The “What Do You Do” Complex and Society’s Identity Snitch
Maybe there’s two bones left on the table that need to be picked clean today. I’m on it.
In my business networking I get asked two questions way more than all the others.
- How tall are you? (This is almost always the first question, usually with necked craned and mouth wide open).
- Really wow… What to do you?
For someone who is really clear about who they are and that who they are is not what they do, that second question is a head scratcher.
How do you answer it?
“Um, I do web shenanigans… you know, like marketing and stuff. I make the phone ring and the cash register sing!” That doesn’t communicate what I really do.
What I really mean is… “I use my talents and gifts to guide sincere people who want to achieve their own personal greatness to permanently change their lives by finding out who they really are at a level they never thought possibly and supplying them with the inspiration, tools and direction they need in order to become that person.”
In our society, we’re really slick as a weasel at associating what we do with who we are. It’s a chronic personal blasphemy that few people give a second thought to… and that needs to change.
Try this. Ask yourself point blank, out loud.
“Who am I?”
If you have a pulse, then you have a subsurface desire to know the answer to that question.
Again here: “What do I do?”
Stop and notice how the answer or the lack of the answer makes you feel. If you answered, “I’m a [insert profession here]” That doesn’t sit well with you. If you couldn’t answer the question to your satisfaction, that doesn’t sit well either.
So what’s the right answer?
In order to get at the guts of the matter, you gotsta know who you are and what you’re doing on God’s green earth.
You were born to take on a challenge of doing the best you can in life and to contribute to a cause higher than yourself. If your answers to the questions don’t align with that, at the most basic level, by default, you’re left with doubt and insecurity about yourself.
The problem is that you have these underlying questions and a desire to get clarity on the answers, but on the surface, we’re taught to answer those questions with the same flip of the tongue without much thought at all.
This is one tendency that society has to keep us living a shallow, robotic life, with very little fulfillment.
Here are a couple scenarios where you can see this at play, all the time.
As a business owner, an important piece to your marketing arsenal is a 30-second elevator pitch where you’re able to say who you are and what you do in a way that sparks curiosity, interest and intrigue.
I’ve got one of those for my business, sure. Everyone should be able to say in 30 seconds how their business or career can change your life.
These random “oops we’ve found ourselves talking with a stranger” conversations start at anytime, in anyplace, as long as you’re not allergic to humans. The sense is that you’ve got to have your pistols untied and half cocked to go full guns blazing when the time is right.
Shoot the breeze a bit first… conversation heats up… and then here comes the question, “What do you do?”
That’s when the real good stuff happens.
Bam! Out it comes. All rehearsed and perfect. Just like a gunslinger from the old west.
“I’m a… [fill in the blank with your profession]. What I do is [fill in the blank with your job description]… so that [any number of radical benefits].”
Little son one, is in the first grade. He’s at school one day when the teacher starts to explain what “career exploration” day is.
On tap is a live show and tell where some kids can bring things that represent their dad or mom and what they do for a living, or they can bring their parents in to the live show.
The homework is to go home and ask your parents “What do you do Daddy?”
How do you answer you child’s question?
The beloved 10-year high school reunion. You’re sitting at the table with high school friends. They’re hardly recognizable because they look so different and you feel so old. You’re all packing a little extra padding over and under certain body parts that didn’t used to have any.
There’s the token few who rented a nice car to drive to the event because they wanted to give off an impression of success. They always cared too much about what others think of them. There’s the two people that are successful at whatever it is they did and genuinely lived a wealthy life. The rest were just there, some happy, others just there, in the flesh sitting with their noses on their faces sipping punch.
It’s natural to want to present the best of oneself to be put on display. You don’t hang out with these guys every day.
You’re at a table eating a Costco dinner roll, cut in half, with a slice of ham stuffed in it, no condiments. Nobody at the table has seen you in 10 years, you used to be good friends with most of them.
What are they going to ask you?
How’ve you been man!?!?! What are you up to nowadays? What do you do?
What are you going to say? How would the answer you give make you feel?
You move in to a new neighborhood. You’ve always been a church going kinda person so you find the local church to see when they meet on Sundays.
Dressed all purdy, you show up for your first meeting. You’ve got your whole family there.
You’re greeted warmly. Happy people. Good people all around. The first conversations are really surfacey, you know… Where you from? Where do you live? Oh, and what do you do?
What’s Your Answer?
No matter what the circumstance, when somebody asks you “What do you do?” you’re likely to answer… “I’m a [insert profession here]” It ain’t your fault. There’s nothing criminally wrong with it. We’ve been trained to answer that way.
You might not think there’s much to it. But it’s a loaded answer that speaks volumes through what’s not said in response to the question.
Do you really believe that what you do is [insert profession here]?
What are you really doing at your profession?
As a follow up, if I were to ask you “Who are you?” You’d probably answer in the same way. “I’m a [insert profession here].”
Does your profession define who you are? Does your career? Job?
Nope. Not even close.
You are so much cooler than what you do for a living. More personality. More talents. More gifted. More value to add to the world.
Do you associate what you do with who you are?
No matter how you answer that age old question, “What do you do,” your answe isn’t anywhere near as important as the feeling and clarity you have when you say it.
Know this, some professions use your talents and gifts better than others, but there isn’t any one profession in this world, no matter what it is, that can incapsulate who you are.
You’re bigger and better and meant for more than any profession.
Sure, you can answer the question traditionally, but do it knowing that you’re so much more. That may be difficult, especially if you’re proud of your profession and what you’ve achieved.
Want better results in your line of work? Simple.
Get crystal clear about who you are and what you’re here in this life to do. Do that, and then answer that question however you like and it will pack a bigger punch than any canned 30-second elevator pitch or job interview. Guaranteed.
When you have clarity about your own identity, and align with it spiritually, that clarity resonates powerfully from soul to soul… with those you meet. People will instantly feel different around you. You’ll open doors of opportunity more easily. Life will unfold like it never has before, and seem a bit more effortless.
There’s a fundamental mindset shift that needs to happen that will open people up to the real YOU and the real power YOU have to change your life and the lives of those you come in contact with, no matter where you are or what you do.
You are not what you do for a living. You’re so much more.
Through all this, we’re finding two things here:
- Our society teaches that what we do is who we are, and we buy in to that way too early in life. What we do for a living isn’t who you are.
- Because of society’s identity-based astigmatism, you have no idea who you really are, but are secretly dying to know.
- By connecting with who you are and aligning your life to it, you’ll change your life and the life of those around you.
Spread this ideal! The world needs it.
Do you want your children to grow up to be a lawyer or to be the best person they can become and make a profound difference in the world?
Who do you want to be?
All you have to do is find out who you are and be that person, wherever you are.