The Benefits of Being a Dilettante


Being a Dilettante

I want to start of by saying that today’s post is inspired by J.D. Roth’s latest post ‘A Magician of Time’. The post discusses the ways in which J.D. Roth can maximise his available time by knowing when to say yes and when to say no in given situations. He also mentions that he multitasks, utilises his nework of friends and does what he loves. J.D. then says he used to be a dilettante but now focuses on very few and specific hobbies. I think this point is worth of further discussion.

We spend childhood with a feeling that we will live forever and have time to do everything. We feel that life is infinite and we can do it all. Lately the hard reality has hit me that this is not the case. We have limited time and need to be more efficient with how we spend our (limited) time.

Let me start of by explaining what a dilettante is. A dilettante is essentially a dabbler. Somebody who tries lots of things but doesn’t really know their subjects very well. Someone who maybe has a broad range of general experiences, but not detailed ones. Dilettantes are often given a hard time and called quitters. I don’t think this is a fair stereotype and feel there are many benefits of being a dilettante:

You haven’t found the thing that truly interest you….

There are so many hundreds of thousands of experiences/hobbies/sports/pastimes that you can take up. There are a lifetime worth to choose from and you may have simply not found yours yet. A lot of people are fixated on conventional experiences. Mainstream, generic experiences such as: Football, Knitting, Reading, Watching TV, Music, Swimming, Camping… The list goes on. In reality, this list is endless and is not defined. The potential is only constrained by our imaginations….My point is that you shouldn’t feel bounded by what is ‘normal’. You can do whatever you want and should do whatever you want. If that may be something crazy and obscure – Do it! For some people this may be grooming dogs…

Or others tattooing vehicles….

As they saying goes…. Don’t diss it ‘Til you tried it

Your goal is to do it all

Maybe your goal is simply to try everything once. Maybe you want to be able to look back in reflection on your life one day; knowing that you had the most varied, crazy, whirlwind, chaotic time and conquered a plethora of weird and wonderful hobbies. To be able to reflect with the satisfaction that you tried it all, you took everything you could and didn’t pass anything by.

I like this approach. The next time someone calls you a quitter, ask them if they have done it all. They are probably the person who is too afraid to try something new.

What is the alternative?

If you are one of the lucky people who have found out what truly make you tick and captivates you – then Kudos to you. I admire you and congratulate you. The rest of you.. I ask you this:

Do you do the things you do because you truly love them, or because they are socially accepted and done by others? Do you do these things because you have thought hard about what you want to do for yourself; or because your parents made you do it when you were young or you are following your friends? Are you filling your free time with mediocre hobbies while waiting for something more interesting to come along?

Let me tell you a hard and honest truth. Things don’t just pop into your life and land in your lap – you have to find these things and TAKE THEM!

Be the Best of Both

The answer my friends is simple. Be a dilettante about it and choose the best of both. I am not suggesting you drop your hobbies, rather identify what it is that you do, that you truly love. Maybe it is reading, maybe it is dancing; maybe it is riding a horse along the beach. Take a look at your life and categorise your hobbies/interest into the following areas:

  1. Things that make me tick
  2. Things that I do to fill time
  3. Things that I do because I have always done them
  4. Things that turn me off

Keep all the things in the first category. These are the important things. Maybe you only have one item here, or maybe none at all. That is OK!
The things in 2 and 3 are the non-essential items. The things in 2 and 3 could potentially be replaced by more items that fit into the first category.
We already know the items in 4 are worthless to you.

The Action Plan

My action plan is as follows:

Every month I am going to try something new. I will make a conscious effort to invest some time into just one new thing each month in order to evaluate if it is something that makes me tick. I will strive to commit properly to this single item. I am going on a journey of self-discovery to try learning languages, reading poetry, classics, yoga and more. I have a LOT of ideas. This will be updated on my About page for now.
Furthermore, I will choose my dilettante item depending on what I have planned that month – e.g. I would plan surfing as the item for the month that I am on holiday.

Quite simply, if the dilettante item of the month is something that makes me tick, I will add it to The Things that Make me Tick List. If it is something that I don’t like, it will go in ‘The Things that Turn me Off’ list. I want to categorise my interests in group 1 or 4 and not have any free time to waste on items 2 and 3! I think it will be rather fun 🙂

As from today, my Dillettante Item for the Month is: Photography

What do you think readers?

After all… I don’t want to be old with regrets.

 “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” – Wilfred Peterson



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  1. I love this idea! What a great way to gain new experiences and really explore what you really want to do with your time. I’m looking forward to seeing how you do with all these new challenges. It reminds me of another blogger who has a goal of every month doing one thing that scares him. It’s probably more productive to instead focus on things that you may have a genuine interest in.
    Jeremy @ Modest Money recently posted..Beginning of March 2012 Blog UpdateMy Profile

  2. How do you know what you like until you’ve tried as much as you can? Before getting back into getting my degree full time, I did jewelry making, tried to open an online company, tried cooking and baking, I’ve tried yoga and swimming and snowboarding and soccer, reading and writing and blogging. I’m by no means somebody who has done a lot of things, but I think it’s a great way to live!
    Daisy recently posted..Feeling Deflated – A Long, Rambly PostMy Profile

    • Hey Daisy! That is great to hear you have tried a good few things! Yoga is something I want to give a shot. What other things are on your ‘to-try’ list?

  3. This is a major reason I think kids should have to work in their “chosen” field before they go off to college and major in something.

    YOu have no idea you’re going to like it until you try it!
    WorkSaveLive recently posted..Posts You Should Read From Around the Web #2My Profile

    • Exactly! Kids have impressions from TV shows or books or other people, when the reality is, the job is VERY different. I completely promote the idea of giving kids more work experience before college / Uni!

  4. I feel like I perpetually lack time outside of work. Before I started my blog, I felt very scattered. Now, I focus on it as my hobby and I feel like I make wiser use of my time. Some prefer to be a jack of all trades. To each their own.
    Joe recently posted..Blog Party #6 – Milton FriedmanMy Profile

  5. Great post! I just started learning how to use a longsword with my university’s medieval society… it’s a bit odd, but I’m loving it so far 🙂
    BrokeElizabeth recently posted..When the Well’s Dry, We Know the Worth of WaterMy Profile

    • That is amazing! When I first skim-read what you wrote, I thought I had accidentally uploaded the picture of us cutting our cake (which was also with a longsword)! What a cool thing to try! 🙂

  6. Definitely love this idea – I think it’s good to try and get involved with different things that are totally different to what you do for your day job (if your day job is something you’re not particularly into, like mine…) It means your focus is on other fun, often creative stuff so even if nothing comes of your new hobby at least you’re feeding your mind and soul! Great post.

    • Thanks for stopping by to comment! I am glad you agree with the idea behind the post! That is exactly what I am getting at. Nobody has an excuse of not having enough time 😛

  7. I like the idea of being a temporary dilettante. I like to focus on certain hobbies/activities for a while then move on to something else. I think if you step away from certain things for a while it makes you appreciate it even more when you get back.
    Financial Advice for Young Professionals recently posted..Help Me Buy Something with My Tax RefundMy Profile

  8. This post definitely chimes a chord with me. I’ve always been interested in a huge variety of subjects, but never been laser beam focused onto one that you might call it a passion or calling…

    I used to beat myself up a bit about it – “Why can’t I focus enough to stick with learning an instrument to an expert level” etc… We are also taught to pick a subject and specialise is the best way of doing things (at University and then in a job)

    Now I’m not so worried by it, I’m happy being the proverbial Jack of all trades and I’ve decided to continue to get a bit better at lots of different things

    Variety is the spice of life as they say 🙂


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