September 13th, 2010
02:32 PM ET

Why not try it all

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

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.

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.

Editor’s Note: Chris Guillebeau writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Follow Chris's live updates from every country in the world at @chrisguillebeau.

Filed under: Chris Guillebeau
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Learning is fun and you never know how something you learn today will help you tomorrow – at some point it all starts to come together and gives you a fuller perspective on any problem or other task of work you are doing. I used to think that taking so many different courses in different disciplines demonstrated a lack of focus – 20 years later I appreciate all the different classes I took; they have added immeasurably to my life experience.

    September 13, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  2. Michele Gomis

    I agree wholeheartedly with your essay, in fact it's advice I've given my (now grown) kids. Trying to apply it now that I am in the first months of retirement.

    September 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  3. matt

    sounds like a great way to work yourself into the loony bin. I've been there, and it doesn't work like that. Launch four businesses? SURE I'll just dial my day up to sixty hours from twenty-four and add a couple of days to the week for all the admin and phone calls I'll be making. Oh, no really that's no trouble. I'll just juggle my four businesses with my new hobbies, my new instruments, my book groups, oh and don't forget that I've made commitments to all of these things so I will have to keep up with them until (dies of heart failure and brain aneurysm both at the same time ((why not keep at multitasking even in death?)))

    September 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  4. Elizabeth Wren

    In the spirit of this blog post, what advice would you give to a recent college graduate with broadcast journalism aspirations? The market is tough and I am confident that if I could just get my foot in the door for an interview anywhere I could get the job. It's just tough to get the interviews right now. Thanks!

    September 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Scott Cole

    You're right – try it all. How many of us know what we really want to do before we get out of high school or college? How many of us change careers one or more times? You don't know until you try something – then drop it like a hot potato and try something else.
    (Besides, for writers, we're just naturally interested in everything.)

    September 13, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  6. JDRoach

    This was really helpful,This has given me the more "Drive" to pursue my music career,but also makes me want to learn how to play several musical instruments.I have nothing to add here,this was totally perfect in my perspective

    September 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm |