I used to feel ashamed and annoyed with myself that I would get bored of things and want to move on. I felt like I needed to find one passion and stick to it. This is not something I’m alone in. In fact, much of the learning material out there talks about being a master of your one thing and to stop trying to master too many different things. Stop trying to be a jack of all trades.
But then my mom sent me this list of 25 books recommended by Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, and when my eyes skimmed through the list, I knew I wanted to read “Range” by David Epstein. See the words “Why generalists triumph in a specialized world” made me feel like I’d connect with the book.
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I needed to narrow down my interests because how could I possibly succeed if I like so many different things and want to connect with so many various types of work. How could I possibly have this many interests? Most people seem to know who they are, the path they want to be on, the brand they want the world to see. And I felt like I was flailing. To give you context, here are just a few things I’ve been interested in recently and through the most recent parts of my life:
Cookie and Cake Decorating
Cooking at the restaurant level
Cooking healthy and delicious foods
Writing a Cookbook as well as photographing cookbooks
Dance and Sports Photography
Playing the Piano
Playing the Violin
Understanding Global Warming and what scientists are doing to combat it
Understanding what individuals can do to protect the environment
Okay so that was only part of the list. But you get what I’m saying now. This whole list felt daunting before, and those are just my interests. As for things I’ve actually done and tried throughout my life, they range from playing certain instruments to taking ballet to being part of a diving team and soccer team, studying and receiving a STEM degree, having a minor in dance, having a wedding photography business, raising two kids, learning to cook to take care of my family, writing short stories, poems, working in a call center and then working at The Banana Republic. I felt like, in order to meet the 10,000 hour rule, I needed to choose just one of the things on my list, and I didn’t know how to choose. and I also felt so behind because I hadn’t been that person who knew exactly what they wanted to do from a young age and was still doing it. My time commitment had been made to academics (for the most part), and it had been put into making myself the best Pre-med student I could be. Now all of that felt wasted, and I was “lost”.
How could I abandon all these bits of myself for just one of the bits. And there’s always been a little part of me that asks why. Why do I have to? And sometimes I puff out my chest and say, “well who cares what other people think, I’m going to do all of these”, and then the voices say to stop and choose something, and I retreat.
But then Range came along and everything changed. All of these things that I love and that I feel drawn to aren’t hindrances at all. For me, being a jack of all trades does not make me a failure or a flake, it doesn’t make me less qualified to do fashion photography or to write books or to decorate my house or make my own clothes. The knowledge that I have gained from doing and trying and dabbling in all of these things has given me and will continue to give me the range I need to find my own path forward and to see the angles I need to see to become a contender in a world where too many people are hyper-focused.
So here’s my new mindset. If I’m to make unique, creative, beautiful art that makes changes or put forward innovative thought, I won’t limit myself and cannot be expected to limit myself to specializing or following someone else’s path forward.
I’m going to continue to love all the things I love, to play and practice and choose a variety of tasks to practice and to learn. I’m going to always photograph my kids and photograph food and photograph landscapes and travel and fashion, and I believe that all of this will lead me to finding a voice that is actually truly unique to me and will lend to me seeing things in a different way than you see them.
And PS: that scares the living breath out of me.