A Life of Multiple Hats

I only own one hat; two if you include a toque for winter. It is a well-worn and sweat-stained piece of fabric that a handed to me when I ran the Manitoba marathon. The marathon itself was a blur, so the details of why he gave me the hat are lost to the passage of time, but having forgotten my dark glasses that day and not wishing to develop cataracts at the age of 23, I was happy to receive the charity.

Despite a limited physical wardrobe that applies to more than my hats, I have worn a number of occupational hats throughout my short life. Despite Facebook listing my age in the triple digits, the truth is that I am 25 years old. In that time, I have held approximately fifteen jobs ranging from Tree surveyor and Child Care worker to Collections and University administration. Somewhere in there I was also a cook, telemarketer, ballot counter and textbooks sales clerk to name only a few.

My employment history provides insights into the diverse range of interests I hold. I have always found life to be like shopping in a hat store. The store offers to sell you a variety of hats, from the flamboyant name-branded hats suited to life in the fast-paced urban landscape to the conservative monochromatic caps of simpler life. There are golf visors for those wealthy golfers out on a weekend excursion and there are utilitarian safari hats for those looking to travel off the beaten path.

The trouble is that you can only wear one hat at a time. You can of course buy more and switch between them, but purchasing new hats requires an investment of time, creating an opportunity cost that will leave you wondering what could have been.

Some people are not bothered by such a dilemma, preferring to keep wearing a single hat throughout their life. Such people become comfortable with the hat, the years of wear having subtly adjusted reshaped it to the unique contours of their head. By contrast, those who keep switching hats struggle with the discomfort of new products and find it difficult to match the ease and comfort of those not burdened with frequent wardrobe changes.

Now in my mid-twenties, I can only speak for myself when I say that at my current stage in life, I am happy to endure the discomfort of raiding the hat store, pouring my time into developing a vast hat collection. Perhaps later in life I will settle on one or two, but for now I am content to work overtime in order to meet the opportunity costs of obtaining a large collection. The reason I do this is two-fold.

The first is that I don’t want to find myself yearning for a different hat later in life, wondering what could have been at a time when the opportunity cost threatens my lifestyle and retirement. A life of regret is not a life well-lived and the greatest insurance against such regret is simply to have worn the other hats. It may be comfortable or it may not, but the only way to know is pay the opportunity cost and try it on.

Second, there is a place in the world for those with a broad wardrobe. You may not have the comfort level of those with a single hat, but the ability to switch between hats holds value in its own right, as many of life’s challenges and opportunities require a diverse wardrobe that specialists cannot provide.

During my brief time in the hat store, I have worn and continue to wear many hats. On any given day, I wear the immaculate top hat of a university administrator along with the the headband of a runner. I switch these out with the simple straw hat of a volunteer with an interest in building a better world and the stylish fedora of a game designer looking to contribute something physical to the world. I hold no regrets in the diverse collection I own and wear on a daily basis.

How does your hat collection compare?


2 thoughts on “A Life of Multiple Hats

  1. Great analogy :). My friends often refer to having “different worlds,” but that implies a distinct separation between activities / vocations, and usually a different self in each of them. I love your analogy since in it there seems to be one world, and one self; just a different facet being explored at a time.

    However, I’m not convinced that you can only wear one hat a time :). I’ve worn (both literally and metaphorically) multiple hats on several occasions ;p.

  2. Thank you for the response Acmah. It sounds like you have had quite a diverse life as well. While I can’t speak to the physical side of multiple-hats, on the metaphorical side it depends on how many layers you carry the analogy.

    For example, I am Canadian and a Manitoban with the western cultural norms inherent in that. In theory then, that is a hat that I wear on top of everything else. These constants however I disregarded for the purpose of my analogy as I was typically referring to a hat as a skill set and mindset drawn upon from experience in particular field.

    I personally think that their is great value to the flexibility inherent of switching (or in your case stacking) hats 🙂 and am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Ghost in the Shell.

    The quote is “Overspecialize and you breed in weakness”

    Gave me a lot to think about when I heard it and to this day.

    All the best!

    -Trevor Lehmann

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