As a business owner, regardless of your personality, you will inevitably be pulled and stretched in every possible direction. No matter where you turn you find a new way of doing things, tools or techniques you hadn’t thought of before, and an endless maze of ways to make money. True leadership of your business is navigating those decisions with discernment and confidence. As a business coach, I am constantly helping clients navigate those decisions and make a plan to move forward. But of course, it’s not that simple.
The real work of coaching mastery is to understand a person with very little information about them. The main place this is important is how they get in their own way. When someone says they want to do something, do they actually do it? Why or why not? What’s driving them and what’s holding them back? A masterful coach will uncover these answers in a short period of time, and then be able to support their client in meaningful ways moving forward.
Over the years, my most frustrated clients have been the multi-passionate business owners. They’re the ones that have all sort of ideas and excitement, but coaches and marketing gurus have tried over and over again to squash them and put them in a box. They’ve been told they need to pick one thing, they must pick a niche, to have only a few offerings, and to stay the path. I’ll admit, I’ve given that advice, too. I truly wish I had understood multi-passionate entrepreneurs sooner because then I wouldn’t have contributed to the chaos in their lives. That said, there are lots of clients out there masquerading as multi-passionate, so the distinction can be tricky. I hope to shed some light on this misunderstanding in today’s article.
I’m going to do that by sharing my observations of working with hundreds of business owners over the past 10+ years. Please recognize that there is no clear line between one person and another, and there are certainly no hard and fast rules. You can be all the things, none of the things, or anything in between. My intention is really to help someone who has been misunderstood to feel heard, and someone who is hiding behind this label to uncover what’s really going on.
What is a multi-passionate entrepreneur?
People who identify as having many passions can feel suffocated, trapped, or simply bored by trying to narrow things down. They appear to jump from one interest to the next, and in business they can want to make money in all sorts of seemingly unconnected ways. They can’t imagine serving a very specific niche or target audience, but regardless their clients love them for who they are. With all of their diverse interests, they show up fully with joy and creatively.
As a coach, the best thing I can do often is to meet this person right where they’re at and take the leap with them that it will all work out. In my experience, clients who are truly multi-passionate seem to be driven, resourceful, and they work hard to make their dreams happen. They seem to be able to get stuff done no matter how many things they have going on. It’s almost like they defy logic, and they certainly defy conventional wisdom when it comes to marketing and running a business.
The businesses they build can take longer to grow, certainly, because their focus is divided, but sometimes the ideas eventually come together to be more cohesive. They have tricky decisions to make about what goes on their website, how to position their offerings, and what marketing path to take. Yet, the clients they find tend to be loyal and on-board with whatever idea that business owner comes up with next.
When Self-Doubt Shows Up as Being Multi-Passionate
More often in my practice I have clients who are not actually multi-passionate, but they show up with lots of ideas and an inability to choose between them. These clients, after a little digging, are actually coming from a place of fear and self-doubt. Their tendency to go in lots of directions is them trying to find something that will work, and their inability to choose can be fear of making the wrong decision. I go into detail about the 4 ways self-doubt can show up in this article, but it can be tricky to distinguish between self-doubt and seemingly admirable qualities.
In a business this can look like frequently changing your offer, jumping from one marketing strategy to the next, and not choosing a direction to go in. There may be lots of unfinished projects or failed attempts to stick with a plan. Their businesses will also take a long time to grow because there’s so much unrest inside the business owner. Almost certainly this process feels painful, hard, and uncomfortable for the business owner.
How do you tell the difference?
My test for distinguishing what’s really going on with a business owner is to see if they actually do what they say they’re going to do, and why or why not. This may be clear in just a few sessions, or it may take longer to figure out.
Let’s look at an example.
Business Owner A wants to launch a new offer. The idea came to them suddenly, it’s not really related to the business they run, but they’re very excited. We talk about it in the session, come up with a plan, and they say by the next session they will have outlined the offer and put together a description of it. What actually happens is they come up with an even more exciting idea, they talk to someone they know about it, and they sign up to be a vendor at an event in just a few weeks time to promote it. In the meantime, they might have made a few sales on their neglected projects, signed up for a new course, and booked a vacation. By the next call they didn’t do exactly what they had planned, but they took the essence, made things happen, and built momentum.
Business Owner B also wants to launch a new offer. We spend the session exploring the idea, the steps to get it done, and where they might get stuck. They’re all set to work on it, and they also plan to have the offer outlined with a description of it by the next call. What actually happens is they talk to a few people about it, then they start second-guessing themselves. They sign up for a course because they don’t think they know enough about their new offering to actually create it, and they spend the time researching a new marketing strategy instead of creating the offering. By the next call they have made very little progress on their goal and have lost the momentum of their original excitement.
Now, imagine that on top of all of this you have ADHD tendencies. Some people with ADHD do jump around to lots of different things, however if they’re passionate about something they can really focus on it. There may be unfinished projects, but it could be because there isn’t a clear plan or system to get it done, or it wasn’t right for them in the first place. Most often what I see in this situation is if there is excitement, they tend to stay in the same lane but have adjacent ideas to build on or interesting ways to market it.
I’ll let this poem speak for itself, written by a multi-passionate person with ADHD, and you can see there is no one way that this shows up for people.
And of course, all the combinations are possible. You could be multi-passionate and still have self-doubt. You can have self-doubt and ADHD. You can have tendencies towards all 3, or none of them!
Regardless of where on this hazy spectrum you find yourself, what seems to me as the most important things are this:
- You need a judgement-free place to explore what’s going on with someone who will meet you where you’re at (and take the time to uncover what that is)
- It’s incredibly important to know your goals and keep them in mind. Maybe even more specifically, your values and desires. You don’t have to know all the details, but you need to know what matters to you and the lifestyle you want to make more aligned decisions.
Before I close, you should know I’m not classically multi-passionate and I don’t have ADHD tendencies, though I do often face self-doubt, which means I’d love to hear from you: What did I miss? What is your experience of this? What works for you?
- Multi-passionate people tend to take action with excitement and build momentum
- People with self-doubt tend to take action with worry and lose momentum
- They are not mutually exclusive, and it’s important to explore other factors like neurodiversity
- A helpful step regardless is to get clear on your values, desires, goals, and dreams
- Don’t let anyone dismiss your ways of working with your strengths!
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