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What the heck will I be when I grow up?

August 12, 2010

Warning: This post is mostly just me thinking aloud. Feel free to ignore it if you get easily annoyed with the inner angst of an over-thinker.

I’ll admit it – I’ve been agonizing about what the big “next step” will look like once I walk away from my day job. No, the agony has not been about second-guessing my decision – I’m pretty confident it’s the right choice – but rather it’s about “what am I going to put out into the world once I have to be responsible for marketing MYSELF rather than a non-profit or government organization”.

At the heart of this agonizing is a question about whether to be a generalist or a specialist. I have a lot of skills that I think are marketable – writing, communications planning & marketing & public relations, media relations, creativity, facilitation, leadership development, teaching, storytelling, global thinking, travel, synthesizing information… and that’s where I get a little bogged down. I LIKE to do a lot of things and have a lot of variety in my life. That’s why I’ve been happy in this job because it has offered me opportunity to grow in my leadership, do lots of creative writing and communicating, travel to fascinating places in the world, do story-gathering and photography, advise people on how to effectively communicate their message, etc., etc.

So part of me thinks I should just start marketing myself as a generalist who’ll do all of these things, and be kind to you while I’m at it.

BUT… I’m a little nervous that being too much of a generalist just waters down what I want to do in the world AND gives people the idea that I’m a “jack of all trades and master of none” and that I won’t really do a bang-up job of whatever it is they consider hiring me to do. So then I try to synthesize all of these things and come up with some kind of well-rounded statement like “I’ll help you use your personal and organizational stories and strengths to transform your leadership and impact”. Hmmm…. blah.

The thing is, the skills that I think will get me jobs (ie. INCOME), are not necessarily the things I want to do a lot of. Corporate communications, for example. I can write a bang-up press release or produce a lovely annual report, but please don’t make me do that ad nauseum! On the other hand, if you want to hire me to go to Zimbabwe to visit your project site to take pictures and gather stories so that you can better communicate what your organization does, I AM SO THERE!

And then there’s this other piece that keeps nagging at me like a pesky child who won’t stop showing you pictures of delectable chocolate until you take her to 7-11 for a chocolate bar (like my smart little manipulater did the other night).  Sophia Leadership. THAT feels like a real calling and something I really feel like I need to put out into the world. It’s needed – I know it is. It’s the gap that I never fully found in my thirteen years of leadership – a safe space for leaders who want to explore their feminine wisdom (intuitive thinking, creativity, spirituality, comfort with ambiguity, embodiment, etc.). Despite the many times when my fear gremlin tries to convince me that I’m not qualified to be a leadership consultant or that there isn’t enough of a market for it or I’ll kill my other chances of making an income if I focus too much on that, I KNOW deep in my heart that this is a calling I’m not supposed to take lightly.

And then… well, then my mind starts to throw all kinds of other doubts and questions on the table. Should it really be just about leadership? What if that alienates the people who SHOULD recognize that they are leaders (the artists, stay-at-h0me moms, administrative assistants, dancers, etc., etc.) but are afraid of that word? Maybe it should be something like “Sophia Rises” to express more of the emerging quality of feminine wisdom in a world that needs much more of it, without attaching it just to leadership? And… should I really call it “Sophia”? Won’t that confuse people who don’t understand that Sophia = Wisdom and who think it’s my first name? Oy veh.

As Marianne Elliot said so eloquently, “I’m learning to trust that the work I’m here to do is bigger than me.” Somehow it feels like the Sophia work is bigger than me and it’s the direction I need to place my energy. I expect that (at least at first) it won’t be the only thing that I do, and really, I think if I do it right, all of those things can be incorporated into the Sophia work.

The lovely thing is that this thinking work is not really stressing me out, despite the use of the word “agonizing”. To some degree, I thrive on change and innovation, and this is just the kind of thing that gives me a buzz. So I’ll happily keep thinking and overthinking and praying and meditating about this thing for awhile, and at some point, perhaps the path will be clear.

If you have any wisdom on the subject, feel free to share it. I’d be especially interested in hearing about what you think my “essence” or”strength” is – what is the quality that shines from this blog that you think people need more of?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2010 9:42 am

    Yes! Yes to Sophia! I hope whatever you turn this into you will keep the name Sophia in it (I’ll admit I fell in love with “Sophia Rises,” too). I love it. It has power. And those who don’t know what it means can be taught.

  2. August 12, 2010 1:52 pm

    Have you been visiting inside my head lately?!

    With a consulting practice that has morphed and iterated since 1986… its original tagline (a genus of originality…yours) making more sense now then ever (call it creative foreshadowing or sophia sensing) I totally get this dilemma of generalist versus specialist and how to “message” what you are about in a way that people get, recognize and want-need.

    I do know is that SOPHIA, besides its literal meaning of wisdom, evokes much of your essence, and it appears to be how you’ve been “putting it out there” to date. Your transparent, flexible, humourous, heartwarming way of writing, and the clarity you bring to helping others communicate in a similar way – though congruent to who we are – is a gift. For example yesterday’s post and your pithy advice.

