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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,112 ratings  ·  188 reviews
How do I decide what to do with my life when there are so many things I want to do?

It is conventional wisdom that there is one true path in life for each of us. But what about those with a wide array of interests, a dynamic curiosity about the world, and an ever-renewing wellspring of passions? Margaret Lobenstine calls these people “Renaissance Souls,” and in this ground
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Harmony (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  2,112 ratings  ·  188 reviews

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Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
“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’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 u
Dec 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Anyone who has three books going at the same time, who hates the thought of constraining him- or herself to just one "thing," or who gets swallowed up for hours in a bookstore will find themselves in this book.

Lobenstine does an excellent job of describing the "renaissance" personality and helping people who fall in this category to accept and embrace their "diagnosis." She offers concrete ways of working with -- instead of against -- our personality traits.

I love feeling like I'm not alone, a
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
I randomly came across this book and decided to check it out, because I am one of those people who wants to do -everything- and I feel like I need to do it all! right! now! It really is written for people like me.

It was a quick read, but that might be because I skimmed over all the stories about people like Dan, who was fascinated by underwater basketweaving and African gorillas. Dan found a way to combine his passions by getting a job doing underwater basketweaving, and he could take time off i
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: renaissance souls everywhere
When I saw this book at the library, I had to snap it up right away. Lobenstine says that in essence, there are two kinds of people: Mozarts, who find one thing early on that they love and pursue for their whole lives, and Ben Franklins, who love and succeed at many different things in a wide variety of fields. Being a Franklin is no better or worse than being a Mozart, but it requires a different way of looking at how you spend your time and plan your life. Our society can be more supportive of ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Basically Everyone
Recommended to Amy by: Brittany Barden
4.5 Stars
I won this book in a StudentHero drawing (check them out!!! ) and I am so glad I did. I do not think I would have picked it up otherwise. While, let's be real, this book sounds like just another self-help, it actually cuts through a lot of the usual cliche-fluff to present a practical, affirming message about identity and life.
I found this book very affirming, though not mind-blowing. In fact, it took me a while to get through the first half because I kept thinking, 'I'm a Renaissance
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
Plenty of good stuff to think about in this book. For me, the biggest takeaways were:

- the affirmation that I'm not an ADD-ridden weirdo for wanting to career-hop or for imagining about 50 other paths I could be taking at any given point;
- the "sampler" method whereby you pick three or four interests to focus on for the time being and then arrange your time so you can move forward on them (knowing that you can always pick up other sets of interests later);
- the various quizzes that help identi
Jun 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: entrepreneurship
I enjoyed rediscovering this book. A friend suggested it years ago when I was having a bit of a professional identity crisis. I bought it right away, but I didn't get very far for some reason. I held on to it the past six years, never giving it a second thought. As of late, I've found myself at a professional crossroads (again) and without intending to, I stumbled across this book on my shelf. I flipped to the introduction and recognized myself in the first few lines:

Do you feel a pang of envy
Sara Q
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sara Q by: Amanda
Full post about this and Quiet by Susan Cain:

About half of the book was excellent, full of extremely helpful exercises. The other half was sometimes silly, sometimes boring, sometimes patronizing. So I balance that out to 4 stars, since I did get so much out of the 5-stars half.
Of the twelve chapters, the five I found most helpful were:
Ch. 3 - Values
Ch. 4 - Focal Points
Ch. 7 - Resources
Ch. 9 - Taking Action
Ch. 10 - Time Management

And if that's still tl;
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
In general, I make fun of self-help books. Most of them seem like the same old stuff put through the sausage grinder with a new cover on it. This book is different. Why? Because it was written for me. This book has a great balance of coaching you to accept and embrace a nature that can't settle on "just one thing" but doesn't make it a license to be a flake or non-committal. Commit to 4-5 Focus Areas of things you love and really develop them... until you get bored. Then pick another four or fiv ...more
Feb 06, 2009 is currently reading it
I am not alone. And I don't have ADD!
Marc Brackett
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I could relate with this book. Our world today demands or at least strongly encourage specialization. Ever happened across an educated idiot?

Not to say that there are not good reason for specialization and focusing on one sub-issue of a sub-issue. However this knowledge comes at a cost, we have lost the ability to make jumps or break throughs because we no longer have a big picture view.

A broader base of knowledge also makes for healthier people, ever been stuck next to an expert at a party? I
Mario MJ Perron
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't begin to describe the blessing of having found and read this book.
On this journey of self-discovery we are taking it has leapt me forward in ways I newly realize daily.

It is written with love, passion, compassion, humour and in a very direct, no bullshit voice.

Ignatius think you need a life coach, Margaret is the life coach.... well, at least for me.

Coming to accept that I am ok, because I am interested in tons of stuff and my curiosity for more and new knowledge is sometimes seemingl
Oct 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
The language of this book was fairly life-coach-y, but it made some good points. I'm giving it four stars for the sole reason that it's given me great ideas on how to organize my time without feeling chained to a schedule. I have always, always hated fixed schedules, because I never know when I'll feel like getting something done. This book has helped a lot with that, and I plan to put the scheduling ideas into practice. It's also given me some ideas on how to actually get some stuff done that I ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved how this book put a positive name to what I am. While there was plenty in this book that didn't apply to me, my major takeaway is encouragement to follow my passions in the right time. I liked the identification of four "focal points" which can be rotated out when they've come to their natural conclusion. It gives freedom, yet structure.
Kristen Stieffel
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Much workplace advice is based on becoming an “expert” in one’s field. But some of us don’t have the kind of single-minded devotion required to dedicate oneself to a single field for a lifetime. For years, I worried that my career was hampered by the odd personality bent that led me to pursue diverse topics of study, sometimes for years on end, only to drop them later for something else. I made a niche for myself as a factotum, but I occasionally regretted not having one area of expertise.

