Lately, I feel like my career is a little schizophrenic. A peek into my most recent “workweek” helps illustrates what I mean. (The first oddity: my workweek began on a Saturday.)
All day Saturday and Sunday, I facilitated the kickoff of a 10-week career change program at Escape the City.
Monday I treated as my day of rest (2 full days of facilitation fills me up, but energy-wise, drains me dry). I still did a little work, like publishing this newsletter and doing miscellaneous life and business admin tasks.
Tuesday morning I spent researching cryptocurrencies and blockchain for an article I was commissioned to write for a startup about their new technology. From 3 until 10pm I prepped and co-delivered another career change workshop at Escape.
On Wednesday from 10:30am to 2pm I attended a Meisner acting class – class 4 of a 12-week course. After a class I made a quick trip to the mall to buy sneakers, then headed home to continue research for the cryptocurrency article into the evening.
On Thursday morning I took a train from London to suburban Surrey to work as model for a Heineken cider ad (which I had auditioned for a month prior). During downtime, which there was much of, I continued research for the cryptocurrency startup article. On Thursday night, I called Steve in LA to review our plans for relaunching Tales Of into a major travel publishing brand.
Friday I began writing that damn cryptocurrency article, which I hoped to complete, but felt so out of my depth, hardly even started.
For some of you – this may look familiar. To others of you – it may sound bonkers.
In one breath, 6-year-ago IBMer Matt looks at me with skeptic eyes. “What are you doing with your life?”
In the next breath, 6-year-ago Matt is inspired and jealous as hell. “That’s exactly the kind of life I wish I was living.”
When I compare myself to 6-year-ago Matt, I’m ecstatic with my week. I have everything I was missing back then: autonomy over my workweek, creative projects that stretch and intrigue me, work that matters personally, and/or that I believe has a positive impact on the world. Every bit of it – even my struggle with writing about a new topic I’m furiously incompetent in – is rooted in growth, purpose, joy, curiosity, or some combination of the above.
Still, this begs two opposing questions in my head: Am I trailblazing a brave new kind of career, based on “gig” work, passion projects, and multiple income streams? Or am I suffering from career schizophrenia and indecision?
These internal questions are my reality. I openly share my internal conflicts and doubts because – well, that’s the nature of this blog. But also to reveal the complexity and ambiguity that comes with attempting to live a more authentic life based on one’s own (curiously evolving) definition of success.
These questions (or similar) are the ones faced by anyone who’s going against the grain, attempting to navigate some sort of change, and straddling two worlds – an old and a new – yet planted firmly in neither. While it may “feel right” somewhere deep in your bones, intellectually you’re never quite sure you’re on the “right” path.
In my newsletter this week, I shared an article about being an Expert-Generalist, a term coined by Bain & Company chairman Orit Gadiesh to describe someone who “has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics.” It’s a concept that flies in the face of the conception of the master or expert in one super-niche field.
Gadiesh says championing her varied interests and being an expert-generalist has positively shaped her career:
“I bring into my work everything I do; all of my past consulting projects, all of my readings [100+ books a year]. I read novels. I read about physics, mathematics, history, biographies, art. One reason I work well in Germany is that I’ve read a lot of German literature, German philosophers, German history, etc., even though I’m Israeli. They’re great writers. Likewise, I can work in France because I’ve read their literature. I’ve read Japanese literature, Korean literature, English literature, American literature, Israeli literature, and on and on. I bring all of that somehow into my work. And I think that makes me better at what I do. It also makes life more interesting.”
So – am I blazing a new trail and embracing my inner expert-generalist? Or is that just schizo talk?
All I know for sure is that life’s a little more interesting this way.