Since my book Finding the Sweet Spot was published, I’ve been thinking about how to make it more useful. I did set up a companion website, but I was far too ambitious in its design, and was naive in the expectation that people could/would actually compare ideas, Gifts, Passions and Purposes with others online, and that there would be anough traffic on the site to create a self-organized ‘market’ of ideas and potential partners.
Lately I’ve wondered whether it might be possible to create an online workbook to accompany the book, one that would include exercises to discover your Gifts, Passions and Purpose, and find the Sweet Spot at their intersection. Rather than starting with the industrial classifications, the way most career counselling guides do, I thought it might be more appropriate to start with the types of activities that go on in a Natural Economy and Natural Society. My first attempt to delineate these (which was part of the research for my novel) is illustrated above. Nine “meta-careers” are identified:
I developed this framework in the context of essential work of a post-civilization society. These are all things that are needed in a community, and which we offer to others (because no individual is self-sufficient), to make the community self-sufficient. They cut across all of the modern, specialized ‘disciplines’ that have become our modern economy’s strait-jacket: we think of disciplines like ‘sales representative’ or ‘engineer’ or ‘musician’ or ‘athlete’ as the only way collective effort can be divvied up and parsed, because it is the only way we have ever seen work categorized. So, for example, the work of a scientist can entail all nine of the work categories listed above, as can the work of an artist or a programmer.
My belief is that our natural affinity is more for one or a few of these nine work categories, than it is to a modern ‘specialty’: People who are good at designing could be as useful designing shirts as designing recipes. People who are good at mending people (e.g. doctors) could be as useful and passionate about mending trains (e.g. mechanics). So I think it might be useful to think about what we are meant to do using these nine meta-ways of being of use, that draw on similar natural Gifts and similar Passions.
In thinking about my own Sweet Spot, I generally identify “reflecting” and “imagining possibilities” (category 3 activities) and “writing” (a category 4 activity) as being what I’m meant to do. I am passionate but not especially gifted at facilitation, conversing and demonstrating (category 2 and 9 activities). I am competent but not especially passionate about research (category1 activity). And I am neither competent nor passionate about category 5-8 work, though I recognize their great value and would not start an enterprise that didn’t have partners who were both gifted and passionate about such work.
When I look at wild creatures, I see evidence of learning and practice of all nine of these categories of essential work. The need for us to be social, to associate and collaborate and, together, to do all nine types of work effectively, transcends history, geography and species.
Another thing I like about this categorization of essential work is that it demonstrates the uselessness of a lot of the work that is being done today by millions of highly-paid people, and hence might give pause to young people drawn to these ‘professions’ simply because they’re easy and lucrative. Lawyers, stock-brokers and insurance agents come to mind, for example. None of these professions produce anything of essential value. They are parasites of the current, unsustainable and dysfunctional industrial economy. The post-civilization world will not need anyone to do these things.
So if I were to develop a Finding the Sweet Spot workbook, to help people discover the work they’re meant to do, I would be strongly tempted to use this nine-category classification of essential work as the basis for doing so, and to re-cast the exercises about discovering your Gifts, your Passions, your Purpose and your Partners (those with complementary Gifts who share your Purpose) accordingly. So, for example, in listing the dozens of possible and needed ‘green’ careers in Roberts and Brandum’s book Get a Life! I would reorganize them into the nine categories above.
I’d welcome your thoughts on this plan. Is this way of discovering what you’re meant to do too conceptual for most people? Does it require a degree of self-knowledge and the workings of an economy (Natural or Industrial) that is beyond most people’s capabilities? Is it counter-intuitive?
Although the book has not been a popular success, I still think it could be very valuable to young people about to embark on their careers, boomers about to ‘retire’ from their first careers, and frustrated and underemployed workers of all ages. I’m just trying to figure out how to make it accessible and useful enough that it gets the attention it deserves.
Category: Finding and Creating Meaningful Work