Renaissance People Don’t Want to Choose Only One Career

Many multitalented people are accomplished and active – even exceptional – in more than one area of creative expression. We read about some of them as celebrated writers, entrepreneurs, scientists, movie directors, actors, painters and other creators.

But many more multitalented people are not well-known, or even able, for many reasons, to express their talents.

One example of a fictional person with some of these challenges is Jenna (Keri Russell) in the movie “Waitress.”

Keri Russell-WaitressDiner owner Joe (Andy Griffith) addresses her in a scene, urging her to make the effort to move beyond her current life, including an abusive marriage:

“You don’t even know what you are deep inside. You’re not just some little waitress. Make the right choice. Start fresh.”

In the photo, Jenna is preparing one of her “genius” and amazingly delicious pies which she names after circumstances in her life, such as I-Don’t-Want-Earl’s-Baby Pie; I-Hate-My-Husband Pie; and Falling-in-Love Pie.

Author, speaker and workshop leader Margaret Lobenstine writes in her book “The Renaissance Soul” about people – often gifted and talented – whose main career choice is “Please don’t make me choose!” and whose underlying passion is to “constantly redefine our passions.”

“We are people who pick up one thing and drop something else as frequently as we need to — lucky people who, if left to our own devices, can never be bored for long. Yet at first glance we don’t feel so lucky.

“In fact, we seem to have a problem, an inability to pick one specific career path and happily stick with it.”

She says some of these “Renaissance Souls” may “change areas of endeavor frequently only to have their expanded repertoire of skills held against them when they go for job interviews.

Others have successfully climbed one particular career ladder only to be inexplicably miserable at the top.

“Still others stay with waitressing, temping, or other entry-level positions to avoid choosing any one path to the top. They tend to work at positions far below their abilities, struggling with the resultant low pay and security.”

She adds that in thousands of sessions she has had with clients “who want to redesign their lives, I have seen some of the most gifted, curious, multi-faceted people floundering.

“Why? Why should people with multiple interests, skills, and talents have such a tough time? Are they flawed in some way? Do they have a problem that has yet to be identified?

“No. The problem is that their inability to pick one specific career path and stick with it shouldn’t really be labeled a ‘problem’ in the first place!”

In the Introduction to her book, she asks: “Are You a Renaissance Soul?”

“Do you feel a pang of envy when you hear someone say, “I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do ever since I was a kid”?

“Do you get down on yourself for being a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” because you are fascinated by many subjects but have never become an expert in any of them?

“Or are you an expert in one or more areas but feel trapped by other people’s expectations that you will stay in your current field for the rest of your life?

“Are you frustrated by career books or advisors who insist that you identify just one passion or goal?

“Do you enjoy following a diverse and ever-evolving set of interests but feel thwarted by family members or friends who ask, “Why on earth can’t you find something you like and stick with it?”

“If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on! Chances are you’re a Renaissance Soul, a person who thrives on a variety of interests and who redefines the accepted meaning of success.”

Book: The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One – by Margaret Lobenstine

[“Waitress” (2007) was written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation exists to “help young women pursue their filmmaking dreams, and to assist others in making the leap from acting to writing and directing.”]


Toni Collette in Clockwatchers

This photo is Iris (Toni Collette) – a college grad who hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life, and is working as an office temp, in the tragicomic “Clockwatchers” (1997) – see the trailer in article: Underutilized Talents, Too Many Aptitudes.

Here is a related section from The Renaissance Soul:

Marcie: Stuck at the Bottom of the Ladder

Marcie, for example, came to me after a hectic day working as a receptionist for a busy medical practice. She was late because her ancient station wagon had broken down again and she’d needed to borrow a car.

“That’s the bottom-line reason why I’m here,” she told me. “I need to earn more money. I need to find a career and get moving. I can’t be scheduling pediatric appointments for the rest of my life unless I want to be a bag lady when I retire!”

