Help! I want to Combine my Interests in One Business, where Should I Start?
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Help! I want to Combine my Interests in One Business, where Should I Start?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business, Work

Every now and then I like to take a question from the Puttylike email bag and share my answer with the community. I thought this question was particularly relevant to multipods.

Brett writes,

“I guess I’m looking for a little advice… I’m extremely creative, and I love to draw, paint, sculpt, and even make stuffed dolls and animals. I also have a background in environmental sciences and ecology, and in fact, I taught both Fresh Water & Coastal Ecology to middle schoolers. I’d somehow like to combine my artistic passion with my love for nature, and somehow turn that into profit. I don’t however, have any solid ideas on how to combine them. Do you have any tips, or even ideas on how to get a plan started? I just hate working for other people. I want to be in control of my own life, and I’m tired of depending on my employers who see me as merely a number, not a person.”

Having just given a seminar on the topic of smooshing many interests into one career, I definitely have some thoughts on this subject.

Coming up with a business that blends together many subjects requires some active introspection and brainstorming. It involves exploring your intersections, and thinking about how you can use your unique mishmash of interests in service of something you care about. It’s hard work, but it’s also fun work. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Create a Master List of Interests

Get out a piece of paper or open up your favorite word processor. Write down every single passion, interest, obsession, project, and curiosity that you can think of that has ever struck your fancy. Include both past pursuits and current fascinations.

It doesn’t matter if you spent years studying a subject, or whether it was just a fleeting interest. You never know how something might be relevant. Think about Steve Jobs and how that one calligraphy class he took in college was the inspiration for the beautiful typeface of the Apple computer years later. Jobs was by no means a calligraphy master, but even a very rudimentary knowledge of the subject was enough to have real application elsewhere.

Multipotentialites have a tendency to discredit their accomplishments, so here’s a rule I want you to follow: if you are unsure of whether to include something in your list, include it.

Exercises to Help You Brainstorm

Once you have created your Master List, it’s time to brainstorm. When I’m trying to generate creative ideas, I usually like to brainstorm in chunks, even just 10 minutes a day, and let my subconscious mull things over in between. It’s unlikely that you’ll get your answer in one brainstorm, so keep at it. It’s really a process. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

1. Can knowledge from one of your interests help people related to a second interest of yours?

Start pairing together interests on your page. Would your knowledge of neuroscience be helpful to public speakers? Could your passion for nutrition be of use to writers?

Try out as many intersections as possible. Some of them will seem silly (scuba diving for dance instructors anyone?), but others might result in some unexpectedly brilliant pairings.

Some examples:

2. Can you use One Medium to Explore Multiple Subjects?

Is there a particular medium that you’re comfortable with, that you could use as a lens to explore multiple topics? A lot of writers fall under this category. They write a book about one subject, then they write another book about a totally unrelated subject. The medium (writing) stays the same, but the subject matter changes.

Some examples:

3. Can you use Multiple Formats to Explore One Theme or Idea

This is the opposite approach to the last one. Instead of using one medium to explore multiple areas, you’re taking one grand idea and communicating it through several formats.

Is there is an idea that you care deeply about, something that could inspire or help people? This is your Why, or overarching theme, and you should know it, even if you use one of the other methods for arriving at your business idea.

Some Examples:

I have a feeling that this last approach might work well for Brett. Brett works in a variety of different media: drawing, painting, sculpting, making stuffed animals, and TEACHING (that’s a big one). He also seems to care deeply about a particular issue: nature.

Perhaps he could share his knowledge of ecology with others by creating an educational website like Interactive Biology, but on the topic of the environment. Since he enjoys making visual art, he might use drawings and paintings to explain the concepts rather than video.

Maybe he could do something like Charity: Water, and use his artistic talents in service of his own environmental charity. Hell, he could even make and sell his own stuffed animals, use them in illustrated stories/lessons about endangered species, and have a portion of the profits go to an environmental charity. I’m just throwing around ideas, but there’s a lot to work with here.

The Importance of Adding Value

What’s most important when coming up with business ideas, is to think about how the combination of your interests can add value to other people’s lives. It’s this value that people will pay for, and it’s also what will make your work fulfilling.

There are many ways to add value. You can help people, inspire people, heal people, educate people, or entertain people. All of these are ways to make people’s lives a little easier or more exciting.

Your Turn

How do you (or will you) smoosh together your interests to bring value into other people’s lives?

***

For more exercises and worksheets to help you figure out your overarching theme, be sure to check out Renaissance Business.

