A few months ago I was listening to a podcast called “Do The Thing”, and it stopped me in my tracks within the first few minutes, before she even got to the actual topic.
She did a little intro, welcomed her guest, and then said, “Before we get into it, the first question I ask all of my guests: What’s your thing?”
The guest speaker started talking about how her thing was teaching people to heal….and I stopped the podcast and just sat there thinking.
What would I say, if I was somehow a guest on that podcast, and she asked, “What’s your thing?”
Without too much familiarity with this particular podcast or its episodes, I instantly grasped the concept. Figure out what your Thing is, and then do that. And focus on that. And address whatever it is holding you back from it. (She introduces it as “A podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change, and make it stick.”)
And I sat there, on the overground train, watching London city rumble by, with my suitcase at my feet and the airport ahead of me, and I thought.
What’s my thing?
The default would be “helping accountants to become better marketers”.
I just dashed that off right now, but it’s not a bad phrase to describe what we do at PF, which is the creative agency I own.
But that’s not all I do. And what struck me in that moment is, I’m not even sure it’s my Thing.
Because I also love…
- Sketchnoting and sketching
- Connect people with help
Those are things I love to do, which tap into my skills and abilities. I do all of these things, sometimes daily. Sometimes together. Right now, for example, I’m writing to you, with an accompanying sketchnote. And maybe even connecting you to some help, if you end up listening to and being helped by the podcast.
But which one is my Thing? What’s the ultimate one I want to focus all my energies on? Will I ever figure it out? How do you know?
At first I felt a little overwhelmed, and sort of pressured. Like if you don’t figure out your Thing, now, you’re WASTING TIME and IT’S GOING BY SO FAST and HURRY HURRY NOW NOW. (Doesn’t help when there’s a global pandemic on and some of the messages are along these lines.)
And I do know focusing in one direction is always more efficient and more profitable. Helps you achieve more, get more things done which have more impact. Even choosing to focus exclusively on accountants in our agency has been evidence of that.
But I’ve been mulling this question over for the last while (that was probably six months ago now), about what MY thing is.
Just because you’re good at – and enjoy – many different kinds of things, doesn’t mean that’s where all your energy needs to go. In the past I’ve had to let go of things I enjoyed and was very, very good at (like wedding photography) to make room for something which I not only enjoyed and am good at, but which will lead me closer to my life goals.
I chose the creative agency because it felt more scalable and profitable than the wedding photography. (Hands down the best decision. Much as I love photography, it’s very hard to stand out and make it last profitably for a long time.) Over the past year or two, I’ve been working on training the team and building scripts and processes and our PF Way, so the current team can train the new team members, and we can keep scaling and growing.
I’m doing less of the hands-on client work and more of the coaching and training and helping. And branding.
So right now, all my Things seem to integrate.
I find myself doing more and more of all these Things. I’m doing more writing, in different ways and for different purposes. I’m consistently sketching (these weekly Notes help!). I’m reading more books and consuming more content on branding, and building resources on branding for accountants. I’m doing more coaching and training courses. (Side note, I really, really love those – if you’re an accountant I definitely recommend our new 4-week Breakthrough groups. Pick a topic you want to go deeper into and join 10-15 of your closest friends, okay other accountants who feel like you do, and figure out what’s holding you back and start changing that.)
Through all of it I continue to connect people with help. Podcasts, books, ideas, support – whenever I hit something which has helped me, I start buying people books and sharing stories on Insta and having conversations and getting all fired up.
For example, this week it was reading a book about Religious Trauma Syndrome, which I didn’t know was a thing but apparently it’s a thing, and after posting about it on Insta have had at least nine very deep, very long conversations with women who are struggling in this area too. That’s my… that’s my thing! Not the trauma syndrome itself but the conversations, the connecting people. Recommending and sharing and helping people to get help.
Maybe the Thing for me has something to do with the connecting. And then it flows into and out from all of my other Things.
Austin Kleon talks about this in his book “Steal Like An Artist”. He says “Don’t wait till you know who you are to get started”. The whole point of copying others is to try stuff you can see working, but try it for yourself with your own style. It’s not plagiarism, but copying. “Like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”
“It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.”
So, I’m making things. Doing my work. Doing my thing (or things), in varying formats and with varying frequency. Day after day, week after week, year after year.
Trusting that the One Thing will become clear, will be more and more refined as I keep going. It’s already a lot clearer than it was 5 or 10 years ago. Imagine how clear I’ll be 5 or 10 years from now!
It’s a good thought. And they’re good Things.
What’s your Thing?