Focus, Benjamin Franklin


There's this book I love.

In The Renaissance Soul, author Margaret Lobenstine makes an analogy between folks who tend to be wired like the singularly-focused composer, Mozart, and folks who tend more toward the passionate, changing, disparate interests of inventor / statesman / polymath, Benjamin Franklin.

Guess which one I identify with?

In her book, she describes how these two groups tend to be perceived in our economy and media; Mozarts are the winners.

Look at this expert, this virtuoso. His focus and talent are undeniable! He's the best!

Yep, I've wished I had the talent, the compulsion even, of Mozart. To bear a gift (probably a burden, too) like that - maybe it would be comforting in a way, to know there's nothing else that calls to me. I could drill down, down, down, into that interest and whittle myself into the best Something Impressive. Maybe that would translate into more stable income. Or, a clearer Career Ladder to climb...?

But, I have more than one burning passion, and, they evolve. I've never been able to stick to just one interest. I've been an instructional designer, software entrepreneur, landscape nursery manager, garden designer, independent film and theater producer, and more.

My career path looks like this:

My interests look like these tangled strings...

My interests look like these tangled strings...

What I loved about The Renaissance Soul is that Lobenstine describes people like me and presents the strengths inherent in our disposition.

Renaissance Souls love nothing better than to take on a new problem or situation and then dig in...until we master the challenge we've set for ourselves. And then, with fresh enthusiasm, we move on to another passion. We are lucky people who, if left to our own devices, are never bored for long.

It's true. I'm not often bored. Overwhelmed, yes.

With all my interests, I can feel scattered, and on my worst days, like a Follow-Through Failure.

Part of this is because when I grasp something, I tend to grasp the Whole Picture. I get wide, sweeping vistas of inspiration and ideas. Then I get overwhelmed and frustrated by the process of getting them out of my head and communicated or executed in full.

The other part is that I get distracted by shiny, dangly, interesting new things - a LOT.

But, Lobenstine lays out strategies for channeling and sustaining a Renaissance Soul's energies so that s/he can better see things through. One of them is to limit oneself to only four items on the Interests Smorgasbord at a time. One can add or remove new items at will; but, keep no more than four on the burners at any time.

This weekend, I felt my inner Ben Franklin chomping at the bit of a new idea. But, it's stressing me out, because as such, I didn't made the progress on my other Smorgasbord items that I planned to. Arg.

So, deep sigh. Rein it in, Benjamin. Note the shiny new idea, and let it steep.

It's not time for me to swap out anything on the smorgasbord, yet.

How about you? Are you a Mozart or a Franklin?