13 Comments

  1. This is a great post! I’ve been working on the meshing interests and figuring out what I want to do with my life for about two years now. Though I don’t have a solid idea, making lists, practicing the things you’re good at, and being open to new ideas have all changed my life. When the ultimate goal is to find your calling, your awareness opens up and you start catching little nuances. You encounter people and experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and it’s inspiring. Rather that “graduate school” flashing at the end of the tunnel (in my case), I see qualities I want–continual opportunities to learn, see the world, write, spend my time with brilliant people…and we realize that there are many paths to achieve those desired qualities.

    A few friends at WDS told me about your site, it’s so relevant to my own journey, so thanks you. I’ve been loving it!

    • Emilie says:

      Super nice to meet you, Erin. I really like what you said. I’ve found that I’m continuously learning things about myself and tweaking my approach as I go. Opportunities present themselves if you’re looking for them and they can take you down totally unexpected, and amazing paths.

      See you at WDS next year, I hope!

  2. This is such an awesome breakdown of how to combine/integrate interests into your work!

    I LOVE traveling, adventure + climbing. I also love working with people to help them create freedom in their lives and live on their own terms. For me, it’s all about creating a lifestyle first for myself, and centering my business around that. I work from my laptop anywhere in the world, and have created this business model because I knew that if I didn’t have the freedom to do the things I love to do, I’d go crazy and my business would suffer.

    Making room in your biz to do the things you love to do is SO key!

    Awesome post :)

    • Emilie says:

      That’s awesome, Rebecca! It sounds like you’ve done a great job of crafting a career that allows you to be yourself, do what you love, and get paid for it. Also, I dig your branding. Flashy! Nice.

  3. Brett says:

    Emilie,

    Thanks so much for replying to me in a blog post! I’ve brainstormed, per your instruction, and have reopened an Art Print Shop on Etsy (Which can be seen here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/GeekChicPrinting )! Of course, this is just the beginning of my new plan. I also plan to turn my art prints into somewhat of an educational program once I have the resources available.

    Thanks again!
    -Brett

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Brett,

      Awesome! Good luck with everything, and thanks for the inspiration for this post. Keep me posted on how it all goes.

    • Dale says:

      Hey Brett there used to be a local artist (painting and wood sculpture) based in an owl sanctuary in my town. He had a degree in biology and used to volunteer with the birds and public. He eventually got an on-site workshop where visitors would watch him work and buy his artworks. He would also design and make their gift range that visitors could purchase and gained alot of private commissions from visitors.

      My sister volunteered at the owl sanctuary and was inspired by him to pursue a degree in fine art.

      Not sure if you find this helpful.

  4. Ruth P says:

    I have only recently found your blog but I just wanted to say how helpful I am finding it! I’m working my way through some older posts and it’s really encouraging me to look at things in a new way. I have always struggled thinking my blog or business should be about one thing and one thing only, but now I’m thinking I’ll be a lot better if I stop trying to limit myself like that. So just wanted to say thanks, going to carry on reading now ;)

  5. I find that using Mindmaps to map out interests is useful. Since our interests don’t tie together linearly, looking at them as in terms of their relationships is a good way to see how things intersect.

  6. Petr says:

    It’s good to see Brett’s comment!

    I like anything that’s creative – music, writing song lyrics and fiction, photography (live music, travel, fashion), painting, web design, and probably more. It’s a big blur – I have so many ideas going around in my head at any one time and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m attempting to learn French too. I’m not even bothered about making a business out of it, I’d just like to be able to spend more time doing it (I also work full time). I was hoping to set up a website with all these different things but it’s so difficult to not make it all about me, looking like a CV. I know I can combine writing, travel and photography, and obviously the web design would tie in. Does all the things I’ve listed have a place on one website? I’ve read quite a few of your posts but am still stuck. Also I get distracted easily and waste too much time.

  7. Lucy says:

    I have just come across this site after I had typed in the space bar, how do i go about merging several (still in the process of set-up) businesses together as one, to be both economically balancing and rewarding, the ideas I have if merged into one or separate could create a potential mass employee referral from the job center or that in general. I could on approximation say that my idea/s could create over 500 job opportunities. It is a lonely process despite my partner being by my side and accepting and supporting every decision I make. I like others need a release and believe I may have found my place in society after all.
    I am fully aware of what I want to do, there so far 3 avenues of research that is in depth and width needed, I also have other avenues that need to be explored further before I can fully make this massive step to merge all of these into one. Its been a long slog so far and I can estimate that I have so far dedicated at least 150 hours of frantic research into these ideas. As I explore one, another creeps up to bite my tush quite hard, but the teeth marks still remain and don’t wish to part haha. Good luck with your ideas and for anyone who says it can’t be done, remember one specific thing, IF IT CAN FIT IN YOUR HEAD IT CAN FIT ON PAPER! Good Luck Guys, Lucy. Over and Out x

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