Reset
Why-Not-Try-It-All
83 Comments

Why Not Try It All?

why-not-try-it-all

Just say no. Assert your boundaries. You can’t do it all.

There’s a time and a place for everything, sure, but is that always the best advice?

Whenever I hear things like “Say no five times for every time you say yes,” I think… “Really?” I take the opposite approach, and it generally works out just fine.

I think that the “say no to almost everything” advice is good for masters. If you’re at the height of your career or skill, it makes sense to be highly selective. If Tiger Woods says no to everything but practicing his swing every day, I get it. If Serena Williams never wants to leave the court, I understand.

But most of us are not Tigers or Serenas yet. Not all of us know what we want to do; not everyone is single-minded towards the pursuit of only one goal. Some of us have more than one passion.

So that’s the idea: why not try it all? Have your cake and eat it too.

I’ve written about living a renaissance life a few times before—see here and here, for example—but this is a different approach. Try this, for example:

Higher Education: sign up for the maximum number of credits. You can drop any classes that aren’t a good fit, but maybe you just have a busy semester of learning. Why not?

Business: Have four ideas and aren’t sure which to pursue? Launch all four. Stick with the one or two that gains traction in the marketplace. Don’t worry about the others.

Learning: Get a dozen magazine subscriptions. As for me, I subscribe to the Economist, Outside, Harper’s, Maclean’s, New Yorker, Wired, Money, Runner’s World, and several others. (I realize the list could be more diverse. At the bookstore, I read other things too.)

Music and the Arts: Play one instrument? Learn to play others. You may not become a master at all of them, but learning the basics can be a lot of fun. (Similarly, if you paint in one medium, why not try out three others?)

Everything Else: I’m sure you can add to the list. Want to? Leave your ideas in the comments and I’ll update the post accordingly.

I’m interested in simplicity and minimalism (more on that at some point), but not at the expense of missing anything.

If you’re not a master yet, or if you have more than one passion, why not try it all? You might find something unexpected… and welcome.

###

Find me on Twitter: twitter.com/chrisguillebeau
Join AONC on Facebook: facebook.com/artofnonconformity

‘Having Your Cake and Eating it Too’ Image by Sea Turtle

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.

83 Comments

  • Oleg Mokhov says:

    Hey Chris,

    Fail often to succeed faster.

    Failing is just finding out what doesn’t work. The faster you fail–eliminate what doesn’t work–the sooner you’ll find what does work.

    You do that by trying as much as possible. You find what you like and are good at by trying things, not by sitting around thinking and theorizing. I like how you stated: saying yes to everything, trying it all.

    Sports, businesses and websites, arts (painting, music-making, film, writing), where to live (travel to find places that you connect with)… anything.

    All the best with your book,
    Oleg

  • Hey Chris.

    You are right on the money here as far as I see it. That point about subscribing to many magazines is great, as I have done similar before, and I learned a bunch more than I would have had I not gone real big on that one activity. I’ve done the same for subscribing to many sites, or many site’s newsletters, which taught me a lot that I wouldn’t have learned by just knowing that they were there.

    That point about going forward on all four business ideas also makes sense. We tend to complete as much as we set out to do, so there is no reason to cut off certain things that we would be able to fit in as well. People are also much more helpful when they see that you are busy for multiple items, and will give you the benefit of the doubt, which is a great thing for folks that keep up their various goals.

    Thanks for your usual great material.

  • Nate says:

    Since you write a lot about travel, I think it should be added to the list. Here are a couple of examples.

    1. A lot of people love travel, but get comfortable going to the same place. The same hotel, restaurants, activities, etc. It’s fun. It’s safe. Instead, expand your horizons. Why not have a goal of visiting every continent?

    2. Fear. A lot of people are afraid to travel places because they think they’re dangerous. I live in Chicago and people were shocked that Rio got the Olympic bid over Chicago. I heard people say ‘Rio is sooo dangerous.’ Ok, I admit that I haven’t researched and I don’t know a lot about Rio crime, but I can tell you something about Chicago crime. The south side of Chicago (where the Olympics would have been) is one of the most crime ridden neighborhoods in the United States. Other places aren’t as dangerous as they seem, so get out and have fun. As Chris says, try it all!

  • Eric says:

    I played bass in high school, but when I got to college, I didn’t want to limit myself – so I went out and bought a mandolin. Since then, I’ve also picked up a bouzouki, ukulele, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, sitar, melodica, and a few other instruments. If I see an instrument in a store that’s interesting and not too expensive, I pick it up and learn a few songs on it. If I don’t like it, I can always sell it – or just hang it up on the wall as a decoration/conversation piece.

  • Richard Lowe says:

    Love the blog. First time commenter…

    I certainly agree with your idea of trying everything. I have a philosophy that there’s opportunity everywhere, you just have to know what it looks like. I love new and exciting ideas and I love trying to execute them. The problem I find is how to balance all the ideas and keep focused until they’re finished.

