How Do You Want to Be Known?

We live in a world overflowing with opportunity and choice. With so many options, sometimes it’s difficult to choose. Rather than settling on one thing, be it a career, brand of coffee, hobby or target market, we either decide not to choose or we dabble in lots of different things.

Choosing not to choose is, by default, a choice to stick with the status quo. You can’t decide what to write or speak about or whom to coach, so you just don’t write, speak or coach. Not a very good choice if those are things you really want to do.

Dabbling in lots of different areas is like sampling tiny hors-d’oeuvres at a party.  You get to taste many different flavors and textures—some delicious and some that are too cold, squishy, rubbery or spicy.

Assuming you’ve chosen you want to write something, dabbling in different genres, media and markets can be a fun learning experience. But after a while, dabbling isn’t very fulfilling. Eventually you find a flavor or two or three you really like and discover that the rest really aren’t for you.

Great! Out of hundreds of topics you could write about or markets you could write for, you’ve chosen a small handful. But what if you want to write fiction and non-fiction?  Inspiration and business? Does it make sense to do all of those things? Can you master more than one, or will you always be so-so at several?

If you haven’t already guessed, this is a question on which I’ve been stewing for a while—as in years. I like variety! I love talking with kids at schools about my children’s adventure books. I also love helping people tell their stories. And, I love writing inspirational materials that encourage and challenge people to think and talk about what really matters. So how could I choose to do just one of those things?

Recently, I was challenged to think about how I want to be known as a professional. The exercise helped me mentally tie together all the aspects of my career. If you feel like your ideas and activities are scattered, maybe it will help you, too. Think about or list:

  • What you do now
  • What you enjoy
  • What you’d rather not do at all
  • What you really want to do

Now, identify the common thread running through the activities that appeal to you.  It could be the mechanics of the process, but it could also go much deeper—to the core of who you are as an individual.

Here’s what I discovered in this process of clarifying how I want to be known: Choosing a focus doesn’t have to be about limiting yourself to one activity or style of writing. It can be about choosing a theme or message for your life and work. Once you’re clear about that, it’s much easier to accept or turn down opportunities that don’t fit your life’s theme.

[callout]Tweet this–> Choosing a focus doesn’t have to be about limiting yourself to one activity or style of writing. [/callout]

My theme is sharing stories and messages that matter. I help people share their messages and tell their stories. And I tell my own through fiction and inspiration.

So, what’s your theme? What common thread runs through the things you love to write about, or markets you want to reach, or activities that consume your time? If something doesn’t fit, does it need to stay? Or is it something that you dabbled in and really didn’t enjoy? Don’t be afraid to decline a squishy or bland hors-d’oeuvre. Save room for the best—the work that is most enjoyable and fulfilling.

Share your thoughts: What do you tell people when they ask, “What do you do?”

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Henry Matlock - April 11, 2015

Love your theme, Erin. I think you nailed it!

This post is excellent and it hits close to home. I’ve been struggling with this same issue on a couple of levels. I enjoy serving new and aspiring authors; but I also enjoy serving in the area of my formal education – health administration.

Plus, I enjoy teaching the “nuts and bolts” in these areas; but as someone who’s been called to preach the Gospel, I also enjoy sharing the Bible’s perspective in, well, *every* area of life, including one’s craft or business.

You’ve given me food for thought. I’ll look for the common theme and let you know what emerges.

    Erin K Casey - April 11, 2015

    Thanks, Henry. You aren’t alone! I’ve discovered that having a theme has helped me cut off some tangents that didn’t really make sense. And, I don’t worry as much about saying no when things aren’t a good fit. I’d love to hear what theme shows up for you.

Whitney Sparks - April 16, 2015

I love this, Erin. I have had this debate over and over again in my head. I love coaching, leading coupon classes, overseeing projects, help save people money, speaking, etc. What your post made me see is that I LOVE TO TEACH! I am a teacher at heart and that’s where I have my degree. I have always felt that I can only use my degree for public education but I’m starting to see that I can educate anyone/anywhere as long as I have that drive to teach. Pray for me as God leads me on this path and thanks for making me feel normal. All in all, I just want to be ME – the one that God created and use my talents for His honor and glory!

    Erin K Casey - April 16, 2015

    I love that you’ve found some clarity, Whitney! And I will definitely send up a prayer for wisdom to follow where God leads. Thanks for sharing!

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