Let me describe the total opposite of me:
Imagine someone who early in life discovers that he has some time of passion or interest for something. For example, he may find that he has a talent for music or an interest in science. That little boy then looks at himself in the mirror and says: I will become a scientist! I will become a concert pianist! The little guy will grow up and assiduously work on that passion for the rest of his life. He will become a Scientist with a capital letter. Or a Musician, wholeheartedly devoting himself to his passion and reaching the upper echelons of success in his chosen field.
These people exist, and they do fascinate us. For example, I read interviews with some musicians, like the young concert pianist Benjamin Gosvernor or the new musical director of the Met Opera in New York, my pride of my home province, Quebecer. Yannick Nezet-Séguin. In science, you have examples of folks who knew all their lives they wanted to become scientists, or astronauts, like Buzz Aldrin. And they succeeded!
These people are fascinating examples of total dedication to one field of interest and seem to be our heroes in any given field.
However, they do not represent the only way.
In our day and age, specialization is highly valued. In an ant colony, every ant has one job and is excellent at it. A soldier ant will never decide overnight that they want to become an egg-caring ant or a food-gathering ant. They stick to their jobs because they’re ants.
Us folks sometimes have different interests. Like butterflies, we can go from one flower to the nest and gorge ourselves with different kinds of pollen until we get our fill.
Think of Leonardo DaVinci who became accomplished in so many fields, like painting, sculpting, science and is known as one of the greatest inventors, painter and architect who ever lived – all in one!
Some people can stick to one thing all their lives, while others need to entertain multiple interests.
All my life, I’ve tried to come to grips with this unusual personality trait of poly-interest or poly-hobbying, if such a word could be invented.
In my teens, I was a passionate reader who wanted to become a writer! Then I got into music and wanted to become a musician, practicing 4 or 6 hours a day for several years. Until I developed an all-consuming interest in nutrition and health, through the writings of my first and most significant mentor, Albert Mosseri. In my twenties, I also entertained an intense passion for studying foreign languages.
I would say that my primary interests are: languages, reading/writing, music, and nutrition. And then there are some sub-interests within those broader categories.
And what’s strange is that these interests tend to follow cyclical patterns.
For example, I just came out of a 4-year daze of passionately discovering everything I could about classical music and opera, something which I had interested me when I was younger, but which I set aside for almost two decades to focus on other areas of interest. During the last four years, I attended over 150 concerts!
Now it seems I had my fill of music for a while that my passion for learning foreign languages has retaken hold of me. So I’m running with it.
Refuse to Choose
I may seem strange to you, or maybe you can relate.
If you can relate, there’s a fascinating book you should read. It’s called “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher.
The sub-title is:
Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams
My friend Shelli Stein told me about this book several years ago, and I’m eternally grateful for this discovery!
In Refuse to Chose, Barbara Sher legitimizes the life of the dilettante with multiple interests or helps anyone who has trouble to choose what they want to do with their life because they have too many hobbies.
I think it’s a fantastic book and one-of-a-kind.
She calls these drunk butterflies like me “scanners” – because we have minds who do not zero in on a single field of interest but rather “scan” and explore what’s available.
The book also shows you how to finish what you start and manage those “hit and run” obsessions.
So I just wanted to tell you about it in case you’re interested and have the same “problem” (which as you’ll discover in “Refuse to Choose,” is a talent!) or know someone who does.