    Any advice?

    Thanks for the great resource you have here.

  • SG says:

    Wow .. just the post I was looking for. Ever since I left my job in July, I have been working with a MBA prep institute, a web design business, a market intelligence business, an outsourced HR functions company. And I am looking for more every single day.

    Same reason. Throw ten darts. If any hits the bullseye, chase it.

    Thanks for the post.

  • So true. I have 50 million ideas that float around this head of mine but it’s hard for me to drum up the courage for ONE never mind alll 50 million! But you are right, why not try all of them? What’s the harm in that…something is bound to stick.

    Right now, I am signed up for community college classes so I can go back to school in either nutrition or nursing, I am getting my freelance business off the ground (that deals with graphic design – print, web), I am trying to figure out how to squeeze my custom cards into the mix AND I’m also writing a screenplay…still, I have countless other ideas. Not to mention, moving once my house sells.

    Scared out of my mind. I’m sure some ideas will change but at least right now, I’m open to them.

  • I am torn down the middle. On the one hand I fully agree. I just graduated with my second masters and I am building a business; again. So I am pursuing everything I am interested in and saying yes to just about every opportunity that sounds tempting in the least. In a way it is allowing life to guide me a bit by saying yes to what it brings your way. The only downside for me though is that there is a critical point where if I don’t focus with my love and energy into something it doesn’t grow the same. I think this may be especially true for new projects. It’s like the things you have been doing that become ingrained into your being get taken care of a little with some autopilot Qi so you can free yourself up to spread out.

  • Chris, this is the only thing that has worked for me. I view it as a progression and unless I throw a bunch at the wall to see what sticks, I find that I get tied up in projects that fail.

    This is also why I decided to tear it up in 2009 and finally got off my ass to become a triathlete and take my blogging seriously. I’d rather have too much to do than not enough!

  • Charlotte says:

    Chris,

    I utterly love this. The “assert your boundaries” advice is often good to take in relation to other people – i.e. don’t let them walk all over you – but in relation to life or business, if you have many passions you definitely shouldn’t lock yourself into the pursuit of only one for some esoteric reason.

    I’ve seen so many people use this advice as an excuse to stay safe and avoid what they class as “failure.” On the contrary, I think that not exploring all of your passions and locking away part of your soul for no particular reason (except the fact that society seems to want us to remain small) is failure on a massive scale.

    Great post. 🙂 Can’t wait for your book!

    Charlotte

  • Coco M Davis says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask if you were familiar with Barbara Sher’s book “Refuse to Choose”. She talks about the type of person (Scanners) who has many interests but has been trying to choose the right one in order to fit in to society’s ideas of success, career, etc. But instead those of us that fall into that category should pursue all our interests we just need to learn how to do it.

    I quit the part-time office job that was meaningful but was boring me to tears (Scanners get bored a lot). Now instead of feeling like my brain is decomposing, I don’t have enough hours in the day for all my projects. I’m writing a proposal for my first book, ready to write another during NaNoWriMo, learning guitar and getting ready for my first open mike, learning to write songs, organizing social events, backpacking, and catching up on the books stacked on my nightstand. I love every minute of it!

  • Lola says:

    Amen to this post. In addition to writing, photography, GIS consulting and more, I’m always constantly launching new projects.

    Besides the gazillion other ideas I’ve got on tap.

  • This is *great*! You never know what you’re missing until you try it, let alone if you’ll like it or not!

    Besides, often the best opportunities seem to come when you’ve taken advantage of other ones… Or that’s what it seems anyhow.

    At this point, though, I definitely have enough on my plate and would love to get some of them off! Then I can finally start focusing more on what’s really important to me. (At least I know what my strongest passions are!)

  • Coco, thanks for mentioning that book. I haven’t read it, but it reminds me of another “I could do anything, if I only knew what it was.”

    I’m definitely a scanner…what are some of the recommendations in the book?

  • ieishah says:

    dating: of course, say no to drug dealers and gang bangers. but to everyone else, say ‘yes’. ignore your preferences and prejudices. you never know who’ll surprise you. i’ve followed that advice for 5 years and have been super- successful in dating ever since. i even said ‘yes’ to a lesbian once and i’m not gay. she’s one of my best friends in the world and one of the smartest, most inspirational people i know.

  • Lahondaknitter says:

    When my job went away last December, I decided that I would go back to doing what I had done before the job. I also had acquired new skills from the job and I had also decided to say yes to most any job that came by.

    Now, I have a part time gardening job, part time data input, and I am creating things for the knitting market place. I never get bored because I get to do so many different things. I just need to make sure I go to the right place on that day. Thank goodness for calendars!

  • Barb McMahon says:

    It does take a certain amount of courage to follow this path. Our loved ones and mainstream society really want us to specialize, settle down, whatever.

