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Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work

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What do you want to be when you grow up?
What is your thing?
What is your niche?
What is your major?
What will your specialization be in (law) (medicine) (engineering) (art)?

Social norms push at us relentlessly to make decisions about a singular work path. Choosing well, we are told, will set us up for success or failure.

I think about it differently.

In our limited time on earth, we can choose to contribute our energy and efforts toward many meaningful things.

We can help solve complex problems – like David Batstone’s commitment to end human trafficking with Notforsale.org

We can build bridges – like Kai Dupe and his work on the digital divide for people of color at KaiDupe.com

We can change the world through powerful communication – like Nancy Duarte and her work with Duarte Design

We can make the world more accessible to more people – like Glenda Watson-Hyatt and her work at doitmyselfblog

We can strengthen the bond between parents and children – like Marilyn Scott-Waters and her world of free paper toys at thetoymaker.com

Each of these examples show deep commitment to a cause or problem that is bigger than any job title or profession or business. And they can include a whole range of output, including writing, physical products, legal legislation, speeches, books, conversations and roles.

Focusing on a body of work will give you more freedom to choose different work options throughout the course of your  life.

So you won’t have to say things like “I am throwing away 10 years of studying and practicing law if I start a yoga studio.”

(Don’t worry — your relatives will say it.)

Or “I am undermining my potential if I take a job as a barista” after you get laid off from your corporate job as a highly-paid creative.

If your body of work is about creating beauty and art, why not make lovely images in latte foam while you are doing what you need to do to take care of your family?

What is your body of work?

Your body of work is everything you say, affect, create, contribute and impact.

Smiling at your neighbor every morning as you get the paper can contribute to your bigger desire to see more happiness and joy in the world.

Your jaunt in a legal career may be a very important part of your body of work contributing to the health of busy professionals through your yoga-based health and wellness practice (see Kelly Newsome’s story here and site here)

My passion for and commitment to seeing and stoking the fire of creation inside all human beings has led me from community development projects on the outskirts of Bogotá to non-profit education to teaching martial arts to corporate consulting to entrepreneur coaching and writing a book. And it will take me new directions in the future, without having to feel constrained by any one audience or business or job title.

A body of work is big and deep and complex. It allows you to experiment and play and change and test.

It supports creative freedom.

Change the spotlight

Focusing on your body of work rather than a you-centric career has the additional benefit of helping with your fear of coming out from behind the curtain of anonymity.

I often run into clients who get anxiety thinking about what may happen when they gain exposure and notoriety.

What if I don’t have all the answers?
What if my life is not all together?
What if I have spinach in my teeth when interviewed by Matt Lauer?

When you realize that your job is to contribute to your body of work, you can conjure up the following visualization:

Imagine you are standing up on a big stage with a large space in front of you. This space represents your body of work — the thing you care most about contributing to.

Now visualize many people directing their energy at you in the form of big beams of light right at your head.

Now strap a mirror to your forehead.

Take all these beams of light and direct them from your head to the body of work in front of you.

Notice how the more people who are sending energy your way, the more illuminated and bright your body of work is?

Fame is fleeting.

Consistent impact over the course of your life on a body of work you care about deeply is legacy.

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75 Responses to “Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work”

  1. […] “Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work,” Pamela Slim explains her approach in helping frustrated employees break out of corporate jobs. She […]

  2. […] help figuring out your thing?    What can you do to have the greatest impact over the course of your […]

  3. […] Pamela Slim: Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work […]

  4. [...] way forward is thought leadership. Taking a stand. Pam Slim calls it building a body of work. Seth Godin calls it making art. We are all entrepreneurs now. Personal Brand used to be a trendy [...]

  5. [...] “Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work” by Pam Slim [...]

  6. [...] love the concept of Body of Work. I keep saying that for Generation Y finding meaningful careers is the biggest challenge and [...]

  7. [...] “Escape from Cubicle Nation” author Pam Slim calls the “slash” career a body of work, but the concept is the same. Instead of doing a single task or function to satisfy your [...]

  8. [...] under the sun, so your ideas aren’t that original. Give them breathing room, and worry about your body of work for the long haul, not your ownership for the short term. (Unless you’re patenting flying cars. [...]

  9. [...] social environment? Create one. Need different career opportunities? Start publicly sharing your body of work. Want to sink into being your weirdo self? Do your [...]

  10. [...] voyeuristic and drama-seeking ones. We can show up and love our more reserved creators for the body of work they’re producing just as much as we can show up and love the people whose body of work is [...]

  11. [...] newer material. It’s not yet far enough away that it’s a completely separate voice and body of work, but in a few more months, it’d be impossible to breadcrumb the trail between the two without [...]

  12. [...] or family member for a long lunch. Spend time with your kiddies. Or spend time with yourself. Do your art (whether that’s painting, writing, mentoring someone who needs your help or building custom [...]

  13. [...] Pamela Slim: Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work [...]

  14. [...] Pam Slim says over on her blog: Fame is [...]

  15. [...] it’s smart to develop relationships with trademark specialists and lawyers as your body of work grows, you have to be careful about how much time and resources you spend protecting your ideas. In [...]

  16. [...] might also like Pam Slim, Author of Escape from Cubicle Nation’s post on “Blow Up Traditional Careers in favor of bodies of [...]

  17. [...] body of work in entrepreneurship and business is largely around how to manifest our vision, principles, and [...]

  18. If Only says:

    [...] how I wish my week had went. In reality, Emails were CC’d, meetings slept through, hope kept alive on a ventilator. There were no legendary battles And, more importantly, No [...]

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