Anyone who thinks that a single career choice has to be the sum of a person's life needs to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Sailor.... Early on in the book, I expected Colin Kerby's biography to be that of a surgeon. Certainly Colin Kerby was a surgeon, but not for long, as his itch for change and transformation took him into many other professions. Despite being a deft hand with a knife, a master at amputations, an expert anastamoser, and a budding pathologist, Colin didn't continue with his surgery. Instead he developed his diving and salvaging skills, became a photographer, created Kerby's Confectionery (inventing new ways to make classic lollies), created his own diving show, trained sea lions, brewed beer, invented his own gyrocopter, became a cancer researcher, and invented a range of medical machines. And as if that weren't enough, Kerby also worked for the Salk institute (the book opens with a letter of recommendation from Jonas Salk himself), ran a laundry and dry cleaning business, ran a sandwich kiosk, taught high school chemistry, built a yacht from scratch, worked as an engineer for hire, became a car salesman, traveled the world, saved hundreds of lives, and received the Order of Australia.
It's an odd sort of progression from surgeon to sandwich maker and from confectioner to showman. It's hard, at times, to believe that this is a book about one person, though there is a kind of entrepreneurial inventor thread that links everything Kirby does.
There were times, reading Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Sailor (no spy, though that was probably the only career that Kerby didn't have), where I almost felt exasperation every time Kerby had a career shift. After all, he would have made such a great surgeon, and though it wasn't his fault that the cancer research fell through, it seemed like this was a career where, had he found an alternative position, he might have gone on to invent more wonderful machines and made a real difference in people's lives. Nevertheless, it's clear that Col Kerby is a renaissance man with such a wide range of interests and hunger for knowledge that one career just wasn't enough. The man seems to have an almost superhuman hunger for learning, and energy levels that a twenty year old would be envious of.