This a conversation between Pamela Slim and Sean Blanda on the 99U podcast. Lately, if I’m thinking about reading a certain book, I’ll look for a podcast or interview with the author to learn more about it. This a perfect example.
Sean and Pamela discuss her book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together. After listening, I’ve added this one to my list to read in the near future. Check out an excerpt below and listen to the full conversation here.
Body of Work
The purpose of our life is to create a body of work that we’re very proud of. And by body of work, I mean everything that we create, that we impact, that we affect, and that we contribute.
Beyond the career. So how are we as siblings, and parents, and community members. What do we care about creating - in terms of a feeling?
It can be really tangible things like have you written a book, software code, have you created art pieces?
But also, what kind of feeling do people in your neighborhood have about you. What kind of emotional path do you leave.
Imagine yourself on your last day of life looking back, and ask yourself what do you want to see.
We’re All Different
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that none of us are the same.
That’s one of the constraints that I used for writing the book. Because I know it is not helpful to give advice that says, “Everybody is like this.”
Or there is no pre-existing one passion. I’ve met plenty of people from the age of five, knew what they wanted to do. And some of them built a career path for that and they were quite happy.
Maybe we’re jealous of these people or maybe not.
Sometimes you can have that clarity in your career, but it can mean other parts of your life often show up to have challenge.
There is hardly ever a perfect scenario.
What is often more useful is when you do start to pay attention to what really interests you. Where do you feel some kind of emotional connection?
And by emotional connection, it can be things that make you angry. Things that make you sad. Things that bring you joy.
Because I have heard some of the arguments out there. That totally discount passion and that it’s just a ridiculous life coach-y thing to focus on.
Work is work. I think there is great labor in work that is so worth doing. I’ve been working since I was 12. And I’ve always believed in the suffering part of creation.
But if I had to choose between something that actually leveraged my natural strengths, a job that I do that was connected to bigger things in the world that I care about versus a job that didn’t have any of those connections - I’m always going to err of the side of something that is more interesting to me.
So I think where we get caught is when we use words like follow your passion or have something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
I’ve worked many days in my life. But I love working. And I think work can be enjoyable when you are doing things that have meaning.
Experience and Your Ingredients
I think we miss a lot when we look at our skills when we think about what’s good for a resume.
So generally you think, what’s my experience that’s not embarrassing. Working at places that people would respect. Or what are my strengths that are socially acceptable.
And often what you miss is a lot of experience that you have, including your scars. Sometimes really difficult personal situations, horrible choices that you’ve made.
It’s your whole life. We make a separation between our personal and professional life we have. But I don’t think it’s right.
Because we come as a whole person. We bring all of ourselves to the world. And our body of work is something that is expressed in many different ways.
So I think the more we do bring all of ourselves to work, unapologetically - what people look for these days on social media is someone who is authentic.
Somebody once asked me how can I appear more authentic online?
That’s actually a lot of what we’re embracing more. All of those experiences, really reflect on them.
And you do look at traditional things, like your training and your education and places that you’ve worked. But really take into consideration every single part of your experience.
Are you a first generation immigrant? Are you a recovering alcoholic? Did you grow up in poverty? Did you grow up in total wealth?
The reason I like the metaphor of ingredients is really any kind of work situation, be it at a job or particularly product that we’re offering at our company, is like a recipe.
You can look at your whole cupboard of ingredients and at different times in your career you can be pulling out different ingredients that you may have in your past that you can be using in interesting ways.
I’ve just met so many people that have very interesting, unique, kind of combinations of experience.
Sometimes when you look at a traditional career path, you would say, a lawyer would never use improvisational jazz or something as part of their work. Because lawyers don’t do that.
But when you’re thinking a little more creatively about the kind of projects you get involved in. That often is where bringing those other sorts of things forward to your work are going to allow you to be more creative and open up more possibilities.
The way that we get to know ourselves is in the process of creation.
So many people get stuck waiting for the perfect moment, researching everything, trying to find the perfect career, taking every assessment possible.
You never know until you start creating something. So even if what you put on your agenda for the next 12 months, ends up being not at all what you want to do, you’re going to be so much closer to understanding yourself.
Move. You have to create. You have to build something.
That is really what is at the core of Body of Work.
Pick up Pamela’s book here.