“So, what do you do?”

Some people answer that very common question very succinctly, usually in a couple of words: “I’m a mailman,” “I’m a doctor,” “I’m in sales,” “I’m a union carpenter,” “I’m a master electrician,” “I’m a teacher,” etc. Typically their answers represent reputable occupations, and the list can be as varied as the individuals themselves.

I, on the other hand, always struggled with how to define what I do, because I’ve done so many things.* But being able to make this distinction is important, because society – either fairly or unfairly – often defines who we are by what we do…and how well we do it.

So I looked back over the jobs and careers I’ve had (and they are two very different things), and I searched for a common denominator. I have been/am: a newspaper reporter, a magazine managing editor, a freelance graphic/web designer, a business owner, a college teacher, a high school teacher, a high school baseball coach, a high school football coach, a software salesman, a copier salesman, a technical support manager, a printing prepress technician, a technical trainer, a network marketer, and an entrepreneur. Through all of these, I knew there had to be some common characteristic which allowed me to be successful.

And I think I found it. The one common skill required in all of these: the ability to explain topics and processes to people in a way they understand. So if you ask me today what I do, I now answer,

“I provide people with information to improve their lives.”

OK, I know that sounds “pie-in-the-sky”-ish, and even pompous. But I’m comfortable it adequately describes what I do. Whether it’s in the high school/college classroom, helping businesses bring their publications, marketing, and websites to life, or enabling entrepreneurs to become profitable, I have the ability to explain things – sometimes very technical things – in ways my audience understands and then can make decisions that are best for them.

What I’m not good at, honestly, is persuading people to take action when they’re not ready. I can research and share information and explain why a solution is beneficial to them, but I haven’t been able to create the need for immediate action. I can tell students why post-secondary education is/isn’t important, tell athletes why training and nutrition are critical to their performance, or why Product A will make a business owner’s business more profitable. But I can’t make them want to; I can’t make them want to improve in the classroom, on the field, or in business. They have to want it. They have to be at a place in their lives where the decision to improve is important to them. Then, and only then, will they take action.

For my part I’ll continue to be a source of information, sharing what I’ve learned with an interested (and sometimes disinterested) audience, and ready to move forward with them when they’re ready to do so.

Don’t worry; I don’t plan on being wordy. According Snap, the optimum length of a blog post (for SEO and other technical reasons) is 2000 words. Mine won’t be that long. I don’t have time to write that much; you don’t have the time or desire to read that much. If I can’t make a point in 700 words – I would prefer 500-600 – then I need to find a better point. My late father-in-law, Philly Daily News columnist Larry McMullen, used to say he only needed 700 words to tell a story, and he was recognized as one of the most prolific storytellers Philadelphia has ever known.

So, I’ll try to share information that I think you’ll find useful in your life, your career, your business, and I’ll try to do it in a way that’s somewhat entertaining. Often there will be a tinge of sarcasm (just ask my high school students!), but my main purpose is to be helpful. Along with my formal education I’ve managed to learn way too many things the (very) hard way. My goal is to help you avoid that educational path.


*Struggling to define myself also led me to discover the term “multipotentialite,” and that I’m not alone (http://www.puttylike.com).

About Author: jspaone

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