When I asked Marcie what else she’d done with her life, she went on at length. After working herself silly in college, pursuing a double major in astronomy and French and also vigorously participating in theater, she had taken a break by traveling abroad for a year.

And then she’d worked as a nanny to pay off the money she’d borrowed to travel, and then she’d worked as a set person in off-off-off-Broadway productions, and then she’d worked in a travel agency,agency, and then . . .

“Well, you get the picture,” Marcie said. “My parents are getting tired of explaining to people, ‘Oh, Marcie just hasn’t settled down yet.’ And it’s true. I’m twenty-seven years old and I have never picked just one thing and stuck with it. How could I?

“Every time I come up with a potential career, I think of at least two other possibilities. So rather than zeroing in on the perfect career choice, I go on filling my time with dead-end jobs, like the one I have now.”


more resources



Article: Are You a Scanner? by Barbara Sher

Interview with Kenneth Christian, Ph.D., author of book: Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement

Underutilized Talents, Too Many Aptitudes.

~ ~ ~

Realizing multiple talents is one of the overarching themes of my Talent Development Resources series of sites.

A related phrase – Renaissance Man – refers to a Polymath, a person “whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.” [Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, its counterpart – Renaissance Woman – does not seem to be very popular.

Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a WallflowerHere is one artist I admire who does use it:

“The difficulty for me is that I’m interested in so many different things. I could never really imagine myself doing one thing, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll end up doing four or five different things.

“I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act, and I want to just do everything.” Emma Watson

Read more about her, and other multitalented creators like Gordon Parks, Julia Cameron, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Seymour, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Mayim Bialik, Jeff Bridges, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch and others, in article: Multitalented Creative People [an excerpt from my main book].


Some of the challenges of having serial passions

video: Emilie Wapnick, On Not Being Able to Stick to One Thing


video: A Disturbing Trend in the Blogosphere

Wapnick asks, “Why are all these successful multipotentialite entrepreneurs telling us to ‘pick one thing’ when they themselves USED their diverse background to build their business?!”

Emilie Wapnick comments on being a “multipotentialite” entrepreneur:

“Imagine having a business that allows you to focus on many of your interests and use all of your skills on a regular basis.

My resume reads like it belongs to ten different people“My resume reads like it belongs to ten different people. Music, film, web design, law, business, personal development, writing, dance, sexuality, education– all of these are or have been interests of mine. They come and go (and sometimes come again).

“I remember being a little kid, not knowing what I would be when I grew up. I wondered the same thing in my teen years, and again in college. Sure, all of my interests would make for wonderful careers– just not on their own.”

Read more in article: Being A Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur.

Learn more about her Renaissance Business Program“You’ll learn to use your multipotentiality so that instead of it being an obstacle to income, it becomes fuel for income.”


Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel notes that every smart person experiences challenges, and lists many that people can have in common, including:

* Living in a society and a world that does more than disparage smartness, that actually silences smart people (because the power and privilege of leaders is undercut by smart people like you pointing out fraud, illogic, and injustice).

* Doing work day after day and year after year that fails to make real use of your brainpower

Why Smart People Hurt class with Eric MaiselHe also writes,

“It certainly isn’t the case that smart people as a group have it harder than other people. Smart people are more suited for and more likely to grab society’s highest-paying jobs, from doctor to academic to stockbroker, and have a better chance at material ease than other people.

“We could name countless ways in which smart people have it easier than, or at least no harder than, other people. Nevertheless smart people encounter many special challenges that can cost them their equanimity, their self-confidence, and their emotional health.”

From his book: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative.

Eric Maisel, PhD also has a related online course to help people explore and deal with many challenges: Why Smart People Hurt.


See more resources in article Underutilized Talents, Too Many Aptitudes.


Originally posted 2007-05-15 21:27:13.


  1. […] Renaissance People Don’t Want to Choose Only One Career “The difficulty for me is that I’m interested in so many different things. I could never really imagine myself doing one thing, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll end up doing four or five different things. I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act, and I want to just do everything.” Emma Watson […]

What do you think about these topics?