An enduring question when encountering a new acquaintance is, “What do you do?” (This is especially true if you live in North America). Answering that question—particularly if you want your answer to be compelling and memorable—can be hard. The safe answer is to go with a functional description of what you do. Even comprehensive statements of job function can sound still sound vague and abstract (and be in no way unique). When you want to stand out in your answer, you need to reframe how you define the question.
My last article explored the evolution that I’ve navigated since I started writing here more than a decade ago. A lot has changed in that time. Writing here, I’ve found my voice, clarified my focus and continued to attract more of you to come check out what I do (and most of you have continued to hang around, often for years). I promised to share my perspective on who I think my typical reader is. I also promised to share what I heard from you in the survey I asked you to complete. The two perspective combine to tell an interesting tale.
I have been publishing to my blog for more than a decade. In that time, I have changed a great deal. I’ve changed cities, shifted organizational focus and radically restructured how I spend my time. Of course, you’ve changed also. You aren’t the same person you were any more than I’m the same person that I was. You may have been here from the outset; you may have just signed up last week. What I’m curious about is where you are at, where you are going, and what you’d like to see here going forward. I’d be grateful if you would take the time to share your insights.
Knowing why we are doing something is inarguably important. Being able to define what one successfully looks like is fundamental and critical. This is particularly true when we are the ones that are guiding development of the deliverable, and there is a creative component to what needs to be produced. While we would like to say that we know what successful completion looks like, there are many factors that can create roadblocks for us. Most of which exist in our own perceptions.
“Why?” is undeniably a powerful question. But we often think about our why in grandiose, abstract terms. We tend to emphasize the philosophical rather than the practical. And yet, at its core, “Why?” is the most practical question that you can ask. And the one you always need to be prepared to answer. Don’t tell people what to do, or how to do it. Instead, get them excited about the why, the way it makes a difference, no matter how prosaic and simple the task at hand might be.
We’re often pretty sure that we understand what values are. Defining them clearly and compellingly, though, is an entirely different matter. Values aren’t about defining the lowest common denominator of what is important. They get at the very heart of who we are, and particularly how we operate, decide and interact. Getting them right is critical; it also takes a great deal of work.