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Modern Renaissance Man or Flake?

We are building the new entertainment booth for the two conferences coming up and I’m deep into my artistic self. For the past three days I have been drawing and painting little people photo cut outs. It’s not high art or even that impressive but it’s fun and spending all day messing about sketching and getting paint everywhere has satisfied my inner finger painting child. I don’t often really get to immerse myself into one ‘brain’ (left brain/right brain) activity, rather I’m usually juggling logistics, engineering, and then aesthetics.

Looking back, I’ve really ping-ponged all over the place. To an employer I look like a train wreck. Every few years bouncing between careers with new hobbies and interests. I am, admittedly, working on my third or fourth ‘career’ (if you can call it that) although I’ve lost track at this point of the details.

I mean with a industrial design degree from Georgia Tech what do you do with that? Wait tables of course. When that wore thin, I designed and built custom furniture for four years. From there came carpentry, framing, roofing, plumbing, electric, project management, property management, a real estate license, a brokers license, construction development, some sales, and finally here I am at food vendor (so far).

That’s a pretty big stretch over the last 20 years.

On the personal front, I’ve been privileged to be able to obtain my private pilot license, a few sailing certifications, a few failed ballroom dancing classes, some talent in the kitchen, a good eye for photography, a basic knowledge of accounting, and a proclivity for writing.

What’s all that obtained knowledge and accumulated experience get you? Well, on the surface, not much.

What is has enabled me to do is roll with the punches and adapt to new and changing situations, largely because I have SUCH a varied background I can apply something to the new situation we face. The down side of being a “Jack of all trades” is that I am a master of none. I accept that, I do not claim to be a master at ANY of the careers or crafts I have undertaken. I certainly could dig a little deeper into any number of my “hobbies” and be more proficient.

This “hit and run” attitude has enabled me to jump into new endeavors without the fear of the unknown that paralyzes many. With a basic business background, I can apply this knowledge to create pro-formas before we get knee deep into a business that was unprofitable from the start.

Is my income potential sacrificed by my lack of specialization? Maybe, but I don’t really think so. Especially now, many well educated professionals are taking pay cuts just to keep a job. I can adapt quickly and move into a new field while my contemporaries are still waiting on unemployment for a job to open up in their field.

I don’t think this ‘attitude’ is a choice. Some people prefer to specialize and some people just like to dabble and try new things. Each has it’s merits. I would suggest that if you are indeed bent on exploring and experimenting- Go for it! Get out there and try as many new things as you can to satisfy you’re interests. Don’t feel guilty about it, on the other hand consider it as an advanced degree in real life. These new skills you build may indeed come in handy down the road.

Regarding the Renaissance man or flake question- the jury is still out.

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2 comments to Modern Renaissance Man or Flake?

  • Like you said, your diversity of skills let’s you adapt and live the life you want. I’m on a similar path: started as a sound engineer with a music degree, became a land surveyor, an accounts receivable specialist, marketing guy, and now most recently a traveling nomad with aspirations of smoothie booth ownership.
    Your story is inspiring, keep it up!

  • big cheese

    Hi Bill-

    What’s more, I can’t imagine a life where I was defined by one ‘thing’. I’m a builder, I’m a woodworker, I’m a cancer. Maybe I’ve gone too far, now when people ask me what I do, I’m really not sure how to answer. Sailor, Cook, Skeemer, Dreamer, Drop Out, but probably most importantly and consistently- Dad and Husband.