Meet Gina Leggett, a jack of all trades or perhaps the original Renaissance Person. Gina is the founder of Renaissance Person where adult education meets cocktail party or better yet the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts for Adults – merit badges included! Learn more about Gina’s story in balancing her corporate life and finding time for fun.
1. Finance gal by day and Renaissance Person by night, what is the “Renaissance Person” and what inspired you to create it?
Well, to be honest, the career in finance was a total fluke. I moved to New York City to book rock bands and managed a nightclub in 2005. That job segued into throwing parties and at some point I thought it might be a good idea to take a day job temporarily to, you know, pay my exorbitant student loans and cover my health insurance and other grown up stuff.
I literally Googled “NYC recruiter”, called the first number, bought a suit on the way into the interview and returned it on the way out (So tacky, I know. Sorry Ann Taylor.). I was hired on my way into the elevator. Over the years I’ve worked my way up, switched from alternative investing to investment banking, and now work in a client-facing operations role.
And although I love my job and my team, this is definitely a “what I do” thing and not a “who I am” thing.
I’ve long described myself as “chronically bored” and “insatiably curious”. I was one of those kids who would beg for tennis lessons, play for three months, and then start begging for piano lessons.
But I’ve always had a little bit of shame about not getting so incredibly excited about one thing and for being good or, at least, proficient at so many things, but not being GREAT at anything. I felt judged for being flaky and as I got older I felt like saying things like “I work in banking, but I’m thinking about quitting to be an urban farmer” was being met with increasing eye rolls.
As the years have gone by, I’ve returned to my former thinker – that being independent, being able to offer something in any situation, and being able to accomplish all sorts of tasks are incredibly attractive traits. I’ve been able to shed that shame and I am in a place where I want to celebrate these things.
And that’s how Renaissance Person came about. I’ve always been somewhat notorious for leaving projects unfinished. So it’s kind of funny that the one project I’ve been able to keep in the forefront is a project based around constantly learning new skills.
2. At some of your events you’ve hosted topics that I always wonder myself, “I wonder if…” and actually make them a reality. Where do you find your ideas and your talent?
Ideas usually come about from my realizing that I’m very bad at something and then I think “who can I get to teach me how to do this?” That’s why RP plays so well in NYC – there’s always someone nearby that can teach you.
3. As RP begins to grow it’s followers, where do you see it growing in the future?
In the near future, we’ll be going weekly! In addition to our monthly variety show, we’ll be traveling around the city learning cool skills from experts. I’ve been working with self-defense instructors, meditation teachers, a genetics lab, a language school, and many more. I’d love to eventually have a membership program for people who are so into learning a broad variety of skills that they’ll just trust me to introduce them to new things.
4. What advice do you have to someone interested in developing their own company while working full time?
Strike when the iron is hot. When you feel inspired to work on your side project, take a 15 minute break from your day job and just start writing down all of the ideas you have milling around. This will give you a great jump off point for when you do have more time to work to work on it. There’s nothing worse than getting to the weekend and being like “I don’t really want to work on this and I don’t really know what I should be doing right now”. There were months last year where RP just disappeared because I had trouble stringing ideas together, but with this new approach, I’m now literally months ahead on planning and ideas.
5. What’s been the biggest “pinch me” moment you’ve had since creating RP?
Learning to beatbox with the world champion was pretty high up on the list, but I would say that the change I’ve seen in myself is the real “wow” for me. When we started, I literally asked only my closest friends what they could teach and never thought that I would be reaching out to people outside of my inner circle. Even after RP started growing and I realized it could really be something great, I was still so nervous to put myself out there and get rejected, but I just mustered up my little bit of bravery and started putting myself out there – and the results have been tremendous. There have been some letdowns and disappointments and they stung a little bit, but I got over them and now its not so scary.
But the amazing part is that this bravery has trickled into all aspects of my life. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I’m actually asking for the things I want and imagining a life that’s bigger. It’s been an incredible experience.