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

“If I were to envision the Renaissance approach to life, the traditional career metaphors of a highway to follow or a mountain to climb wouldn’t come to mind. The Renaissance approach to life looks more like a tree branching out in myriad directions, some branches overlapping, some intertwining, and some just finding their own merry ways to the sunlight.”

I have to be honest and say I have always envied people who have had their lives mapped out from an early age. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and changed my major three times while I was in University. In High School my teachers always told me to focus on one area of study. When I was choosing my A-Level courses in Grade 10, my teachers said “Rowena, you can’t choose both Arts and Sciences. Pick one subject stream.”  In the end they finally relented and granted my request to take both sciences and arts but they made sure I knew this was a big mistake.  This was quite ironic as the first thing my teachers told me when I entered high school was that they prided themselves on producing well-rounded individuals. So from an early age it seems I was told to specialize, specialize, specialize. If only I’d read the following sooner: “If family or societal messages are limiting you, it’s time to recognize that fact.”

I’m usually not a fan of these types of books; from my experience they usually have a catchy title and seem to offer so much, yet I often end up feeling underwhelmed as the book spits out cliché upon cliché. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I think I read it at the right moment of my life, just when I was considering going back to school and changing careers. It resonated with me as a result.

The book is about the Renaissance Soul (RS). Lobenstine defines a RS as one who loves problem solving, learning and experiencing new challenges. A RS gets excited by many things at the same time, finds it difficult to choose just one, and is scared at the prospect of being stuck in the same career for life. Though it may sound nice to have more than one interest, society doesn’t make it easy for us. RS’s are called flaky and are admonished about not being able to stick to one career. However,Lobenstine says we must “honour our delight in variety,rather than forcing us to choose only one thing.”

This book is very helpful in teaching RS’s to own their uniqueness and their curious nature.There are also many examples of RS’s (both modern-day and historical)and their lives in the book, as well as advice about career options and time planning for RS’s. Included was also some information that didn’t apply to me, but may be useful for some other people (ex. The parents of RS teenagers).

I found the book quite informative. It was very helpful to realize that having lots of interests could give one a competitive edge, as in society we are often told to specialize on one thing or forget about ever making enough money to survive. However, this books shows that we all have several options; it’s comforting to know that Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades can make a living and be content at the same time!


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