The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life – A Creative and Practical Guide is a wonderful book for all the people in the world who feel frustrated by the expectation that they should pick just ONE career focus. If it sounds much better to you to follow many (and frequently changing) interests, this is the book for you. A strength of the book is that author Margaret Lobenstine struck a nice balance between support/encouragement and a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges faced by Renaissance Souls. Lobenstine explained that Renaissance Souls like Leonardo da Vinci, Isabella d’Este, Benjamin Franklin, and Maya Angelou did not confine themselves to a single career focus, but studied diverse subjects and racked up accomplishments spanning many different disciplines and pursuits. Their work histories contain helpful information for Renaissance Souls in the present, even those who aren’t geniuses or famous.
The book includes a quiz to determine if you are a Renaissance Soul. Signs that you might be one are a history of becoming excited by many things at once and having difficulty choosing, loving challenges until they are mastered and then getting bored, and fear of being trapped or limited.
Renaissance Souls who embrace the reality of their preferences can make decisions that honor their true personality rather than fight it. They may pursue sequential careers or simultaneous careers that complement each other. Instead of the career counseling metaphor of a path, Lobenstine suggested the metaphor of a tree branching out in myriad directions, some branches overlapping, some intertwining.
I appreciate Lobenstine’s discussion about the supposed “security” of choosing one career and sticking with it. She argued persuasively that the people who are the most secure are not those who picked a career because they thought it was a ticket to security. People who love what they do usually do it in a way that impresses and makes it easy to connect with opportunities. By contrast, people chasing security with gritted teeth usually have flimsy support networks and one bad career break can end the illusory security.
Lobenstine understood the skepticism with which Renaissance Souls are sometimes regarded in the workplace and she gives tips for how to navigate this. For instance, dynamic industries are more appreciative of flexible and multifaceted skills. She also gives specific suggestions for how to learn new skills without going back to school for multiple college degrees.
The book wrapped up with time management strategies for people with a lot of different interests and some analysis of how family expectations can create psychological barriers that impede career and personal happiness.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I believe it will help many people. I recommend it highly.