    But there’s so much to try and do and see! And (to add to your list) to eat! Try different foods. Eat things you’re not at all familiar with. Try new recipes. You may hate it, or you may love it, but at least you will have tried it.

    Thanks Chris!

  • This post describes pretty much how I feel and is why I can’t pick one subject/topic/every of expertise to talk about in my own blog and in my life. I have more than one passion and I don’t want to shun all the rest for one that I’m not really sure of. I’m still young and far from an expert in anyone area. I’m glad there are like-minded people out there!

  • Make lots of decisions quickly. It fits in with what Oleg said. You will fail fast and often but you’ll also learn what works for you quicker too.

  • bevwatson says:

    Right on point, Chris. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing too much and people say if I wouldn’t be better off just sticking to one job, but I would be bored. I have many interests/talents that allow me to run a Bed and breakfast, be a Personal Chef to private clients, write and publish a poetry book, play the piano, paint and do my own interior decorating. I am in the stages of doing a cookbook and intend on being a world traveler someday as well.

  • Chris, this advice is probably great for people in your position (i.e., in control of ALL the hours of your days), but for someone like me, who is trying to launch a blog and online buisness, it’s a recipe for burnout. I’m jealous of people like Coco above, who says that she quit the part-time job that was boring her to tears.

    Well, I’m a “scanner” too, but I’ve got a *full-time* job, I’m bored to tears, and I can’t afford to leave it. Or even go to part-time.I have SO many things I want to do, but I’m locked into Working for the Man (no matter how much I hate it) until I can afford to leave.

    This isn’t meant as a “poor me” whinge, because I’m doing what I can to move in directions that inspire me. It’s just my way of pointing out that doing everything we want isn’t practical or even possible for people in situations like mine.

  • bevwatson says:

    By the way- Thanks for pursuing your quest to become a Writer. Looking forward to your book in 2010.

  • Michelle, I’m not so sure I agree with you. Yeah, quitting your job might cost you, but why is it worth being unhappy?

    It does sound like you are on your way to changing that, but I say damn the torpedoes. You never know when you’ll run out of days.

  • Mario says:

    Great post Chris!

    I really agree with what you have just written. I kind of did this myself sometime I go.. Launch ideas, do things and stick with what works out. It’s especially great when you are in a crossroad and when you don’t have a clear plan. Gives you energy, more chances of success, etc.. In economic terms is like if you were diversifying the risk.

    I have been doing this for a little while but I think I could well give it a extra push and invent even more!

  • Sue Dyson says:

    Wow. I’m a scanner, too. And, like Cameron, I can’t pick just one thing to write about on my blog so I’m following many of my favourite bloggers who write about themselves, their viewpoints (about anything), and cool stuff to pass on to others. My niche is myself now, because there are too many things I have going on to pick just one. I used to think I had a problem (laughing now!) and it is very refreshing to see so many others living life the same way. I’m going to stop trying to fit into someone else’s hole and start making my own, with vigor.
    Love your writing, Chris.

  • This kind of writing is so &$(#*%&$^# refreshing. I’ve become so disappointed lately with all the advice out there that says to pick one thing and become the best at it.

    Maybe that’s what you have to do to become a superstar and singularly recognized for, but that doesn’t really interest me at all. There are so many ways to earn a living doing more than one thing.

    You might spread yourself thin and never achieve fame, but there is so much more to life than spending every second pursuing the same thing.

    One of my goals in life is to never be able to answer the question “What do you do?” in less than a paragraph.

  • @Michelle Russell – One way to break out is through financial independence. If you like to do things more than you like to buy things, you can reduce costs substantially. This seems to result in less burnout than trying to earn extra money. Tax free too. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

    @Chris – Other approach where the shotgun approach works. Home repair/handyman (save tons of money), eHow, firehow, associated content, etc. (earn money without needing to focus on one topic), sports (general athletics), diversified investing. In general you would want a scatter approach to be somewhat connected to remain competitive, law of 3’s, that stuff.

  • ieishah says:

    also, always say ‘yes’ anytime anyone ever asks you to dance. i don’t care where you are– wedding, bar mitzvah, animal sacrifice ceremony in the amazon– there is never any good reason (barring severe physical injury) to say no to a dance. it may sound a little bit lee ann womack, but those are words to live by.

  • Eve says:

    Another great post, Chris. I was teaching in Korea for a year and wanted to learn the language, but told myself that I was already too busy and didn’t have time (WHAT?!). After months of living there and speaking like a kindergartner, a friend of mine chided me into signing up for a language class, and it was the best thing I could have done. I’m headed back there in November, but this time, I won’t waste any time before I get enrolled in a more advanced class…and sign up for yoga…and a gym…etc etc etc.

  • Charlotte says:

    @Michelle

    I was in your situation 2 months ago – thinking I was locked into Working For The Man.

    Then I had an epiphany (brought on, in part, by Chris and other world-changers like him):

    You can do anything you want to do, but not nearly everything you want to do. The time is never going to be right. The bank account is never going to be full enough.