Then I
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Do you have a zillion passions you can't seem to narrow down to just one or two? Do other people criticize you for having a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none ethic? Would a resume you create list seemingly incongruent or disparate jobs? If so, you might be a Renaissance Soul, who gets bitten by the lure of new challenges, carries out a theme for an activity, and moves on when you're no longer challenged by what initially interested you.

The good news is: The Renaissance Soul guides each of us to
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a book that is definitely geared toward those in the market for answers. While the author provides good information and some of the exercises were helpful, I felt the anecdotes became tedious as did her spectrum markers of Mozart and Ben Franklin. A lot of her work is an adaptation of Getting Things Done (GTD) principles (which are themselves consolidations of other work). For example, what Lobenstine calls "intention markers," GTDers will know as "next actions." The "Focal Points Worksh ...more
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have struggled through a lot of my adult life feeling as though my eclectic and varied interests were a sign I was destined to be either helplessly nomadic, hopping from job to job, or unfulfilled, locked into a long-term career path that I would eventually tire of. In The Renaissance Soul, Margaret Lobenstine explains that I am not alone in my wide-ranging extracurriculars and provides exercises and tools to successfully incorporate my fluid interests into a happy and healthy life and career. ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its a comfortable feeling to know your a 'Renaissance Soul' and not just someone who's always going from one interest to another (feeling scattered with many hobbies) or having difficulties choosing (field of work they should be doing). Think of Maya Angelou and Ben Franklin as Renaissance souls. There's nothing wrong with been a jack-of-all-trades, instead you should embrace this gift. This book has helped me leap forward, get focus, create short plans and feel good about the next stage of my l ...more
Ros J
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book over several hours in one day - and I'm almost done with it. This book contains very practical tips for those with multiple interests. As another reviewer said, when the author suggested focusing on four focal points, I too felt that it may not be workable as the focal points might just change soon after. (And four seems so few!)

But the tips and exercises further on in the book proved to be helpful in crystallizing the focal points. I've enjoyed this book so far and am looking
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for those of us who want to pursue five or more interests at once. This is the type of book to take your time reading so you have time to seriously think about the concepts and come up with a plan for yourself. There are additional resources at the end of the book which is always a welcome sign. This will be my handbook for navigating my life for the next while.
Carter Hemphill
Useful and informative book about how to prioritize one's life goals for people who have a wide range of interests. I particularly liked the tools the author introduces in the book to help the reader explore and prioritize their interests. Much less expensive than seeing a career coach. Recommended.
Denise Rathman
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the most life affirming book I have ever read. It helped me understand and accept myself.

But of course, because I have ADHD, I haven't quite finished it yet...
Sondra Retzlaff
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is going to be a tool for me for years to come. Much like the emotions I have experienced reading Quiet, The Secret Lives of Introverts, and The Crossroads of Should and Must, reading this reminded me that I am exactly who God made me to be, and that other people might not understand my frequent job/career changes, shifting and broad/varied interests, but these things don't mean I am crazy or lazy or in possession of a flawed character. As the author points out, the way the tools she o ...more
Jacob Williams
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
People who aren’t fully committed to the values that their activities represent sputter through life, pulled in one direction by their commitments and in another by their spirits.

When many different interests appeal to you, it can be frightening to commit too deeply to any particular one; the feeling that you’re closing the door on all the others is too distasteful. Lobenstine insists, I think correctly, that there really is time in life to pursue a multitude of varied passions; you just nee
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
It was interesting and then it became so overwhelming. This book isn't really meant to be read all in one shot, and while it mentions to put the book down once I think it could use that reminder after every chapter. For a book that is trying to understand and motivate Renaissance Souls, that part really bothered me. BUT, I did like a lot of the ideas on how to figure out what to narrow in on when you keep thinking up new ideas, how to do them when you also have 50 other things happening at once, ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aurélien Thomas
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
Of course (of course!) there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a specialist or having only one area of interest to dedicate one's life to IF, that is your choice, ambition and makes you happy. In fact, from school to the workplace such 'a cradle-to-grave, climb-that-one-career-ladder' approach to life is what our modern societies expect of us all. Have ONE goal, get yourself qualified in ONE field, settle down for ONE particular job and, let life pass-by. Forever.


Now, of course ther
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being at an awkward age when it comes to careers, my early 50s, I have been reading many “second career” books that suggest ways to change up your career for your remaining working, or volunteering, years. They have all been interesting, but similar. I figured this would be the same, but this is entirely different. This isn’t aimed at a careerist of a certain age. This is aimed at people who have too many interests to want to settle into just one career and just one hobby for their entire lives. ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 52-in-2009
Lobenstine is the high school guidance counselor or college advisor you wish you’d had Based on the notion that people like DiVinci and Ben Franklin were more than just “one thing”, she questions why people who gravitate towards multiple hobbies and disparate subjects have to choose a singular, pre-ordained career path and disregard the others. Maybe you’re stuck and unhappy because you’re trying to fit a cultural mold that’s just not you? Bored easily? Throw yourself into a subject only to mast ...more
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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
3 likes · 1 comments
“lot of agility, adaptability, a natural propensity toward curiosity, an insatiable appetite for that and this and this and that!” 3 likes
“Yet sometimes Renaissance Souls don’t feel so lucky. Despite a long and proud history of Renaissance Souls who’ve negotiated treaties, invented revolutionary machines, written great novels, and led victorious armies, our culture often insists that we are defective.” 1 likes
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