Days 214 to 223 The Multi-Passionate Life and Refusing to Choose

Hey now, I need you to read something, because when I read it myself for the first time, I thought, “Holy shizzle. I freakin’ KNEW it!” :

“You are the owner of a remarkable, multi-talented brain trying to do its work in a world that doesn’t understand who you are and doesn’t know why you behave as you do.”- Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose.

I know, right? Home sweet home!

The above quote is an excerpt from Barbara Sher’s book about “multi-passionate” people, Refuse to Choose. Some examples of multi-passionates are people like Leonardo DaVinci who was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and writer; or Mary Somerville who wrote on astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, mineralogy, and geology; or perhaps you, who might be a yogini massage therapist who also had a stint in acupuncture school then worked as a nurse and as an international climbing guide…oh wait, that’s kinda me…

In any event, when I discovered the term multi-passionate, this term that explained me and my wild ways in a strikingly positive light, I almost cried. I have had so many passions and managed to piece them together in a mandala of sorts that works for me. Even though I have a truly amazing life, for most of it I often felt judged. I felt like people thought I was lazy, or scattered, a dilettante, Jack of All Trades (Master of None), unable to focus…”Why can’t she just pick one thing and stick to it?”

In fact, years ago, I walked in on one of my exes searching the internet for a diagnosis of me. Of ME! He was a surgeon, and surely there must have been a reason that I chose not to spend 10+ years in school as well. He decided I likely had ADD. Um, except I didn’t. People with ADD can’t maintain relationships, they crash their cars, they can’t focus, etc.

I, on the other hand, had the following resume (and thank you, Tia Sparkles, for inspiring me to share my resume):

1991-1996 – Outdoor Recreation Instructor/Leader

1992-2004 – Professional Alpine Mountaineering Guide in the US and internationally

1991 – 1996 – Official campus New York Times paper girl

1996-2002 – Professional Massage Therapist with my own practice as well as working for others as an independent contractor

2004-present – Family Nurse Practitioner

2008-20010 – Yoga Instructor

2007-present – Certified Nurse Midwife

20010 – present – Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and Freedom Junkie (I do this more now that the medical stuff, but I just LOOOOOOOVE catching babies and being fascinated by the human body. There is a lot to be passionate about within both coaching and the medical field, so they keep me quite content;)

Notice the aforementioned mandala of careers which overlap so I can do things my way. Not once did I just have one job. Total time in full-time jobs (during which I still had other stimulating jobs, mostly entrepreneurial)? 5 years. Not bad after 39 years in the USA submerged in the Protestant Work Ethic that founded this country.

I, my dears, have laser focus. I can obsess day and night about something for a really long time. Years even. While ’tis true that many multi-passionates also have ADD (and its associated co-morbidities), it wasn’t attention decifit that I had, darlin’. But more on that later. And yes, I left that relationship.

It also wasn’t that I did many things and sucked at them and got distracted. Au contraire, mon amie. Quite the opposite: I made sure to get into the best schools for everything I studied, and get very competitive jobs (here and internationally) and excel, start my own businesses and thrive, yada yada. Quite simply, what tended to happen was that once I felt I got quite good/knowledgeable at something, this “hideous thing” reared its ugly head which I – as an only and often lonely child – vowed to never experience on a regular basis if my lil’ ol’ self had anything to do with it: BOREDOM (gasp!).

So here is what usually happens with a multi-passionate (aka polymath):

  • You notice that bright shiny object (aka new passion)
  • Then uber-obsession kicks in and you think about it all the freakin’ time
  • Take a deep breath and dive in, baby. Learn all you can. Swim in that shizzle.
  • Start doing said thang
  • And eventually, once you got this/learned “enough,” you may ditch it, quickly finish it up/get it over with, or add another passion to the list

Below are other characteristics of multi-passionates that I’ve gathered from some of my reading lately. See if they apply to you or someone you know:

Multi-passionates love to learn.

Multi-passionates read widely in divergent and not-always-complementary disciplines. Like how what I’m reading now ranges from a revisiting of Martha Beck’s Steering By Starlight, Michael Benavov’s Men of Salt, about a man’s journey along the Sahara’s ancient salt trade route, and the Green Journal of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Seriously. However, as Susan Reid puts it,  “The natural tendency to do so is often what brings about the formulation of brilliant discoveries, new applications, and luminous collaborations.” Word up, yo.

Multi-passionates are badass master mixers/synthesizers. Duh! We know a lot about a lot! They can bring together seemingly disparate ideas and thoughts in remarkable ways.

Multi-passionates have the ability to focus on a given topic for a long period— wait: caveat – that is, as long as is necessary to learn what they need to know. Then they move on. This powerful focus is not to the exclusion of everything else. Rather, it is a stepping-stone to the next thing!

Multi-passionates kick ass at generating ideas. They think conceptually first.

Whew! So there you have it. You’re fine just the way you are.

Oh wait! One more thing: Lots of us multi-passionates freak out about having to choose one thing. The point here? To let you know you don’t have to choose one thing. You can create a mandala like I did, fitting in multiple passions at once. You can drop into one passion for awhile and then move on to the next when you’re ready. Don’t worry about “having” to pick one. Lots of us think we’ll get stuck in one particular thing. You don’t have to, OK? Like the title of Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose. Go head and pick up a copy for some basic tips on how to eactly do that, or contact me for some multi-passionate coaching!

I’d love to hear if there are more of you multi-passionates out there. Pray do tell in the comments area below. How have you made multi-passionism work for you, or what has been your biggest challenge around it? My guess is many of us Freedom Junkies can totally relate to this concept;)

Full On 365Alright. Now that I’ve gotten off my soapbox about that, what has this lady been doing the past 9 days to live Full On? Well, we finished building the bathhouse and almost finished the chick shack, had a party at the yurt, caught babies for a couple of days, created my new upcoming workshop called (guess!) The Chick Shack, where kickass women will gather to talk all things relationship (keep an eye out for more!).

Now I am in the Pribilof Islands (aka The Galapagos of The North) for 3 weeks. Here, I will be helping to serve the wonderful people in this local village, do some coaching (yay internet/skype!), finish prepping for my workshop, make a list for to-dos before my 2+ months Africa trip, meditate, do yoga, and stop PMS-ing which is getting soooooo old for me right now;) I am on the island of St. Paul, which is the home of the largest fur-seal colony in the world, and also hosts 2 million birds. Yup.

Full On juicy, I say!

Below are some pics of this stunning place (and this is only Day 2 here!). For a cool video of a fur seal talking, click here. And tell me below – is this where Chewbacca got his voice?

10-4. Over and out.

local Russian Orthodox church
St. Paul
on the road out to the fur seal rookeries


beautiful crabpots and yes, you probably saw this island on “Deadliest Catch”


Note: Ana Neff is a life coach, guide and Freedom Junkie™ She helps passionate people awaken their lives of freedom, adventure and purpose. Her monthly Freedom Junkie™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her “Full-On 365” blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)!