    So 3 weeks ago, I quit my job to devote myself to working on my business (linked above) full-time. I said “damn the torpedoes.”

    I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled.

    Maybe the time for you genuinely isn’t right. Maybe you’ve got children to support (I haven’t). I respect that. But I also say that the “right” time for you to quit Working For The Man is never going to come. You make that time.

    All best of luck to you!

  • Matthew says:

    This post certainly rings true for me. This semester, I’m not only taking 22 hours (“You CAN’T do that!”; “Um… I am… right now…”; “You CAN’T do that!”) but am working part time and am moving towards replacing that job with a business of my own. Plus I’ve got some other irons in the fire.

  • Eric Martinson says:

    This brings me back – this is exactly what I did my first 2 years of college. I took an extra 50% course load, had 2 jobs, played on the tennis team… and was never at home. I’ve never had so much fun and done so much since.

    NOW, my problem is that all of the outside demands on my time (job, wife, kids, parents, etc.) stop me more than me taking on too much. That is my struggle. I’m in the process of starting 2 projects but find myself either spinning my wheels when I do get a second to myself or just being too tired.

    If you’re young and not trying everything you better start, as when the demands of life creep up on you it’s a big hole to dig out of.

  • Hi Chris,

    The problem I have is that pursuing everything can feel like ADD (which I know from your writing you can relate to).

    I’ve never considered myself ADD, in fact on the contrary I can sit down and read a book at one sitting, or perform other acts of single minded focus that amaze (and sometimes irritate) my wife.

    My problem is that I do say yes to everything. I want to learn the guitar, write books, blog, listen to music, develop my photography skills and interest, re-dedicate myself to my vets tennis career, etc. etc. I am also a husband and father to two children 4 and 5 years of age. There is so much I am interested in and would love to purse more vigorously.

    I love to read: books, magazines, online articles, newspapers, anything!

    Then there is the Internet. I spend a vast amount of time packing my head with stuff I learn online.

    So I end up with a SIADD (Self Inflicted Attention Deficit Disorder).
    No cure I’m afraid.

    Regards
    Richard

  • Sally says:

    Under the “everything else” heading, I would encourage people to subscribe to various RSS feeds. I recently wrote a blog post where I talked about these feeds as my continuing education. I try to spend 1/2 hour or so a week catching up on business topics as well as some that will provide me with cocktail conversation. It’s amazing what is out there, free for the taking.

  • I’m a scanner too, but I’ve learned to say “No,” to things that I don’t want to do, don’t like doing and don’t benefit me or advance my goals. When I say “No,” to one thing, that frees me up to say “Yes” to more things, things that make me feel good, that allow me to help someone I want to help, to do something I want to do.

    Saying “No,” isn’t a bad thing. Life is all about choices and saying “No,” is just one way of making a choice. I say “No” to the client who wants me to work for $20 an hour so I can say “Yes” to the client who will pay me $50 an hour. That $50 an hour lets me say “No,” to a 40-hour work week and “Yes” to a 20-hour work week. Those extra hours in my week then allow me to say “Yes,” to spending the weekend doing something I want to do…

    It’s all about knowing what you want and don’t want, and realizing that it’s all about choices, not about denying yourself and someone else something you/they want.

  • Yes, yes! I agree. The sky is the limit. Being raised in a rather skeptical culture in Germany, it took me a while to learn how to say “I can!” to myself while all I heard around me was “You can’t!”.

    So, I’d say the most important part is to blank out the “can’t do it” voices around you – and just rely on your inner “can do” approach, no matter how many projects you might be working on.

  • Gary says:

    Love it.

    In my Inbox this morning I get your email saying Yes! and Jack Cranfield’s saying No!

    “In The Success Principles, we recommend saying NO to the good, so you’ll have time and energy to say YES to the great.”

    What do I think?

    I think you’re right that saying no is good for masters. It’s also important when you know what you want to do and want to make the time available for what you love.

    Otherwise, why not say yes and see what unexpected new adventures life brings!

  • Gary says:

    Love it.

    In my Inbox this morning I get your email saying Yes! and Jack Canfield’s saying No!

    “In The Success Principles, we recommend saying NO to the good, so you’ll have time and energy to say YES to the great.”

    What do I think?

    I think you’re right that saying no is good for masters. It’s also important when you know what you want to do and want to make the time available for what you love.

    Otherwise, why not say yes and see what unexpected new adventures life brings!

  • Anne M. says:

    I would add “Broaden Your Expressions.”

    I have been blessed by being able to engineer my work, for the most part. But it’s very highly technical, and I felt like my artistic/creative side was atrophying with lack of use. So I started studying Improv. I loved it so much that my classmates and I formed our own troupe, which is now an award-winning theater group in San Diego. Doing improv allowed me to bring more emotional, theatrical elements into my life, and helped me build confidence and quickness of mind in all aspects of my life. I was finally able to talk about “everything,” listen better to everyone in my life, and feel well-rounded.

