The Modern Renaissance Person
By Shane Sasnow
At the 2010 Cre8Camp in Portland Oregon I facilitated a conversation about what it means to be a modern renaissance person. It was an interesting and informative conversation overall.
We talked about what it meant to be a renaissance man historically, how modern renaissance people differ from the historical model, peoples personal experiences as ‘renaissance’ types in the modern world, what it means and how to enact it. One of the things I find most interesting is that it’s impossible to really be a renaissance person because the renaissance is long past. In another few hundred years they will look back upon our time and see a few geniuses and label them something…but it probably wont be ‘renaissance person’.
The group offered these characteristics of the original renaissance men:
- They had patrons
- Multiple or spectrum of talents
- They spanned what we now define as arts and science
- Outside the box
Then the group added these characteristics for the modern ‘renaissance’ person:
- Risk taker
- Cutting/bleeding edge
- Culturally curious
- Well connected
- Specialist in 3 to 4 fields
- Jack of all trades (variety of box oriented things)
- Understanding their capacities
After hearing stories from many of the audience members some themes showed up about being a modern creative (possible renaissance type person):
- Corporate structure is detrimental.
- Some people are able to get more done and sleep less (this is an advantage).
- We are aggressive learners and like to be constantly stimulated; which is great and dangerous in a world where information is endless and fascinating (both an advantage and a disadvantage simultaneously) and runs the risk of keeping you from ever producing anything because we spend our time learning everything.
- It’s challenging to sell “new” (just learned and good) skills when people expect expertise only from years of experience.
- We are able to identify a huge list of things we don’t want to, or can’t, learn.
- It’s so easy to dabble in many things how do you differentiate yourself as a skillful modern renaissance person?
- We are largely sole proprietors and entrepreneurs…some by choice and some because there is no other way to function in the world.
- It’s challenging to sell yourself when you have a non-traditional skill set mix.
The finale of the conversation was determining how to be effective as a modern renaissance person:
- Find a balance between intake (learning) and output (creating).
- PASSION is KEY in everything you do.
- 2-4 areas of high level specialized skill based on your passion (with the understanding that some skill sets will become obsolete or outdated and may need to be replaced)
- Don’t be too humble…you got to get your stuff (whatever it is) out there for people to see…get a portfolio.
In the end the title is unimportant. What is important is that you CREATE, CREATE, CREATE. Once you have mastered some skills well enough to execute them effectively use them to make stuff. Then cross pollinate your skill sets and make stuff that others haven’t made before.
To all who were involved in the conversation, Thank you. It was most enjoyable.