6 things to watch out for with Renaissance thinking

‘One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.’  Anthony Robbins

I’m hoping the past couple of blog posts have persuaded you to give Renaissance thinking a go. But you do have to be careful when applying it to creating legacy. Renaissance thinking can also work tricks on you. Here are 6 things to watch out for:

1. Don’t become ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’. The whole idea with Renaissance thinking is that you become an expert in more than one area. Don’t only focus on gaining a superficial understanding of lots of different things. Sometimes it’s better not to know anything about an area than to have misleading information about it due to knowing too little about it.

 2. Remember the Hedgehog Concept. Try to tie every new bit of knowledge you learn in the different areas back to your overriding Hedgehog Concept. This is how you capitalise on the power of Renaissance thinking, by being able to make connections that are fresh and exhilarating to others, and therefore have the ‘stickiness factor’.

 3. Be an active not a passive reader. What I mean by that you should always think of how to immediately use what you’re reading, especially in the case of non-fiction (though I usually also read fiction in this way – I always pick out little stylistic things, new words, story structures etc. that I can use in my own writing). For example, biographic material by other people is great for using in speeches, to illustrate particular ideas you are trying to convey; sticky concepts such as ‘Trust Agents’ (a concept used by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith and the title of their book), ‘Resistance’ (the concept popularised by Steven Pressfield in ‘The War of Art’), ‘Linchpin‘ (the title of Seth Godin’s new book), the lizard brain (a concept often used by Seth Godin), even the term ‘sticky’ (as used by Chip and Dan Heath in their book ‘Made to stick’) are all excellent for illustrating your own arguments in blog posts, speeches, essays, and whatever else you write, in addition of course to applying these concepts to your own life.

 4. Don’t let reading distract you from creating your own stuff. The great stuff about reading is that it broadens the mind and gives you a lot of material to draw from in creating your own (see point 3 above). But spending too much of your time reading can also distract you from being a legacy creator in your own right (i.e. creating your own material, working on your legacy project etc.). If all you do is read other people’s material, others won’t be able to benefit from the insights you have developed through reading. It’s important you give something back. Find a routine for splitting creating vs. reading that works for you. For example, I prefer to work on my own legacy projects first thing in the morning, when my mind is really fresh, and read in the evenings, or on Saturdays (my day off). 

 5. Be strategic. Renaissance thinking is often about learning new things from other areas of expertise that you might be able to use in your own. But don’t spend time learning stuff that doesn’t relate to your Hedgehog Concept and that you can easily delegate. For example, as a lot of what I do happens on the web, I was tempted to learn programming languages that would enable me to create my own web templates, build my own websites etc. But web programming doesn’t interest me and it doesn’t really fit with my Hedgehog Concept. So in the end, I decided to delegate that aspect of things to someone else, leaving me free to concentrate on writing good content.

6. Don’t let new interests detract you from completing your current legacy projects. Especially after the honeymoon phase on a legacy project, when the novelty has worn off, you will often develop new interests in quite a different area. This is fine and can be really useful in nurturing an atmosphere of growth in your life, but don’t forget that you still have to finish your current legacy project – no matter how tempting it is to abandon it so you can dedicate all your time to learning about this exciting new area. The legacy project cycle happens on all projects – so abandoning your current project in favour of something fresh and new is then likely to lead to abandoning this second project once you grow tired of it, and jumping like this from project to project without any real achievement in any of your endeavours. Most of us love to learn new things, and I think it is important to cultivate new interests when the novelty of your current project has worn off, but don’t let this need for growth make you forget that you have a responsibility to finish what you have started.  As with point 5 above, it is probably best if you work on your current legacy project during those times in the day when your mind is at its most active, so you make as much progress as possible; and learn about the exciting new area you have discovered when you are taking breaks, or in the evenings, when you are winding down.  

Renaissance thinking can be great when used wisely. Just make sure you don’t use it as a way to escape current commitments, or to dip in and out of different subjects without mastering anything in-depth. As a legacy creator, you have to constantly monitor your levels of motivation for working on your current project, and make sure you don’t let Renaissance thinking detract you from creating something of value. Learning new things is usually a lot more fun than putting something you already know inside out into a shape that will benefit others – acknowledge that, and plan accordingly. Make the best use of Renaissance thinking, and use it to continually push your mind and abilities further every day.

The time is now.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com