    Whether it’s drawing, painting, singing, acting, music, or any other art form, I encourage people to open up that part of their life. It’s surprising how your perspective is enhanced, and that you can be in touch with your joy in a completely new way.

  • Len Reo says:

    I love this post. It goes along with “If you what to get something done, ask a busy person”.

    I was always the planner in my group of friends. Sometimes I’d get some friendly jabs and be accused of “being in a hurry to have fun”. My wife tells me that I try to jam too much into one day. I say “go for it”. Personally, I wish I didn’t have to sleep as much to keep up my energy.

    Life is too short to not try what is interesting, challenging or fun. You will fail at a few things, and, like I tell my employees and associates, if you aren’t failing once in a while, you’re just not trying hard enough!

  • Vince says:

    Chris

    I hope I am not posting this twice but I had to restart my computer right after I hit post. Anyways, There is a benefit to reading more than one magazine at a time. It helps you broaden your knowledge and in doing so you are able to talk to a lot more people because if you have knowledge of something that interests them then you are an “insider” with them. I try to read a different magazine every month so that I can broaden my knowledge. It’s fun to learn new stuff.

    Vince

  • Hey Chris,

    Excellent post. You are a great role model for people who don’t like to do what they’re told …

    Our culture encourages us to try all sorts of things as very young children, then it does an about face and wants us to focus narrowly on what we will do for work.

    I’m a big idea wizardess. Get lots of ideas for essays, classes, businesses, things to save. I follow as many as I can.

    Why not think REALLY BIG, vertically and horizontally, and see where it takes us. We know what a world looks like where people are taught to think small. Let’s try something different.

  • Jerret says:

    Start one blog and write about three different topics because you’re completely obsessed with all three.

  • Carey says:

    It’s much easier to say no than yes. I came across this great quote yesterday after following a series of links that began at AONC:

    “Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.”
    Rainer Maria Rilke

    Good advice for travel, among other things. My biggest problem, like Richard Lowe, above, is focus and finishing anything. Or rather the riskiest, most interesting stuff sits on the shelf while my time gets siphoned off to the dull, bill-paying projects. I’m trying to reach the tipping point where the work I love supports me. Not easy (so far). Thanks for more inspiration and another great post.

  • Completely agree with the throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. We’re pressured to decide what we want to do with ourselves at a young age when we still have very little information.

    From my experience, it’s very hard to know whether I’ll like something without actually giving it a shot. Fear and unfamiliarity very often cloud my judgment. It’s easy to think I’ll dislike something that I actually end up liking when I do it.

    I like to try new things in short bursts — enough time to feel like I’ve given something a chance but not so much that it drastically interferes with the rest of my life and pursuits. Recently I’ve been spending a week or weekend focused on a new activity, the idea being to get a very quick, but in-depth taste of it.

  • Elisa says:

    I agree with taking every opportunity and constantly working to better yourself, find cool new things and in general run with life.

    But if you say Yes to EVERYTHING you can’t always do that for yourself. I say this because I am a notorious people pleaser and constrantly give up things for myself to not have to say “No” to someone else. I feel like you sometimes HAVE to say “No” to others to make sure that you aren’t shortchanging yourself. Cause the one person you should never say “No” to is you.

    Unless it’s an entire package of Oreo’s. Multiple times. Then the answer should probably be “No.” 🙂

  • Jonathan says:

    Interesting advice. I tend to feel that less is more, but in some cases I agree it’s best to try taking on everything. Good stuff.

  • Stephen Johnson says:

    Excellent post Chris. I particularly like your closing statement “I’m interested in simplicity and minimalism, but not at the expense of missing anything.” There’s a powerful lesson in perspective and balance to be learned here, about ‘reconnection’ to values of integrity and authenticity, without losing touch with the real world. I feel sometimes people misinterpret choosing to live more simply as ‘abandoning all’ in which case the polar opposite occurs, i.e. they forget how to live and experience life. Thanks for sharing and keeping it real.

  • Jason says:

    I have always been a big fan of getting the entrees at restaurants that have a little bit of everything. (Italian restaurants seem to have some sort of “Tour of Italy.”) I’ve been able to try things that I wasn’t sure I’d like with the certainty of knowing an old favorite was included — like lasagna. The process has introduced me to some new favorites 🙂

  • Thanks for the comments on my comment! Some responses:

    @Nathan Hangen – I absolutely agree that it’s not worth being unhappy. The problem is simply that the bills need to be paid. I’m already living as frugally as I can in a high-cost area, and moving isn’t an option (yet). Give me the winning lottery number (or at least one that will give me enough cash to survive thriftily for a year—long enough to get something else going) and I’ll quit my job the day I receive the first check. ;o)

    @Early Retirement Extreme – Again, I am already living as simple a life as I can. My tastes are not expensive at all, and I basically buy only necessities, apart from the occasional splurge on (*gasp!*) a book or three. So my costs are already reduced about as much as they can be. Financial independence? To me that doesn’t mean “doing things more than buying things.” It means having enough money to buy back all of my *time* so I can spend it how I wish.

    (cont. below…)

  • (cont.)

    @Charlotte – Good for you! No, I don’t have kids, but I also don’t have enough in savings to be able to quit my job and focus on my solopreneur business. I’ve started, and in a year I’ve saved enough to support myself for . . . about three months. You’re absolutely right that there won’t ever be a moment that the stars align and things become magically “right”—but there are practical considerations, such as not particularly wanting to live on the street. ;o)

    I’ve also had the epiphany in the past that you can do pretty much anything you want to, but not everything. Time, alas, is so finite!

  • I think you have to say no to some things and some people. But it does make sense to cast your net wide and use the trial and error method at times. If you don’t try something it won’t work.

    With experience you do learn what does and doesn’t work so you can ovoid the scatter gun approach then and focus on just doing the things which you know from experience get results or make you feel good.

    There are some good things that come from getting older:)

  • The bit about classes I can’t disagree with more. It’s a total waste of time to try to max out your credits every quarter, unless you are trying to graduate faster for financial reasons.

    People are successful because who are focused, who continually improve some core skill.

  • Finally, a place where I feel like I belong. I’m in the middle of a major life change, and suddenly the world is wide open. A 14-year relationship just ended, and out of necessity, I’m moving. If I listened to everyone’s advice, I’d be an emotional mess. All I hear is: “How will you support yourself? Can you afford to live in ________? Don’t you think you should give up this freelance thing and get a ‘real’ job?” Sometimes, like today, when the bills are high and the bank account is low, it gets to me.

    But as someone said earlier, saying no is often a way to stay safe. A year ago, I was safe. Bored. Lonely. Cagey with a wildness everyone called a “midlife crisis.” Now that I’m single, I realize it’s not a midlife crisis — it’s an awakening. Since I don’t know where I’m going or what I want, why not try it all? I might just land on the life of my dreams.

    Thanks. I needed to read this today.

  • Can I say: ‘That’s what I am FREAKIN’ talkin’ about’?

    Thank GOD somebody said it. I tell people all the time: If I had to pencil in A:This or B:That, I would write in C:Both. Forget YOU, Scantron!

  • Matthew says:

    @Brendan Miller
    I’m curious as to why you so strongly disagree with the bit about classes? I’m taking 22 hours this semester, and am glad that I am. It does take a bit of care picking out classes that won’t over-burden one. However, what is the reason for taking only 15 hours a semester (the average)? That’s about a part-time job… Why not make it full time, since that’s what it should be seen as, a job?

    Just trying to better understand your view.

  • Victoria says:

    It’s important to have an open mind and optimistic attitude about “saying yes” in the sense that you should not try to burden your decisions with preconceived notions. For example, saying no to something or someone because you don’t see how it could benefit you, how it could be rewarding, etc. etc. The funny thing about life is that it’s full of surprises. You will never reap the rewards from those surprises if you too busy trying to plan everything out and prioritize.

    HOWEVER (yes there is a however!) I think that life is all about balance. And sometimes saying no is just as important, if not more important, than saying yes. I don’t think it’s healthy to over-extend yourself by saying yes all the time, nor is it healthy to say yes to something that you really just don’t want to do. It leads to a dangerous path of self-destruction where one is constantly saying yes to things while being drained of their energy.

  • This is exactly the reason I was never able to choose a specific niche for my blog, instead opting to create the idea of a “Barefoot Geek” which is essentially anything I want it to be. 🙂

  • Ian Anderson says:

    Magazines are great for a relevant and relaxing read but regarding taking on too much; doesn’t it all depend on how good your ‘filters’ are for what constitutes a good idea?

    Failure does teach valuable lessons, mostly what not to try next time! Ergo, some ideas are best left unexplored in case they divert valuable time from better bets.

    The old adage of ‘man who chases two rabbits catches neither’ springs to mind!

  • Akshay Kapur says:

    We’re slowly returning to a world of generalists. The ability to wear many hats comes from exposing yourself to information, people, events, books, etc. Blogging and reading blogs has opened up a pandora’s box of opinions to sort through. It’s a great time to be alive.

  • Scott Webb says:

    “Renaissance life” — this is exactly what I’m doing on my site. This is so unreal that I’m coming across this. I seriously believe this is a new school of thought echoing across the net. I’ve got to review your other posts too.

  • Hi Chris,

    I totally agree about the YES strategy and would add that although subscribing to a bunch of magazines may open your horizon you sometimes want to

    1) Use the Berlitz immersion approach i.e. do one new thing and deep dive right into every aspect of it!

