I am a career casanova

Appropriating artwork in my co-work space

That moment when you feel awfully unaccomplished at the cusp of your mid-thirties. Despite holding three degrees and lauded with awards in the past, the last ten years have all felt like a series of dramatic breakups — with my careers.

“You manage to be a loyal romantic guy with me, but with your careers, you’re like the biggest manslut, changing your mind on what you ‘want to do’ every couple of years and having to start from the bottom and work your way up,” my partner-in-love and serial collaborator once commented a few months ago.

She’s right. I am a career casanova. From developing websites back in the ’90s to working on rural sanitation development projects in Ecuador, my manic ability to be interested in, grasp quickly and make a contribution is a well established modus operandi.

I have often heeded the late Mohammed Ali’s declaration: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” I dive into career risk and uncertainty like Kendrick Lamar dives into his swimming pool: right into the intoxicating fantasy that the unknown can be. However I inevitably find a reason not to pursue the particular path I am on, even if I showed some measure of acumen for it. I let my curious fascinations carry me to the next completely-different industry. All of this leads me to wonder if I lack the resolve, determination and self control to really make it.

Maybe I am just a polymath, waiting for my genius to break out

Carl Djerassi might instead call me a professional dabbler. Professor of chemistry, inventor of “the pill” and well-read novelist, Djerassi makes the distinction between “professional dabblers” and “intellectual polygamists”. The intellectual polygamist makes a real commitment and contribution to a field or area separate from another. A professional dabbler is more of a promiscuous semi-expert moving from topic to topic than a true universal genius. I am, like it or not, the later.

Perhaps the most gnawing part: Career casanova thoughts distract me constantly. As I write (presently), I become enamored with writing and ponder it as a profession, steeling myself against reading self-publishing blogs to get my awesome new novel I haven’t thought up yet out to the masses. If I’m researching legal issues, or reading a particularly well-crafted legal opinion, I start thinking of going back to law school (yeah I tried that too). A few years ago I completed my Masters in Urban Planning. During the program I co-wrote and directed a three-hour musical, so upon graduating, I promptly tanked any sort of path into urban planning by coming to Los Angeles to launch myself at the perilous entertainment industry. When selling and promoting indie films, as is my current manifestation, a nagging intuition that this whole direct marketing thing could be done so much better makes me want to start my own business. Schizophrenic, right?

Others have written extensively about generalist vs. specialists and how the real movers and shakers are actually the Generalizing-Specialists and Specializing-Generalists. I’ve got the generalist part down… but if I really am just a ‘professional dabbler,’ then am I doing more harm than good at exploring so much by diving into it at a career level? Some research indicates that more breadth results in higher incomes and better job offers — but that’s also measuring generalizing within a specialized industry.

Maybe it is time to make like a river and stick on the path of least resistance — to keep doing what I am doing.

To translate the success I had at an academic level to a professional one it may be time to settle down and figure out how to get rid of the career casanova in me. To focus and use my broad knowledge to be great at something and treat everything else as a hobby rather than trying to get a job doing it. My problem has never been having the courage to take on new risks, but the courage to risk staying the course.

It’s settled then, I’m getting a tattoo that reads Nihil boni sine labore* and becoming a full-time poet.


*Nothing good comes without work.

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