Creating a Portfolio Career
A Fantastic Caribbean Sunset
A couple of years ago, I was hiking with my friend Ronianne when something profound happened. I had just closed my dog training business and was feeling lost. I was considering how best to attempt a career in blogging and freelancing, but I was nervous about the lack of a consistent paycheck and the unclear pathway to success. I was also considering starting a new dog training business. I was also tempted to go back to government work for the stable paycheck and cushy benefits, too. I was even considering becoming a small business consultant.
I was complaining about myself to Ronianne. I was frustrated by the various career paths I had followed and my inability to find one thing that felt "right". Where was my one thing? My true calling? Why couldn't I settle down and just be happy in one profession? Or at least semi-content like most people I know?
Ronianne said, very matter of factly, "It's because you're a multi-potentialite." Huh? A multi-what? She proceeded to explain that multi-potentialities are people who love to learn new things and struggle with settling into just one career or hobby. They feel compelled to constantly expand their horizons, aren't afraid of change and get bored easily. They are true Jacks of All Trade (or Jills, in my case) and Masters of Many. She told me about a TedTalk on the subject and explained that it's only been in very modern times that multi-potentialities (also called Renaissance Men and Women or polymaths) have been frowned upon by society. Throughout history, they were the movers and shakers and were highly regarded, and encouraged.
Life can be twisted and curvy, like nature.
Take Leonardo di Vinci, for example. Sure he was an artist, but he was also an inventor of practical objects and, unbeknownst to many, also invented weaponry for the government! He was talented in so many areas. Creator of weapons. Artist. Inventor. In many ways, these are very different pursuits, but there were never expectations that he should have to stick with one.
And there are scores of people like him throughout history.
I went home and listened to the TedTalk that Ronianne had just told me about, and I also read several books on the subject. I felt vindicated. I felt normal. I felt purposeful. And then I went back to a 9-5 desk job with a better understanding of myself, but without changing a damn thing. I was too afraid.
Still, it stuck with me. This understanding of who I am and how I work, and this knowledge that I was not alone and that I could actually be proud of my personality was a profound life changing moment for me and it is, in part, why I am here today, writing this blog and branching out (Thanks, Ronianne!).
I've come to believe that more people would find enhanced fulfillment in their lives if they focused on their multiple skills and passions and blended them into a career, rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole because it's easier and/or it's because you think society expects it from you. Why do so many of us try so hard to conquer the corporate world and climb an invisible ladder to success? Why do we believe that's the singular path to financial freedom? Financial freedom will come if you are passionate about what you do and believe in what you have to offer the world (and work hard!). In this way we leave a genuine mark on this earth.
You have more than one skill and more than one passion. Imagine if you could take the things that make you the happiest and combine them into a career that works for you - a portfolio career. What's in your portfolio right now? Here's mine:
I have a lot of experience in public speaking. I also truly love doing it. That's a passion and a skill I have in my portfolio.
I crave being outdoors and have found intense joy and peace in hiking and backpacking. That's a passion I bring to my own proverbial table (I still need to develop some of the professional skills related to this, and that's OK).
I enjoy educating and inspiring others. I like to learn new and interesting things to the fullest, and then feed that information to everyone around me (which is why my friends call me The Encyclopedia of Useless Knowledge and The Tour Guide). Sharing knowledge that is interesting to me makes me feel good.
I really enjoy writing. I'm no Hemingway, but I'm not half bad at it, either!
I'm pretty good at everything related to social media (except Twitter...I just can't get into that) and I really enjoy connecting and communicating with people in that way. Which, incidentally, is good for running a business!
Exploring places, like Sedona, is my biggest passion.
The key to my professional happiness is to take this portfolio I have and find a way to make a business out of it. As humans, we to tend to excel at the things we love. If you love the things in your portfolio, you will excel at running a business related to them and made up of them. Will it always be peaches and sunshine? No. Will you enjoy getting up for work every single day? Of course not! Will it be hard work? Hell yes! But it's all yours and the foundations will be strong, because they were built with passion and joy.
A word of caution: it is possible to diversify too much. I also love chocolate and wine and dogs and craft beer and world travel and sailing and snorkeling and reading and nutrition and cooking ethnic foods and raising backyard chickens and.... you get the point. You can't try to combine every passion you have. You have to pick the ones that make sense and will work well together. Be strategic. Those other passions can be deposited into my hobby portfolio!
Chickens and Beer. Two Great Loves.
I recently helped a police department interview sixteen candidates for an analyst position. Before starting the interviews, we talked about what the department was looking for - tangible skills and experiences. But beyond the resume, we all agreed the number one indicator for success was passion - did the candidates express their passion for the job? That trumped all other qualifications and it's probably the best forecaster of success for the position. It makes sense.
If you are struggling to find that elusive professional fulfillment or are ready for a major change, try making a list of skills you have already obtained that you enjoy, as well as a list of your own passions. Then, brainstorm ways to monetize what's in there.
Say you love math and numbers. And you also love children and teaching. And add to that your tech/IT background. Could you create your own online tutoring company focused on math and tutor children remotely? If you love that work, and you excel at it, surely you will be successful by all definitions.
Even if you aren't willing to make a major change right now, it's a worthwhile process to sit down with pen and paper and think this through. Build your portfolio and create your dream job. At some point, you'll be ready. Just don't wait too long - life is short and it's worth living.