    2) Challenge yourself and your boundaries i.e. instead of doing as many credits as possible pick one that you are very interested in but that may demand working really hard to get!

    3) Get a mentor that teaches you how to twist a “no” into a “let me think about it and get back to you” since no matter what we think about our options out there the fact is that a day still has 24 hours – not one minute more – not one minute less. At some point you will have to make a choice just like Tiger Woods does!

    Good Luck

    Martin

  • Leah says:

    I agree that it is so important to say “yes” to whatever interests you. I think the key is to give yourself the opportunity to actually experience different ideas, activities, lifestyles in order to see if they resonate with you and feel good to you.
    (When I say experience I mean that you actually do it so that you know how it feels to you.)
    It is really easy to “think” that something is not for you….or is the answer to your problems…but until you actually have the experience of it, and feel how it feels to you, your really don’t know.

    Leah

  • Leah says:

    @Gary I have an opinion on saying ‘Yes’ verse saying ‘No’ .

    When you are in a place of exploration and discovery say ‘Yes’ to everything that catches your interest. If it catches your attention it means that you resonant with it in some way and it is always helpful to explore it. You will gain some great information about yourself even if you decide it is not for you.

    Once you know what your preferences are and what you want in life and from a particular part of your life…like your job or relationships.. then it is important to say ‘No’ to the stuff that does not measure up. This keeps you from settling for less than what you want.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Great post, but I wanted to react to this statement of yours: “I’m interested in simplicity and minimalism (more on that at some point), but not at the expense of missing anything. ”

    But we are always missing something, so perhaps part of the mastery you reference is learning what things you find acceptable to miss and which ones you’re not willing to sacrifice.

  • This post is a great way to jump start me into my day.

    I am really agreeing with embracing more instead standing back and imagining what it would be like if only you had more time/motivation/courage/believe that you can.
    I’ve called this year My Year of Learning—and although the impact of so many new concepts/skills coming at me at once can be overwhelming at times it feels so enriching.

    The world is full!

  • You know I love the Yes. I’m a big fan. When I decided to make a career change I spent years (four and counting) trying on all kinds of projects- and I did everything from launching an e-commerce site for artisanal food, to writing and pitching a TV pilot, to writing a book.

    I dig the renaissance life and I learned oodles and oodles of mega important things by just doing things and sinking and swimming. I learned things I couldn’t have figured out in any other way.

    However, at this point I find that being clearer about what I feel totally purpose driven about has been a better gauge. If I just float along chasing every new idea I have (I have a lot, like all day long), then I don’t have the focus or energy to dive deeply into the stuff I can truly make a difference in.

    At a certain point, if I want to have an impact (and I do!), I have to decide to become a Serena or a Tiger and prune away the stuff that’s ultimately just distractors.

  • Steve says:

    Great post Chris,

    I would recommend trying everything for fitness as well. For some people, running a marathon sounds fun. For others (including myself), that sounds like hell.

    If you want to get in shape, recognize that there are 1000s of ways to do it. Take a Capoeira class, then try rock climbing, then go to a cross-fit gym, then try hot yoga, then go running, then play ultimate Frisbee, then go lift weights. Find something that you like, or find 10 things that you like, and you’re far more likely to have some fun and stick with it.

    At the moment I’m a breakdancing, golfing, surfing, rock climbing, weight lifting, barefoot runner who is going to start muay thai, capoeria, and crossfit in the next two weeks. Eventually I’ll find the few things that I’m really good at that give me the most joy, and dedicate the most time to them….while still doing the other stuff that’s fun too.

    Life’s too short, try it all! Who knows what you’ll end up liking.

    -Steve

  • Saying “yes” to everything is great in certain circumstances. I go through phases where I am not busy enough, and other phases where I’m too busy. During the not-busy-enough phase, I am sometimes asked to commit my time to things I’m not interested in, and I feel that I don’t have a good reason to turn them down.

    During that phase, my best strategy is to pursue some of the things I’m really interested in, say “yes” to any number of my back-burner crazy projects, and then I’m much happier…and on my way to the other phase: too busy. When I’m so busy that I can’t find time for my top priorities, I pare down…and send myself back toward the first phase. 🙂

  • @Matthew

    I disagree about the classes part for a number of reasons.

    1. You are likely to get a lower GPA than if you took fewer classes. On your resume your GPA matters; however, no employer will ever have any idea about how many credits you took, nor would they care if they did.

    2. To really master a subject it takes more than just showing up for class. You need to dive in and explore the subject. That takes a lot of time. I’m not advocating that you spend a lot of your day playing video games, but that it is better to spend more time learning about fewer subjects.

    3. A lot of the courses in school, you will never use, and you will probably forget the material you used. However some will be intensely useful, and you will be in competition in the marketplace with people who also studied the subject.

    In computer science Data Structures is probably this course. You will use this knowledge every day, and most job interviews ask questions on this subject.

  • Mike says:

    I agree with Leah.

