Monday, August 18, 2008

The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine is a book for those of us out there who believe a traditional, focused and specialized career isn't always the best route to a passionate and successful life.

Lobenstine borrows and updates the term Renaissance Man into the more gender-neutral term Renaissance Soul: someone with too many interests to be tied down to only one career or only one job. She systematically identifies and conquers the common doubts that Renaissance Souls have about their own careers (Why can't I stick to just one thing? What do I say when somebody asks me what I do for a living? and so forth) and she breaks down the common excuses and societal pressures (What do I do about money? If I keep changing jobs, people will think I'm a flake or a failure! etc.) that often drive Renaissance Souls to live in an unhappily focused career that simply doesn't suit them.

If you have this type of personality and if you've suffered from these doubts, you will find this book mind-opening and highly useful. But note that this is not an airplane read or a beach read. You'll want to sit down with a notebook and a pen and let this book really help you through the steps of choosing and organizing your life around your various passions, determining what choices and sacrifices you'll have to make to go after those passions, and most importantly, how to make the money and income side of the equation work for you rather than against you as you reach for those passions.

It's been a while since I've read a book that was this encouraging and this useful. It's written in a highly readable, almost cheery tone, and yet this book is surprisingly dense with good advice, practical suggestions and useful exercises to help you identify and pursue your various interests. After you've finished this 300-page book, you'll have a much better understanding of your own nature and how to make the best use of it in a world that, quite frankly, holds back many Renaissance Souls from achieving their dreams.

Reading this book was like having half a dozen sessions with an expert life coach. I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you want a second opinion on this book, there's a helpful and extremely in-depth review of this book at The Simple Dollar. This was the article that turned me on to this book in the first place!

Reading List for The Renaissance Soul:
Note: The reason I create these reading lists is simply to scale off of something I already do for myself. Truly useful books always give suggestions for further reading--just in case the reader wishes to pursue any of the book's themes or subjects in greater depth. This is my absolute favorite way to find still more good books to read. Readers, if I can give you ideas for interesting and inspiring books, and save you the trouble of painstakingly copying down the titles and authors yourself, it's all the better for both of us!

Lobenstine quotes from dozens of books throughout the text of The Renaissance Soul, and she gives a well-organized list of suggested books for further reading at the end of her book. The list of titles below are the ones that sounded the most interesting to me (although admittedly there are so many good books in this list that it will be a long while before I get to them all). As always, I would be grateful for any additional title suggestions from readers--you can leave a comment here or reach me at dan1529[at]yahoo[dot]com.

1) How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas by Joseph Collins
2) Organizing for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Styles for Conquering Clutter, Mastering Time, and Reaching Your Goals by Dorothy Lehmkuhl
3) The Soul Of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder
4) Free to Succeed: Designing the Life You Want in the New Free Agent Economy by Barbara Reinhold
5) What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson
6) Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry
7) Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher
8) Getting Unstuck: Breaking Through Your Barriers to Change by Dr. Sidney Simon
9) Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood Edward Hallowell
10) The Art of the Possible: The Path from Perfectionism to Balance and Freedom by Alexandra Stoddard

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