She came to me with a long list. It included everything from guitar to history to classic cars to health and wellness to comedy, education, sports, screenwriting, poetry…
“I have a lot of interests,” she warned. “It might be impossible to fit all of these into one business…”
“Lets give it a shot,” I replied.
I do love a challenge.
What Mr. Mainstream Business Coach Would Say
Most business coaches would be thrilled with my student’s eclectic interests– so much to choose from! they would think. I mean, with all those interests, that’s like twenty potential niches! All we have to do is pick one (preferably the one she has the most expertise in or the one with the juiciest market) and position her as an authority in that one specific field. We’ll just focus in really tight…
Can you feel your heart beginning to race with anxiety, just from reading that? Um yea, me too.
But this is exactly how most business is taught.
The benefits of “niching it down” are so clear right? A website all about knitting! Attract all the crazy knitting fans of the world. Hurrah! Dog grooming– awesome! Pet fanatics will love it.
There’s only one problem. It’s called, WE ARE MULTIPOTENTIALITES AND WE’LL GET BORED AND QUIT.
What do you have to say now, great business guru? Oh, I suppose our string of abandoned niche sites are our fault since we’re indecisive. We never “truly committed”. Maybe we’re afraid. Maybe we’re self-sabotaging. It’s our fear. Resistance. Whatever it is, it’s our fault.
Is anyone else sick of this rhetoric?
An Alternative to the Niche Site: The Renaissance Business
One approach to business will never be right for everyone. How about instead of pushing everyone to choose a niche, we empower people to create the sorts of businesses that work with their personality?
Imagine a business that allows you to focus on many topics and use all of your skills. A business that is fueled by your multipotentiality. This is what I like to call the Renaissance Business.
Now I may have coined the term, but that doesn’t mean I invented the idea. Far from it. There are successful examples of Renaissance Businesses all around us: Apple (computers, phones, tv, music), Virgin (record label, airline, spaceship, phones), the Oprah brand (tv show, magazine, books)… These businesses all offer products and services in radically varied markets.
Renaissance Businesses Online
There are successful Renaissance Businesses online too. Take a look at this excerpt from Chris Guillebeau’s free manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success:
I chose to connect deep and wide on a number of related subjects. I tied them together in a theme (nonconformity, or “unconventional living”) but admittedly, the theme is fairly loose. I wanted to write about my adventures traveling to every country in the world, but I also wanted to present my outlook on life.
Rather than pigeonhole myself and choose one of these themes, I wanted to find a way to do it all. I knew it wouldn’t attract everyone, but as previously mentioned, attracting everyone is not an effective strategy.
Whether this is the best strategy for you or not depends. You should choose what’s important to you and your group of followers. It is probably easier to achieve success (remember, you define what this means, no one else) with a more specific niche. but in the long-run, I think I will attract more followers by doing what i know how to do best. For me, that is a mix of things — “unconventional strategies for Life, Work, and Travel” is what I call it — so that’s what I’ve stuck with.
I don’t know if Chris realized it at the time, but what he’s describing here is a Renaissance Business.
Coming Up with an Overarching Theme
The secret to focusing on many interests is having a cohesive overarching theme that links everything together. Chris’ overarching theme is non-conformity. Mine is multipotentiality+lifestyle design. Coming up with an overarching theme is really just a matter of seeking out patterns in your interests.
I go through a few different approaches in Renaissance Business and I walk you through some exercises to arrive at your own theme. One of the approaches I discuss is called the “Common Thread” approach. This is where you’ve got one core motivating force behind your interests– one thing that has driven you in the past to make the choices you’ve made.
My Student– the One with All the “Disconnected” Interests
As we worked through her list of interests, something jumped out at me. First of all, teaching was a big theme for her. In addition to formal teaching, she enjoyed explaining complicated ideas in fun, interactive ways through her design work.
She also cared deeply about educating people about health and wellness. She was funny, she loved writing songs, screenplays and poetry. She described herself as nerdy and a lover of analogies. There was something here…
The common thread I saw was accessibility. My student seemed to love taking an idea, transforming it and presenting it in an amusing, entertaining, creative way. I mean, that’s what art is about– taking an idea and expressing it in a way that moves people. It’s what teaching’s about. What’s more, it’s a skill she can bring to her discussions of history, health, sports.
Mixing in her Knack for Humor
We played with the idea a bit, going from “accessibility” to “accessibility through comedy” (she’s a very funny lady. Everything she creates will be hilarious).
There we had it. Her community would be a space where people could come and learn about art, culture, history, etc. in a way that’s quirky and easy to grasp.
Now this was only our first coaching session. I have no idea how the idea will grow and evolve. It might stay the same or it might change dramatically. But this is just an example of how your interests, no matter how unrelated they seem, can absolutely be linked up thematically. It just takes a bit of introspection and unpacking.
If you have your own Renaissance Business or blog, what’s your overarching theme? How do you link all the different topics together?
If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out the Renaissance Business Guide.