    I may come back to you to “borrow a page from your book” as I, too, grapple, sense, intuit, plan, agonize my own next steps during this year of exploration.

  3. Janie permalink
    August 12, 2010 3:31 pm

    Heather, I’m working with a “transition coach” – actually he’s a personal coach but I’m using him to think about who I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done and what’s next. First session was this week. It’ll be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of who’s totally objective.

  4. August 12, 2010 7:43 pm

    For me (and for you, too) there is such energy behind the Sophia idea. {I found myself saying to myself, “Oh, I so WANT & NEED something like this” — so let me know when you have offerings!!} My advice (not that you have to take it, of course!) is to start with that idea — spend a little bit of time on brainstorming possibilities, then choose the one that calls to you the most…and BEGIN. The scope and audience and form of it will become clearer in the DOING of it.

    Thank you for sharing so honestly where your thoughts are. I too am in the midst of looking at how to share my gifts/essence through something larger than me as well. Just today I had a healing session where I was discussing some possibilities I was thinking of and I too shared some concerns about my credentials — and I was reminded by her to trust all the things I do, all the learning I have done. And I offer that as witness to you, too.

    Your essence, your gifts just ARE. They will be expressed in whatever work/offering/creation you choose.

    I also agree with Janie about finding someone or a small group of committed listeners where you can process and explore (if you don’t have an avenue for that already). They can feedback to you where you sound energized, full of passion and help to clarify next steps.

    Sending love, strength and clarity to you (and all of us) to trust that what we are called to offer is needed in the world!

  5. August 13, 2010 7:44 am

    Our culture trains us to believe that it is in being a specialist that we attain success and prestige. How very male. 😉

    Talking with you in person, reading this blog, all the emails…the one thing your HEART aches for, Heather, (it seems to me) is to never again be pigeon holed, especially by yourself.

    And this work with women? So important and so necessary. It may seem like the scarier choice because it’s this totally uncleared path…but then, there’s a clue, I would say! 😉

  6. August 13, 2010 4:01 pm

    Since I found this post so intriguing (since you, Heather, might have been visiting inside my head, it applies well to me) and see a potential of a blog to inspire conversation among, not just between, I came back and really like Christine’s offering. I know she has uncovered a clue when she writes ” It may seem like the scarier choice because it’s this totally uncleared path.”

    As I hold intent to cohost a women’s leadership retreat in September, especially as registration is slow and my own “gremlins” are having a bit of a heyday, I’m thinking alot about what it means to do this work with women as an offering to and for the world.

    Thank you, both, and all….

  7. August 14, 2010 7:20 am

    Wow. Just found you & your blog today, and after reading only 2 posts — and then fumbling around your other pages, I just have to tell you I feel “at home.”

    The way you write, communicate, and just being YOU — is enough. Meaning, what it is that you “do” you’ve been doing your whole life. You won’t find that “thing” — because that thing is just a part of you and sometimes difficult to describe.

    I know because I’ve been asking people the EXACT same question to asked: “what you think my “essence” or”strength” is – what is the quality that shines from (ME) this blog that you think people need more of?”

    I’ve been asking people this question all year. It’s been a year of figuring out what the heck do I do that’s so special and unique…and what they heck can I do with those things to make a living (ie, pay the rent). So I completely hear where you’re coming from. People have been saying to me over and over again that I help motivate and inspire them. But been struggling with how to monetize it. Not because I’m money hungry, but because I do want to make a decent living WHILE doing what makes me tick, makes me happy, and energizes soul.

    And I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter HOW I do those things, or in what form — in that whatever I choose to do (when I work from the heart) those qualities will shine.

    But as I’m also a marketing “expert” (and like you have worked in communications, marketing, writing, traveling, etc) that side of me say’s “you have to chose a niche!” Then again, I know from personal experience that you just need to GET OUT THERE and do your thing. Whatever is it. Just choose a path and by starting to walk it, step by step, little by little, the road will start to appear.

    Ok, I’m getting long here.

    But I just want to echo what the others have said here — especially Shannon & Christine. It’s like they took the words out of my head it put them into a complete & comprehensible sentence. Re-read what they wrote — and read them again.

    One last thought: I love the Sophia thing…either Leadership or Rises (but Rises just touched me) and I have to admit I had NO idea of the Sophia = Wisdom connection. So do and chose what your heart aches for, what feels right to YOU and your soul (not what you think you ‘should’ do).

    And slowly the path will emerge. And the workshops on your Workshop page — so many sound SO interesting to me! There is definitely a market (defined or not) of people who could use your wisdom 🙂

  8. August 18, 2010 2:41 pm

    Hello women, the point that I learned – and was the most challenging – is that when you start living from an Open Will (Otto Scharmer’s language); living something that is bigger than you/your ego; then the reward/money/appreciation also needs to be trusted to come from the bigger univers – not just you!
    This is a though one to crack; asks for a lot of trust in these moments when no money seems available…

    For women interested, here is a link to more women’s work:

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