Review: “The Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine

Do you have so many interests that you find yourself wondering if you’re somehow defective? You struggle to “pick a lane,” switching from career to career, or wishing you could?

If so, indecisiveness may not be your problem. You may have been gifted with a renaissance soul.

Recommended Reading: "Renaissance Soul" by Margaret Lobinstine

Thinking of yourself as a “renaissance” man or woman may seem a bit of a stretch. Comparing yourself to DaVinci, Franklin, Nightingale or other renaissance giants is beyond imagination. But the late Margaret Lobenstine in her book, The Renaissance Soul (Harmony Books, 2013), suggests you may have more in common with those giants than you think.

A renaissance soul “thrives on a variety of interests and redefines the accepted meaning of success.” Other terms have been used to describe such personalities, ranging from the critical (“jack-of-all-trades”), the neutral (“generalist”), and the more affirming (Barbara Sher’s “scanner” and my own “horizontal master”). Personally, while I somewhat resist the “renaissance” label for the aforementioned reason—our culture seems to reserve that title for the highly accomplished polymaths—I really like the term “soul” as it suggests a gift worth embracing.

And Lobenstine helps you do just that. If think you might be a renaissance soul, her book will help put that question to rest. This “creative and practice guide,” as the cover suggests, will also settle your anxiety about somehow feeling out of place. In the many stories you’ll find ordinary people like you and me working through the same haunting questions: How do I do all the stuff I want? Why do my interests shift so frequently? What kind of job is the best fit for me? How can I possibly make money? 

While Lobenstine advocates embracing your renaissance soul, that doesn’t mean pursuing all of your interests with abandon. Instead, at the heart of her advice is to identify your present core “Focal Points.” These are the interests you’re motivated to pursue right now, knowing that “now is only a part of your life” and you’ll have time later to engage other less-well-formed interests, should they persist. This is a liberating concept for many who have a hard time choosing between their many interests, thinking that, by doing so, they’ve eliminated an option from consideration.

The Renaissance Soul has chapters specifically written for those stuck in careers they no longer want to pursue, for those considering going back to school, and for those who are presently in school, trying to decide which career to pursue. There’s time management advice for pursuing your Focal Points while maintaining a traditional job and even advice on how to select employment that increases the attention you can give to your Focal Points. Personally, I found the final chapter of most interest. This is where she explores the inner world of resistance, our inner dialogue, fear and motivation; stuff that occupies the day-to-day of a renaissance soul, like me.

If you’re also a renaissance soul, you’ll find some encouragement and likely, more than just a few helpful suggestions in this book. And if you’re not, you likely know—or are possibly even married to—one who might find within its pages some inspiration for their journey.

Want to go deeper? Listen to my podcast on this topic.

Comment below: Are you a renaissance soul? What advice do you have for other renaissance souls?

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2 thoughts on “Review: “The Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine

  1. Thanks for the book recommendation, Leary. This is intriguing–I just reserved it from the library. I read every book you recommend.

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