Mid-Life Crisis or Awakening?

I recently compared a couple of books on a similar topic. The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine and Refuse To Choose! by Barbara Sher. I was revisiting an old question that comes around from time to time. Why can’t I settle on doing one thing?

The short answer is because I don’t like to do one thing, and I don’t have to. But there are several good bits from these books I want to share with you anyway.

Lobenstine’s book is packed with practical information on understanding yourself and how to focus your interests for personal success through smart decision-making and time management. Sher’s book is more detailed with the nuances of how various people can be classified and her tips are heavily dependent on writing as self-discovery. Basically, if you want to navel gaze about your own psyche, read Sher’s book first. If you want to have an a-ha moment and get busy, go with Lobenstine.

My main problem with Sher’s writing is that she seems to address the questions of the Gifted Generalist as if they are a mid-life crisis. For those who have struggled with these educational and societal expectations their whole life, a “mid-life crisis” is both erroneous and insulting.

But don’t count out Sher just yet. She’s got some real zingers I’ll share later. For now, here’s my favorite points from Lobenstine’s The Renaissance Soul:


We are most fully engaged when learning something new and discovering how it works. Because we love a good challenge, we tend to define success and completion differently from other people. Once we’ve mastered a particular problem, we’re done – and ready for a different set of problems to solve. – Margaret Lobenstine

This is a key concept for Renaissance souls, and particularly gifted generalists. We are not extrinsically motivated. The roar of the crowd, the picture in the paper, and the bonus in the paycheck are not our primary motivation or definition of success. We like learning for the sake of learning, for the thrill of understanding. Once it’s gone, we’re bored and ready for something new.

Another facet of the prism of “success” is the idea that one must be an expert in the their field.

…the idea that expertise is achieved only through exclusivity; that in order to commit to any of our own strong passions, we will have to give up all the other things we love. – Margaret Lobenstine

I like Lobenstine’s comparison of two persons who are both interested in martial arts. One dives into it, devoting hours each day to earning his black belt within months. (I would call this a Gifted Specialist.) The other person dedicates some hours each week to his study of karate, but is also learning French and developing his own business. He, too, earns his black belt, but on a different timetable. Does this make him any less of an expert? Of course not.

Lobenstine goes on to outline how to organize your time to pursue your multiple interests, who to ask for help, and how to overcome questions about being too old or too young to still do what you want. She helps the gifted adult have a re-awakening to their talents and rekindles the fires of their youthful learning passions.

Next up, Barbara Sher’s Refuse To Choose! and a few tidbits from her other book, It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now.