Sunday, April 6, 2008

JWN: Be a Renaissance Person

Be a Renaissance Person

By: Joseph W. Norman

Some say, “Variety is the spice of life.” So, why not mix things up a little bit for yourself?

When people ask me what I do, it is hard to answer plainly. Often I’ll respond, “I’m a little all over the shop.” They generally prod further, so to prevent boredom with brevity I go into explaining whatever project is on the forefront in my life and leave it at that.

Some talk about career choices and
argue their fulfillment with the statement, “Every day is different here.” This is great, but when you look at the big picture you might be caught in the same old routine nine to five.

When I interact with or read about truly successful people, they are the ones that are “all over the shop.” Many brilliant business people are Shakespeare fans, including legendary investor Warren Buffett. Why? I’m sure he recognizes the great writing, but also because if he only studied business, he would probably go insane.

There is an air of creativity that comes from expanding your mind into different, challenging avenues. I study English but I take pride in my business know how and entrepreneurship. My favorite side reading might be Ralph Waldo Emerson or Martin Amis, but that doesn’t mean I can’t manage the Finance Club and Student Managed Investment Fund well.

FUN FACT: Our current Secretary of the Treasury and former Goldman Sachs’ CEO, Henry Paulson, received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Dartmouth.

So, what does it all boil down to? As VIP Jeremy Grace would say, “It’s about staying curious.” You need to constantly push your mind towards new limits.

In my pursuits, I have helped lead local and international economic development initiatives, co-founded a popular eZine, analyzed financial risk at a major regional investment firm, key note spoke at a national high school organization’s district conference, and acted in a variety of musicals. All of this while studying English.

What has this schizophrenic life taught me? It’s crucial to invest time in things that interest you. When I get sparked by something, I go after it.

Here are a few rewards of putting yourself out there;

You get to know a lot of people in different capacities. This means you don’t get pigeon holed by only knowing people at your day job. With every new project I embark on, I meet countless new unique people.

You can relate to people better. When you take the renaissance approach, then you will almost always find something in common with anybody you meet.

You can more easily connect with people. As a result of relating to people better, you can more easily connect with them and build a lasting relationship.

Your mind stays fresh. One of my neighbors and former lawn care clients, Marge Medovich, is probably the sharpest 85 year old I know. Why? She constantly reads and studies new and interesting concepts that invigorate her.

People are more apt to respect you. The most brilliant people I know have the most diverse backgrounds. Case in point: A personal favorite professor of mine and VIP, Dr. Harry Howe, teaches accounting at Geneseo (amongst other things) but started as a sculptor and commercial contractor in New York City.

So, now that you know the benefits of taking a renaissance approach to life, what can you do?

Get involved with a project that interests you. This does not have to, and should NOT, relate to your day job. Satisfy your curious mind with something new and different.

Take an active approach to learn something new everyday. Many people say this, but they think it will just happen passively. Make it a point to sit down on a daily basis and put thirty minutes into a new concept or book that interests you.

Join a local organization you’re passionate about. If possible, take a board seat! Make it an intimate part of your life and I guarantee you will find fulfillment.

Make new friends. Getting involved with more circles of friends will indubitably add some variety to your life. Everybody brings something different to the table. Don’t keep eating the same meal with the same people!

All of these things will put you on the path towards the renaissance lifestyle. It is crucial to stay curious in life! Make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut of sameness because the power of YOU is best leveraged with exposure to new people and ideas.

Joseph W. Norman, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Notable and Newsworthy can be reached at or 607.743.8569. He offers speaking engagements and personal coaching and is always up for a "business lunch." To receive the weekly eZine, The VIP Profiles, email or visit