Renaissance Man or Master of None?
Successful Entrepreneur

Modern Polymath Artists and Succeeding at all the things you love...

We've all heard the saying "Jack of all trades, master of none." I want to explore that concept for a moment as it haunts me. How true is that statement in this digital day and age where we have to multitask our efforts? Is there something wrong with being a Renaissance Man, or Woman?

I make a pretty good living with a camera compared to most photographers or filmmakers I know, and upon introduction to just about anyone I meet I am always asked "what do you shoot?". I always pause at that moment in a state of confusion because I am truly undefined, always have been, and kind of like it that way.

Some people could easily answer that questions with the likes of "I am a wedding photographer, or a portrait photographer, or a fashion photographer," etc... but I cannot. However, as a photographer with 25 years of a career behind me, I have done it all shooting celebrity portrait covers for International magazines, weddings, fashion, runway, ad campaigns, travel, and more. Looking ahead to the next 25 years, I have no plans to narrow my focus and typecast myself either. I'll even take this notion further than that as I am also a filmmaker, painter, book maker, print artist, musician, writer, and entrepreneur. 

Many other well known, and supposedly successful, photographers and entrepreneurs out there on the speaking circuit preach to their audiences "be great at one thing in order to maximize success." I've heard this my entire career, and it's always left me a bit perplexed. I do understand where they are coming from, but to a person like me it sounds more like a life sentence to utter boredom. I can agree that you have to focus 90% of your energy on succeeding at one thing first, but once you have a touch of stability there is nothing wrong with diversifying your business or your artistic genres. In fact I prefer each day to be a mystery, and enjoy that my clients are willing to challenge me with new ideas to conquer.

If we take a look around the art, or business world for that matter, you'll understand my concern. Here is a quick list of names of people who are the epitome of success that contradict this theory quite well.

  1. Andy Warhol 
    _Painter, Photographer, Filmmaker, Lithographer, to name a few..

  2. Donald Trump 
    _Builder, Actor, Hotelier, Business Leader

  3. Richard Branson 
    _Music, Airlines, Luxury Travel, Mobile Phones

  4. Ben Franklin 
    _Inventor, Writer, Scientist

  5. Leonardo da Vinci 
    _Painting, Architecture, Sculpting, Music

  6. Steve Jobs 
    _Inventor, Designer, Coder, Business Leader

  7. Pharrell Williams 
    _Artist, Musician, Designer

  8. Justin Timberlake 
    _Music Artist, clothing Designer, Producer Writer, Actor

  9. Hugh Jackman 
    _Screen Actor, Broadway Actor, Dancer, Singer

  10. Viggo Mortensen 
    _ Painter, Poet Actor, Photographer

I won't begin to place myself in the same category or league as many of the above people. However, they are proof that there are individuals and artists who can, and do excel by tapping into a wide variety of personal interests. 

In my personal experience, exploring other artistic avenues has enhanced my photography in incredible ways. Painting and filmmaking has allowed me to learn to see composition and light differently. Having musical interests has helped me in the video editing/sound editing arena. They all compliment one another in some way, and this diversity has allowed me to travel the world on assignments exploring them all. Diversity isn't a bad thing in my personal opinion, even though it does come with its own unique growing pains. With that said, here are a few things that have helped me survive, and succeed along the way.

Tips to surviving as a Renaissance Man...

1. Succeed at one thing first...

Don't feel as though you can't explore all of your interests or turn them into businesses at some point. But, place most of your energy on one thing until you are confident in your financial ability to shift your focus.

2. Diversify in beneficial order...

Diversifying can be good business. If you see a way that a second or third interest can benefit your number one talent, it may be a good business to get into.

3. Make sure your machine is well oiled...

If you plan to explore other interests make sure your original business is capable of running without you. However, never take your eye off the ball, stay involved, and have meetings with your staff weekly if not daily. Always remain the face of your work or your business, and stay out in front.

4. Be realistic...

Everybody wants to be a rock god, but if like me, your more talented at photography than you are with a guitar be real about your expectations.

5. Be prepared to fail...

As with anything you try, you will fail miserably at some dreams you chase. There are a few things that I have diversified into myself that didn't pan out due to timing, market shift, or lack of money to see it through. But, you learn from them so you never really lose. Lastly... Avoid the pitfalls of debt with your second, third, or fourth ventures and grow at a rate that doesn't risk it all unless you are absolutely certain you will succeed.

Are you succeeding, or attempting to succeed as a Renaissance Man or Woman? Join the conversation... What's your take on this topic?

Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.