“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” – James Michener
When I graduated from high school which seems like yesterday, not over twenty years ago, I had my whole life ahead of me but unfortunately I spent too many years depressed and wandering, trying to figure out what to do with my life that would yield me success and fortune.
Like so many others, in college I majored in Business Finance because that was the smart and practical thing to do that would most likely lead to a financially rewarding career. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the Corporate America type. I had absolutely no business majoring in Finance with the goal of taking my business degree to Corporate America.
Leading up to graduation and of course immediately after college I felt lost and didn’t know what direction to go in. I kept thinking I had to find that one all-important thing to pursue. I worked at one lousy job after the next trying to figure out my life’s calling.
I was clueless and didn’t know that the way to finding my purpose was in pursuing my passions and doing those things that gave me the most joy while trusting that the time and energy I put into doing the things I love would in some way naturally pay off if I paid attention to and pursued the opportunities that presented themselves or created my own.
I should have spent those early years taking art classes, writing workshops as well as seeing the world by living, traveling and working in different countries.
But I thought I had to find and stick to one thing as a profession and be practical and responsible not realizing that I was having a hard time choosing because doing one thing just isn’t who I am.
I’ve said all of this to say that it took me nearly two decades to figure out that I’m multi-passionate and should have let all of my passions lead the way, without trying to sort it out and find that one thing to do and without feeling like I was flaky, unfocused and undisciplined for losing interest in one thing after the other.
Have you had a hard time choosing just one thing to pursue?
When I read Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose, it was life-changing. She talks about being a Scanner which is a term she’s given to people who have so many interests that they simply can’t pursue one project, one hobby or one profession.
Scanners are multi-passionate meaning they have many different passions and have a hard time choosing just one to pursue.
Scanners thrive on change and have no tolerance for boredom.
They are natural learners, inventors, and explorers.
Scanners are childlike in their pursuits. They are playful and find utter delight in the project(s) of the day, week, or month. They love discovering new things and have boundless curiosity about the world.
Scanners start many projects but often don’t finish them, not because they are undisciplined and unfocused but because they simply got what they wanted or needed out of it and they are ready to pursue the next thing.
Scanners love to travel, read, write, throw fabulous parties, design and create businesses, start countless projects, and study new subjects.
Scanners often feel misunderstood and for good reason, they are an unusual breed. To those people who know what they want to do and are able to follow and stick to one path, Scanners seem unfocused, unstable, indecisive, commitment-phobic, irresponsible and afraid of hard work. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Even Scanners themselves can’t understand their inability to settle down and choose one path to pursue until they realize that they are a Scanner and simply can’t choose because they’re wired a certain way.
Sher states that Scanners are “genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him.” This may make it hard to make a living at one thing but luckily such a fate is not necessary. If the Scanner sounds like you, I highly recommend that you read Sher’s book. You will discover that there are many careers perfectly suited for someone like you. You will also discover that you can do it ALL. You can make a living and pursue all your interests. Sounds crazy I know but Sher makes it make sense.
Are you a Scanner?
I am a classic Scanner. Every time I turn around I have a new idea, a new interest or project I want to pursue. In the past I’d get so excited over my ideas and interests but then I’d get frustrated with myself for not being able to stick with one thing. I use to think that being a Jack-of-All-Trades but Master of None was a bad thing until I read Barbara’s book.
I now realize that being a Scanner is a good thing and it’s okay to pursue all my interests and ideas. In my professional life I have many ideas and interests that I can incorporate into my work knowing that some things I do will be a source of income and some will not but everything I do going forward will be for the joy of it, because it’s fun and I love doing it. And when I’m ready to move on to the next thing that’s okay too because my life is about exploring and doing the things I enjoy as long as I enjoy them. When it stops being fun then it’s time to move on.
And this doesn’t mean you should quick everything you start when things get a bit difficult or challenging. You can still be challenged by the things you love to do. In fact, that is the definition of flow, a concept researched and written about by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is basically being fully engaged in an activity that offers just the right amount of challenge. It is neither too easy or too difficult and it completely captivates your attention to point that you lose track of time.
According to Wikipedia flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
Flow is being in the zone and fully present to what you are doing. I encourage you to find those things that put you in a state of flow and do them. And if it just happens to be that ten different things can do that for you then pursue those ten things. I would bet that one of those things could be your work at some point and also your play or it could indirectly lead to your ultimate work.
What do you love to do? What puts you in a state of flow?
I for one love writing and though I’m not currently making any money writing I feel confident that it will indeed pay off whether I sell a book or whether my writing leads to another great opportunity. It’s about letting those things I love direct my path and open doors I might not otherwise find if I’m not pursuing my own true passions.
Is your current work a form of play for you?
Whether you are a Scanner or not I challenge you to examine your own life’s work to see how it can be an outlet for play and exploration. You spend a good deal of your time and life working so why not find ways to make it more fun and if that’s not possible consider making a career change and discover how you can make a living doing the things you love to do, in other words how can you profit from your play. The goal is to be able to look back and say some version of “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun” as Thomas Edison did when he spoke of his life’s work.
Finding a way to be able to say “my work is my play and my play is my work” is a great gift to give to yourself.
And even if you’re a stay-at-home mom you can take this time at home with your kids to pursue your many different interests, ideas and hobbies and see if one of them eventually leads to a business. This is how many mom’s have started their own business simply by creating and pursuing the things they love and finding that other people loved them too and were willing to pay for it, whether that thing was a product or a service.
So get to it. Play, explore, and do all the things that you love to do. Don’t just pick one. Do them all and see where they lead you.
Thomas Edison didn’t just explore one idea or develop one invention. He explored many ideas and invented many things. He not only pursued his many interests, he made a career out of it. I mean that’s basically what an inventor does. She explores her many interests, tries new ideas and makes many things. Inventors do work that puts them in the flow. They play for a living. How cool is that.
You too can play for a living.
1. Read Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose if you think you may be a Scanner.
2. Leave a comment about what you love to do, listing some of your many interests.
3. Pick one or two or three ideas to start pursuing now.
Extra credit: Pass this post on to a friend or your social network…facebook it…tweet it…google+ it….pinterest it. And check out my pinterest boards to see my many different interests and passions.