Most people die having lived only a one-dimensional life. They die as an insurance agent, a stockbroker, or a teacher. Very rarely do people die having lived more than one life: a journalist who also wrote screenplays, acted in theaters, produced hip hop music, and ran a jewelry exporting business.
Only the poor and wealthy can live multi-dimensional lives. The rich are too busy with their jobs to give anything but their jobs attention. While their salaries pay well, they also act as handcuffs. The opportunity cost of doing anything but their primary profession is massive.
It only makes sense for the rich to jump ship when they've acquired enough savings & other benefits to maintain their peak salary lifestyle. In other words, the rich only really get the chance to seriously explore other careers and hobbies once they've retired––which is usually when their life is about over.
One-dimensional lives aren't the problem. For some that's more than enough. What's bad, though, is when people live their entire lives harboring curiosities and ambitions for things completely out of line with their core career.
Besides sunk-cost bias, a big problem here is that people adopt their careers as their identities.
A stockbroker who's spent 20 years rising the ladder after graduating top of her class in Notre Dame's finance school can't just suddenly start making comic books. Even if she's thought about making comic books every day of her life since she was 8.
They can't take comic books seriously while maintaining their identity as an elite stockbroker who lives in a Manhattan penthouse, drives a Ferrari, and smokes cuban cigars.
Making comic books would be inconsistent to the identity they've created for themselves as a stockbroker. To divert from this identity they've so finely combed for themselves the last 20 years would propel them into a deadly head-shaving, monk-making existential crisis.
Artists often have strong aversions to selling things, considering money, and optimizing their incomes not because they all naturally happen to be bad at these things, but rather because these aversions are tied to their self-identification as artists.
"I'm a starving artist, I only care about my art and passion, not my income." To contradict this belief is to contradict their very identity. That's some scary shit.
People closely tie their identities to their careers out of utility. An easy way of becoming a successful biologist is to adopt the beliefs and behaviors of a successful biologist. Biologists are smart, patient, well-read, pensive, quiet.
Musicians are eccentric, well-dressed, inspired, unique. Entrepreneurs are abrasive, smart, hard-working, disciplined. Actors are charming, energetic, empathetic.
We adopt these personas to excel in our fields.
So what can we do? What can the stockbroker do about her lifelong suppressed obsession with making comic books?
Well the question is: can people hold multiple––often contradictory––identities at once? Is that actually possible? Yes.
When Howard Hughes was 18, he took control of his very successful family business and helped grow it even more––focusing mostly on diversifying business lines. A few years later he decided he wanted to make films and moved to LA. He made a few mildly successful films and was dismissed by Hollywood for being a silly businessman from Texas who knew nothing about movies.
After a few years of filmmaking, in 1928 he started making a war movie called Hell's Angels. It took 3 years and was one of the most expensive movies ever at that point, but eventually became one of the first successful movies with sound.
In 1929, during the filming of this movie, he got a pilot's license. Then in 1932, 2 years after Hell's Angels premiered, he started his own aircraft company.
That same year he made up a fake name (Charles Howard), got a job as a baggage handler at American Airlines, and advanced to co-pilot within a few weeks. 2 years later he won a first place air trophy at a competition in Miami in a modified Boeing.
In 1935 he designed and built a plane called the Silver Bullet, then set a new land-speed record of 352.46 mph. The next year he set a new transcontinental speed record from LA to Newark in 9 hours 27 minutes. He beat that record again a year later.
A year after that he flew around the world in 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes––a new world record.
In 1939 he bought one of the four biggest American airlines––Trans World Airlines (TWA)––and grew it to cover the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
In 1947 he designed, built, and flew the largest flying boat ever built to this day called the Hercules (it was made of mostly wood).
In 1950 he conceived and manufactured the guided missile––widely considered to be the most important contribution to the defense of North America since radar.
Then in the 60's he produced prototypes for the modern unmanned satellite.
Howard Hughes did whatever he wanted. He was not bound by career. He was not bound by the tool company his parents left to him. He was not bound by his success as a filmmaker, his success as a pilot, as an aerospace engineer, as a businessman growing TWA, as a defense contractor, nor as an investor.
He followed whatever his interest was, and did whatever he wanted. He lived a thoroughly explored life of both breadth and mastery.
Other examples of multi-dimensional people like Hughes are Benjamin Franklin (engineering, politics, business, journalism), Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilding, acting, politics), Leonardo Da Vinci (fine arts, anatomy, engineering), and Donald Glover (music, acting). They're not all ancient and dead.
Multi-dimensional lives are possible and rewarding, but that doesn't mean a one-dimensional life is bad per se.
It's important to openly consider if you're living the life you're living because it's what you want, or if it's just the result of chance, circumstance, or momentum.
If you're an accountant and actually want to be a rapper, maybe you should give it a shot.