Heh I’ll email you about that investment account situation. May still need some help there, but I have more free time now that the seminar is over.

Chase Night October 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

Hi Emilie,

I really enjoyed this post. I’m really only trying to be one thing career-wise – a storyteller – but in order to do that I have to be a multipotentialite so I can create interesting characters from all walks of life! Still trying to figure out how to get paid to exist so I have the time to write and explore. I floundered in my online existence for a while, but I’m determined to get back on track! I just discovered Paid to Exist a few days ago and I’ve been really impressed so far. It was nice to see you pop up here!



Emilie October 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks Chase! One of the things I talked about in my seminar last week was how some multipotentialites use one medium to explore multiple ideas. Storytelling is your medium. The lens through which you view the world and are able to explore the many sides of yourself. It’s great. :)

Holli October 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

This needs to be my new mantra: “We Teach What We Most Need to Learn” – I love sharing what I learn, because it helps me better understand it – and have known this for a long time. But, Doubt keeps me holding back, because I don’t feel qualified to do or write about certain things…this is a good reminder post for me!

As for your questions, yes, I have with one aspect of my Multipotentilite self: Doing a juried Art Show this summer was one such step, and it has been amazing to see that this creative work is good enough:)


Emilie October 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Holli, I have to remind myself of this sometimes too. Also, I try to remind myself that you do the scary thing first and then get the confidence. Not the other way around.

You’re doing awesome work. I’ve already seen you grow so much in the few years I’ve known you. Also, I think you would make an incredible teacher! I really mean that. You’re so kind and easy to relate to, and you have so much more wisdom than you know.

Erin OK October 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

I have given myself permission to step into a bigger version of myself. . . and setting myself up for the step!

I also think “we teach what we most need to learn” is so insightful and empowering. I’ve many many times shied away from suggestions that I should teach something because I didn’t feel like I knew enough, didn’t feel like the definitive expert. I think that block is behind me now, and I’ve designed a course that I may just have been born to teach, but I’m moving forward on terrified quivering tiptoes as the start date approaches! I keep thinking, what if I don’t know something that my students want to learn?! Then I laugh at myself because the answer is, then I’LL learn something new TOO. Yay!

Also, this is my first time at this blog, and I’m very excited to have arrived. . .


Kyle Richey November 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thanks for the post Emilie!

Your point about how we teach what we most need to learn reminds me of a quote on a lighthouse decoration my Mom always had in the basement:

“You can’t bare a torch to light another’s path, without brightening your own.”

It sounds like what you’re doing as a multipotentialite is just that.


sal December 11, 2012 at 6:32 am


Great post! This is something I’m wresting through right now. I started by business already but I feel there is something missing in my overarching theme. I felt the best way to figure it out was to just begin. This post will def give me some stuff to think through, thank you.

Sal Vasquez


Simon December 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Hi Emilie,

nice article, well written, but I found a small mistake in the text where it says “… that you’ve you’ve struggled with.”

best regards,


James Greig January 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

You just labelled me… but I think I like it. (‘multipotentialite’, that is)


Teo March 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm

You know, I’m going to talk to you with the truest of ambitions that lie deep in my heart. I spent the past 7 years wondering what I want to do in my life. When I was young kid I loved to draw maps and just dream about places. So I got a degree in geography. I wondered what I could do with it in the countryside that I love, so I thought well…what about the city? That’s where the money is at. So with my geography degree I pursued a masters degree in urban planning. It was interesting in many ways. With the science that is my first love I was able to learn what I call in this day in age “the essentials” as with my master’s I accompanied science and geography with economics and politics. And I’m just kind of tired now. In the bottom of my heart all I want to do is explore the world. Explore the places that interest me, as remote as they are or as populated as they are. I honestly could care less about making a pretty penny…but I want to explore and be able to consume and live relatively comfortably doing so. Does anyone have any ideas for me? And if so, please tell me even if it means partnering with you. I like to share so I won’t be greedy and steal your ideas for myself. I’m certainly very willing to partner up on some great expedition somewhere and just explore. I love learning. I love history. I love geography. I love geology. I love archeology. I love hydrology and hydrogeology and ecology too. Whatever the topic is, I’m interested in traversing this earth and experiencing this place given to us by nature. I could care less about the built environment and the money, the financial disease that encompasses all these people out there, causing stress and eventually some sort of health problem like heart disease or obesity or cancer from these unnatural environments we live in. I want to go out there and explore, be free from the vicious cycle. Anyone game?


Breanna Gilbert September 6, 2014 at 9:39 pm

This seriously was what I needed to read. I am a 19 year old young woman who has more dreams and goals then I feel like I can handle, I recently quit my job so I could really focus on my career paths and college, but it has left me broke. I am using all this free time really studying up on business and to figure out everything I need to do to build my companies and to have every dream I have wanted come true. I am an artist, singer, writer,personal assistant, and model. I have 4 years of experience in business and I am currently getting a degree in it. Some day I plan on becoming a director but I know that is a process. I feel stuck in my little town because I know everything I need to do to get it all done, but nobody here seems to really commit like I do. I seriously did not know their were others like me and your column just saved me you have no idea. Thank you!


Miranda June 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm

I see that this is a pretty old post and I should have been googling my questions a long time ago. I’m literally crying (*bawling) with a type of relief of my recent frustrations. Loved the TedTalk.. Still unsure how to move forth with what I have, but feeling slightly less alone in the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you for having this post/website.


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