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

by Margaret Lobenstine

Broadway Books (a Division of Random House), 2006. ISBN 0767920880.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 02/10/2006

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Active Life

It was the subtitle that drew me in...urged me to pick up the book... begged me to take more than a glance at it. Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One. Hmmmm, someone must be writing about ME! I discovered this book while browsing at the local library on a day that had me grappling with a way to explain to my husband that which is almost inexplainable to me: I have so many creative interests, and I am so passionate about them, that I allow them to absorb me (his words, not mine). I don't know why that is. I don't know how that is. I don't know when that started. And I don't know how to change that, or if I even want to change that. Why should I have to? To a person who isn't so inclined, I guess it seems more than a little odd that I can't "pick one thing and be the best at it."

And so it was that Lobenstine happened into my life with important information and answers to unspoken questions at just the right time. As she so wisely points out, our society tends to foster the idea of becoming an expert in one area and sticking to it. Society tends to look negatively on the concept of the "Jack of all trades and master of none" life. But Lobenstine contends that line of thinking is exactly the reason it is hard to undertand some creative souls and their passions for so many different avenues.

In an easily readable, most enjoyable format, Lobenstine offers hope to the creative souls who hope to be able to "have it all." She contends that it is possible to incorporate those passions and a paying job and be happy. Simple quizzes allow readers to identify what their individual values are and where those values can lead. Case studies of actual creatives offer guideposts and encouragement to those of us who struggle with the expectations of others vs the expectations we hold for ourselves.

The Renaissance Soul is divided into four very interesting, practical and engaging sections. Part I, Claiming Your Renaissance Soul, provides readers with characteristics of the renaissance soul personality: defining success by mastered challenges rather than how far up the ladder a person has climbed, casting aside single-minded focus in favor of variety. Lobenstine also includes a section that dispells myths about what a creative soul is and is not... Renaissance souls are not superior to others, nor do they fall into that diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder personalities. While some may be, not all renaissance souls are geniuses. They do not use their many and varied interests to avoid the realities of life, and they are NOT job-hoppers!

To substantiate her theories, Lobenstine offers examples of well-known individuals who fit her definitions for a renaissance soul—Ben Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Thomas More and Maya Angelou, to name a few.

Part II, Thriving on Many Interests Without Feeling Scattered, was perhaps one of the most valuable sections for me personally. Digging into the heart of what drives creatives, Lobenstine challenges us to take a good hard look at ourselves and to clearly identify our personal value systems. She offers several revealing quizzes for her readers, including choosing five out of a list of fifty values and identifying the five values that are most important at the particular moment, or writing not the well-known self obituary but writing toasts to one's self by four individuals who know the creative person best. Scrutinizing personal values even more closely, Lobenstine asks her readers to consider how their own life meshes (or not) with the lives of those other individuals who are part of the creative's inner circle. She stresses the importance of identifying whether an individual's activities are reflecting personal values or the values of others. She offers practical ways to not only evaluate this but to move closer to a place where personal values take precedence over the values of others.

Part III, Practical Realities: Career Design for Pursuing You Passions, is the nitty-gritty for those creatives who want to give up their day jobs but just can't. The author points out that, while it is not always possible to give up the day job, it sometimes is easier than one may think to secure a day job that will help the creative soul move closer to realizing their passions and dreams. How would you like to get "paid for your passion?" How would you like to be able to focus on your passions, sell yourself, find non-traditional ways to indulge your creative side without compromising self? All of these areas are presented in a revealing way that caused this reader to experience several ah-ha moments along the way.

Part IV, Successful Life Design for Renaissance Souls, takes the creative spirit one step closer to realizing goals and dreams by helping readers make a commitment. Lobenstine offers a unique and comfortable way to put desires into action—the PRISM test. As she explains, "The PRISM test puts your current set of Focal Points through a rigorous evaluation. Just as light bursts into color as it passes through a prism, this test allows you to examine your Focal Points from new angles, therby clarifying and confirming your eventual selections." PRISM is an anacronym for Price (How much will it cost you to get to your Focal Point?), Reality (What will the day-to-day, nitty-gritty of engaging in this Focal Point really involve?), Integrity (Why does this particular Focal Point seem particularly worthwhile to you?), Specificity (When you are specific about constitutes success, you can articulate your desires to yourself and others), and Measurability (Setting specific dates for attainment of your goals allows you to map out a plan and take specific steps toward passionate productivity).

Margaret Lobenstine is the perfect person to walk creative Renaissance Souls through the process because she, too, is a Renaissance Soul. Not only is she a motivational speaker, writer and life-coach, she has been a successful bed-and-breakfast owner, a family business consultant, and a literary specialist. She encourages renaissance souls to be role models to others. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website.

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