So What Do You Do?

posted in: Uncategorized | 23

April 5th, 2011


“So what do you do for a living?”

I’m not sure why this is something society finds so important or fascinating, but perhaps ‘what we do’ clandestinely defines ‘who we are’. You can argue this if you want, but think about it: if you spend 40+ hours a week shuffling papers in an office or swinging a hammer on a job site, that role shapes a lot of what you do outside of work. Working in an office makes me feel different that when I was working construction. Being an artist is different than painting murals at the Olive Garden. How you choose to spend your waking days is a mirror of how you choose to spend your life. So I’ve begun asking my friends and co-workers what their dream response would be to that question.

When you meet someone for the first time and they ask, ”what do you do for a living?”

How do you wish you could answer that?


My friend Marty answered without any hesitation. “A scientist”. He quickly explained that he doesn’t even like science, but that being a scientist just sounds impressive. Other notable responses were: the President of the United States of America, a CEO, a famous musician, an inventor, an Astro-Physicist, a beer taster, and someone who makes shit happen. Yeah, I liked that one too.

No child grows up dreaming they would become the Senior Analyst of an insurance company or the Lead Manager of the Marketing Team. What happens between the ages of five and forty that life slips away and dreams stay as dreams?

By defining how you wish you could answer that question, you’re closer to realizing what it is you ought to be doing with your life. It doesn’t matter your age or life responsibilities. And before you rant about having a spouse and kids and a mortgage, look up Leo Babauta. He took an ancient, simple theme and now leads a tribe of millions. Oh, and that man has six kids, a wife, and he moved from Guam to San Francisco.

So what do you do for a living?


I don’t know how I want to answer this question yet, but I want to be someone who makes life happen. I wonder how Derek Sivers or Seth Godin or Tim Ferriss would answer that. I think they could say that they make change happen. That sounds good to me.

So what is your answer? What do you do for a living?


Okay. Now get there.


23 Responses

  1. I would love to manage a Non-Profit Organization. An organization that is dynamic and reaches far and wide to help the lives of the needy, the unfortunate, and brings justice to all. Too idealistic? Maybe.

    • Alright, I like it! So do you have a non-profit in mind? If not, what holds you back from starting one? You already know how to manage and you’ve got initiative. If we’re going to make the impossible possible, then we need to stick together and push each other along!

      • No I don’t have a non profit in mind. I have ideas about what type of non profit I would like to run, but it is just a matter of digging deep and doing it. My biggest barrier is fear of failure.

        • Fear of failure… well at least you’ve diagnosed the disease. That surprises me though, because you have everything going for you. You have a supportive wife and a good work ethic. Your debts are minimal and you don’t need the job you have. Matt, I want to introduce you as my friend who runs this amazing non-profit blah blah blah and I’m demanding you make this happen immediately! Fear of failure is no longer an option. Go back and re-read some Godin. πŸ™‚

  2. I want to be a special education teacher and I have wanted to be one my whole life! πŸ™‚ I also want to own a donation based yoga studio where people can come take yoga classes regardless of how much disposable income they have. I want to shift yoga to be a healing art, rather than a rich person’s exercise. Think I can do it?

    ok…. I guess when I was growing up I also wanted to win an oscar and walk down the red carpet. Maybe I will eventually teach yoga to the stars and they will bring me along? That’s a stretch!

    • Your plan sounds perfect! This is the inspiration I want in my life! And you’re on the right path to making your goals a reality, so I can’t wait for your success!

      Yoga teacher training… your Masters… you’re doing it! Now you need to start connecting with some Oscar nominees πŸ™‚

      I believe in you and I’m certain you’ll do it! I need to surround myself with go-getters like you!

  3. What do you want to do?? I know you said you can’t answer this….but you have to have at least a base figured out.

    • So far this is how I’d like to imagine the conversation to go:

      Them: “So what do you do?”

      Me: “I’m an adventurer.”

      Them: “You are a what now? An adventurer?”

      Me: “Yes, I come up with adventures and then I do them.”

      Them: “And you get paid?”

      Me: “Of course.”

  4. You better take some cooking classes πŸ™‚

    Go for it! Sounds fun!

    • Well I wish I knew a guy who wants to manage a non-profit and I wish I knew a gal who could make amazing, delicious, and economic vegan friendly food….

  5. Ok…..fine I am in. But only if we can incorporate yoga for the people in the villages!

    • Perfect! Just so long as Matt controls the finances and I get to ride around on old motorcycles.

  6. haha…my wife will educate the children.

    • I think we’ve just begun a cult. Or at least a damn awesome thing. When do we start?!

  7. Friday @ Hamiltons

  8. Nice post! I completely agree with what you’re getting at, and now, instead of asking ‘what do you do?’, I now ask ‘How do you spend most of your time?’. It opens up the conversation so much more than the typical question, and also stops the person you’re talking with feeling anxious about appearing ‘below’ you, or ‘boring’ based on their job title.

    myself though, I’m not sure what my answer to your question would be. I’ll have to have a good think…. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Rob. I must say this insight floors me! I am going to start using the ‘how do you spend most of your time?’ line! I agree it is much more disarming than dropping the bomb of boring work talk. That said, it encourages one to think a bit differently about what it is that they do. One could argue this is perfect for someone on a quest to live ‘beyond norms’. πŸ™‚

      I want to hear your answer to what it is you want to do, or rather, what do you do. Please keep us posted!

  9. Curiously, (perhaps because i live on the edge of civilized wilderness and just have a ‘look’ about me), people hardly ever ask me what I do. Used to bother me, not any more. People ‘do what they do’ for so many reasons… I tend to ask, “so, how do you like to spend your time?” oh, the goodness I receive in the answers…yummy.

    • Dawn, I think you are in the right position then! I think this ‘so what do you do’ question is really about the question asker rather than the question receiver. What I mean by this is that question is a socially acceptable way to judge someone. That means, we can size them up, for better or worse. Do we really want to keep this conversation going? What can they offer me? Are they interesting or fascinating?

      But all of these things cannot always be ascertained by ‘what we do’. So yes, how we like to spend our time is a much better conversation to have. At least that way, we can get to the root of our own curiosities about each other.

  10. Just cane across your blog the other day from a recommendation on another blog I follow.

    Great stuff!

    I am a video journalist for a New England television news station. On the side I am also an air travel concierge.

  11. You already know what I do. Make websites. Blahblah.
    But I used to do painting. Haven’t done that in years. :T

    Here’s a watercolor I gave to a vegan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theemoemu/2867239222/in/photostream There’s others in the stream like a pastel of my ex and oil painting of cows. . . I usually give my art away for free. To friends. And ex lovers.

  12. For money, I wash barrels at a small chemical company.

    For entertainment, I write MLP fanfiction under the name KAMFICTION

    http://ponyfictionarchive.net/viewstory.php?sid=1015

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