    I took 19-21 credit hours a term for three terms with 400 level courses, got married, and held two jobs. If I didn’t do it myself I wouldn’t believe it.

    If left to my own devices, I would run 20 websites, run my own business while helping other friends improve theirs, and start three more side businesses. I have learned that the quality suffers also.

    Test your limits to learn them, then you can push them but also check to see if you aren’t taking on so much just so you fail so it’s not your fault. Another little trick some of us do.

  • Ami says:

    Great topic and discussion.

    I completely agree with the “why not try” suggestion. I think so many people would be happier if they just tried things that they had not tried before or that they thought they were too old, or too young, too inexperienced or too worldly, too conservative or too liberated, too proper, etc. to try. But I disagree with trying “it all.” That way lies folly and frustration! Try the things that you are truly excited about – but give yourself time to really experience them and enjoy them and perhaps even develop some skill. I think that means limiting the overall number of activities to give yourself the luxury and the joy of really engaging with each new activity. Also, you don’t have to try them all at the same time – why not plan to rotate your interests over time? That way, you always have something new to learn and to look forward to.

  • Omar says:

    I believe trying new things makes one a better person. I never want to be trapped inside a box. Also, I like when people become bewildered when I try something. They think they know all facets of my character. But I just love learning and I want to continue having rich experiences.

  • Cian says:

    Thought provoking post. Keep up the great work!

  • Michelle W says:

    I’ve been sweating my little neurons off trying to work out what I should include in my little biz and blog, when I can create an all encompassing name (that’s a blog entry in itself). I’ve got uni degrees and experience in psychology, IT and communications (writing) and usually get frowns and disapproval from employers and sundry because ‘it’s not focused’. I’ve also travelled across the planet, back and across again. So many things are so damn interesting.

    And for so long I’ve thought what’s wrong with me. I’m a freak! And then here you are, so timely, writing what I need to hear and from the comments it’s great to know there’s others like me.

    I’m currently doing a small business course. At first, the trainer told me ‘you have to be realistic’. Now, she thinks I’m pretty ok since I’m the one that’s come up with the best written business plan and other students are asking me to help them. You’ve given me confidence to keep being eclectic me!

  • Haider says:

    An excellent article, Chris!

    (And some great comments as well!)

    As you know, I recently quit my job, but I don’t believe in pursuing only a single option. For one thing, there will always be a nagging feeling of whether you’ve made the right choice or not. If you didn’t take any step at all along some of the alternative paths, you will never really know.

    Besides, putting some of your interests on hold indefinitely can be so devastating that you won’t feel motivated to stick to the project you’ve chosen to focus on. I don’t see why people would want to experience such torture!

  • If you believe in the Law of Probabilities (much better in my opinion than the Law of Attraction) you know that even though you have a great idea and you work hard, you don’t know if you will be successful. Look around you. So many good people trying hard and failing over time. There is a random element to it. A lucky break. A chance encounter. Always.

    3 years ago I put all my might behind a business and I pushed hard to no avail. This year, I started with 3 ideas and one got the lucky break. I quickly dropped the other two to focus on ‘the’ one!

    That’s the reason I really do believe in what you are saying. I hope it helps others too.

  • Bullwinkle says:

    Here’s an article in the NYT about how disorientation “primes the brain” to think differently. I think its part of what you’re talking about with new experiences.

    Thanks for writing this one – today I bit off more than I can chew and it was a good thing.

  • I agree in principle with the idea of not limiting yourself, but for me personally I couldn’t do this. My brain is always full of ideas of new things to do and I love starting but hate finishing. If I don’t say “no” to most of the shiny new ideas (or say “yes but later”) then I’m continually starting things and never finishing them.

    If I want to finish anything I have to say “no” to a whole bunch of stuff until the “yes” is finished.

  • kid says:

    A bit late with the comment but been travelling and absolutely offline 🙂

    I agree that it’s very important to let yourself experience new things. And that’s how I want to see this post – as reminding us of this and of being wary of some popular sayings which are often taken/intended as general truths, while they can only be contextual.

    Which means that “saying yes to almost everything” can become similiar unwelcomed extreme. If I try things because I fear I might lose something, it is certain to burn me out shortly and leave in total disgust with myself.

    So I’m all for @Jeffrey advice of “learning what things you find acceptable to miss and which ones you’re not willing to sacrifice”, as a way of finding the right balance for yourself.

  • Loal says:

    Beleza!

    Concordo com todos vocês! Isso só é possível porque decidi que eu posso try it all!

    Abraços a todos!!!

  • I am working on it!

    I don’t want to overwhelm myself or my brain, so I’ve just stuck to taking out ONE book from the library to really read and think about for 3 weeks, and keeping my To Do lists small, at 3 items a day.

Your comments are welcome! Please be nice and use your real name.

If you have a website, include it in the website field (not in the text of the comment).

Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit Gravatar.com to get one.