How would you answer the question, So What Do You Do? My guess is that you would answer with your place of employment and job title. But is that really who you are or is it just how you make money?
I can’t think of many more boring questions to begin a conversation. I loathe this question because usually my answer and the other person’s passionless answer become an exercise in things people do to make money. I don’t think it is a great way to get to know someone either. Sometimes it can be, of course, especially if the person is in love with their profession, but the majority of time I would rather know what makes the other person tick because that is far more interesting.
On a recent flight from Iceland I was seated next to a scruffy bearded man who said something that stuck with me. He asked me what I do and for the first time in a long time I paused. There are a few possible answers to this question at this point in my life. I gave him the standard answer, using my highest paying venture to define what I do. I then asked him the same question. I also asked him what his wife does.
He calmly replied that she is an actress, in Denver. I pried a little more and asked if she has been in anything that I have seen. This launched a long conversation in which he explained that she doesn’t really make any money at this thing that she is passionate about but, “I want to honor her passion. She has a job where she makes money but that is not who she is. She is an actress at heart and that is how she defines herself.”
I loved his answer and wanted to share this with you for some simple food for thought. If your job is who you are and you are in love with this, that is amazing! But if it isn’t, then give yourself the permission do define yourself in your own terms.
Do you paint everyday, but work a day job to pay the bills? Maybe you are a painter. Do you spend all of your free time traveling? Maybe you are a travel adventurer. Do you volunteer every weekend to help youth? Maybe you are a mentor.
At the next cocktail party or airplane ride, answer with your passion, it might be exhilarating to hear it out loud.