• J. Woken

Laser Beams & Light Bulbs: The Unstoppability of Renaissance-ism

I unexpectedly branched out a couple of weeks ago into the world of art brokerage. I have this client I’ve been working with for two years to write her biography of sorts. She’s an artist, something I knew about her in the beginning of our budding relationship, but lately I’ve had a strong desire to help her sell her artwork for three reasons:

Ink on paper, 22″x28″ (photographed).(c) 2014 Mastaneh Sohrabian

  1. Her art is her passion. I like helping people develop their passions. There’s something uniquely gratifying about it.

  2. Her artwork is good stuff. I find it unique, thought-provoking, eye-catching, and dramatic.

  3. She has over three dozen works collecting dust. They could be promoted and sold, making her money. She’s had buyers approach her in the past, but wasn’t ready to sell at the time. Now she is.

I don’t like it when potentially profitable talents go to waste, including talents of my own. I’m fairly decent at networking, I’m a good researcher, and I’m not afraid to take chances or ask stupid questions. Granted I know little to nothing about selling art (I barely passed Art Appreciation in college), but, to me, it’s all about learning, and succeeding, in baby steps. For the longest time I lived under the impression that I had to be good at ONE thing and, because I thought that way, I didn’t find success in much of anything. I long ago settled into the realization that I didn’t have an industry or specialty. I’d gone to college first for hotel/restaurant management, then transferred to creative writing with the intention of teaching grade school, but I always got distracted by other things I was good at.

My first refurbishing project.

I wanted to write books. I wanted to illustrate. I wanted to sing and song write. For a long time I wanted to sew and design dresses. I wanted to teach. I wanted to flip old houses (I almost got into that business while living in Atlanta in 2008). I wanted to refurbish antique and retro furniture. I wanted to model (and did, for a very short while). In short, my specialty was not nothing, but everything.

Which is better: to know a little of everything or a lot about one thing?

This question plagued me through college and many years beyond. I thought I was a failure for not having one thing I was really good at, for not even having one thing I wanted to be really good at. Surely, there was something wrong with me. I must have had some kind of identity crisis. The first time I heard the term “Renaissance Woman” was in an acting class. During a break from lessons, one of the other students, Rachel, asked me what I liked to do in my free time. I bashfully gave her my long list, embarrassed that I didn’t have one hobby that stood out from the rest. She exclaimed excitedly, “Wow, you’re a Renaissance Woman like me!” I had to ask her to explain and, from there, I’ve learned to pride myself in knowing a little of everything.

Accepting my Inner General-ist.

In an article on being a Jack-of-all-Trades, Tim Ferriss makes good on pointing out that it takes a good generalist to be a leader, to see “the unseen interconnectedness” between a variety of broad skills and bring those skills together to “predict, innovate, and rise to power”. As my resume has grown (and it’s quite diversified, in my opinion), I’ve come to embrace my Renaissance-ism. I’m a writer, but also a cartoonist (and hopefully a paid one soon — c’mon, Ink Bottle Syndicate!). This fall, when my client’s first show is expected to be scheduled, I’ll also be


selling art. I can do those things, too, and, if I wanted to, also make a little extra money (as I did in the past during my substitute teaching days) sewing and hemming skirts and pants. Once I get a good garden going, maybe I could sell my vegetables for cash or barter them for goods and services. I am the general of my personal army of skills. And that’s pretty freakin’ cool.

Laser Beams & Light Bulbs

I like to think of talent as a light within us that shines forth. Some people’s light is like that of a laser’s: the light is specific, focused, and designed to accomplish a narrow variety of tasks. Other people’s light is like that of a light bulb’s: their light touches many things, unfocused but still bright and useful in its own, broad right.

Are you a laser beam… or a light bulb?

I’m a light bulb. There is no one industry that could fail that would leave me wanting for opportunity. There is no technology that would drive me out of business. I don’t base my personal value on what I can bring to one field, but, rather, by what I bring to the table altogether: a wide variety of skills that are honed well enough to keep me afloat, to keep me useful, to keep me engaged.

In that way, I am undefeatable. I am unstoppable.

In closing, I’d like to quote Ferriss’ article again:

The specialist who imprisons himself in self-inflicted one-dimensionality — pursuing an impossible perfection — spends decades stagnant or making imperceptible incremental improvements while the curious generalist consistently measures improvement in quantum leaps. It is only the latter who enjoys the process of pursuing excellence.

Here’s to enjoying the pursuit and #beingunstoppable! -Jessi MOI

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