I had an interesting experience with the creative act yesterday.
As some of you may know, I have been wrestling for years with the question of what should my life work be about.
I’m guessing most folks know me as a strategy consultant that has a small YouTube channel. And, that’s fine. I could easily continue to grow the channel (and my audience) while consulting—all the way into retirement.
But, I have felt this urge for about four years now to make my last act count. I want to devote my work to something that’s meaningful and that uses who I am in a way that matters.
Whatever that all means.
It’s been difficult to sort this out. On one hand, I have all this hard-won business experience and expertise. On the other, I am interested in theology, sociology, history, politics—really I’m drawn to the issues that get at the meaning of life. These are the issue that are in my soul.
But I’m a marketing guy, not Jordan Person. So, even though I’ve wanted to tackle the bigger issues of life, and even though I’ve wanted to find a way to orient all my work around what’s in my soul, I’ve really struggled to see a way to do it.
I’ve vacillated between two extremes: biz guy and boffin. For the last two years it’s been “Buy my branding course” or “please read my thoughtful essay on why monarchy can help solve the meaning crisis”.
And, it’s maddening. Until yesterday, that is.
Yesterday, I experienced the creative act in the form of an epiphany. Out of nowhere, I just got the answer, the key to unlocking my ongoing problem. In an instant, my four years of wrestling was solved. It was an awesome experience.
I’ll rough out the answer quickly here, as well as offer a few thoughts on why I was able to suddenly get resolution. Please note, what follows isn’t meant to be a guide. It’s just me writing out some thoughts for the first time in hopes they can inform future consideration and development.
So, I’ve shared my challenge. Here’s the answer I got.
What makes me unique, what differentiates me, is that I have all this business, strategy, branding, marketing, and entrepreneurship experience which I contextualize within the bigger topics of humanity, i.e., culture, politics, philosophy, science, religion, and so on.
What I was bumping up against is that you typically see one or the other, but not both synthesized into something special, something new.
So, I looked at the business advice world and it just seemed so narrow and lifeless. But, I looked at the cultural-political world, and although I feel strongly about my views, there’s nothing especially noteworthy about them. Nor do I have the celebrity status that would make anyone care what I think.
But, combine the two and I have something that no one else is really offering: business contextualized within something bigger.
It’s interesting because on one hand business can be a vehicle with which to deliver the deeper topics—a sort of intellectual Trojan Horse. You came for the money-making, but stayed for The Truth(TM). On the other hand, business itself can take on a deeper meaning when it’s contextualized intelligently within what it means to be human. It moves past “strictly business” and into an activity for human flourishing.
With this understanding, I can transform lives, contribute to society in a meaningful way, and better align my work with God’s Kingdom.
Plus, it’s a lot easier to engage people by offering to help them with their business aspirations than it is to ask them to throw money at your cultural rants.
This may not seem like much, but I can tell you this is a big moment for me.
Okay, now I’ll share why I think I was able to get resolution.
First, I inadvertently gave my mind a real problem to solve. I have been trying to figure this out for years, as I have said, but so far it’s been an intellectual exercise. Consulting has provided me with good work and a good living. So, there’s been nothing concrete to solve. I’ve just had a general sense of frustration and have been trying to figure out what work I could do that would be better. It’s been mostly theoretical.
Until last week, that is. Last week I committed to, and announced, Broadside, a premium newsletter I’m launching on November 1, 2022.
Initially, I was thinking it would be a weekly essay on whatever deep, think-y topic I was attending to. I had conceived it under the current wisdom that “you are the niche”. I figured if people followed me for me, then I’d just offer a deeper piece in the form of the newsletter.
I immediately started getting some subscriptions, but the one thing that was bothering me was the value proposition felt kinda weak. I knew I was on the right track and I also knew the newsletter had the potential to pull all my work together in a way I hadn’t been able to do so far. But, at the same time, it felt like I was missing something.
So, for the first time, my mind had a real problem to solve. The newsletter was an attempt to begin putting out deeper work, but it was not right on target.
Second, I have invested a lot of time (researching, writing, conversing) into this issue—four years, as I keep saying. I feel like I’ve hit it from every angle, to the point where I’m embarrassed to even bring it up with friends and family because I know I sound like a fixated idiot. The point being, I’ve put in the time on this one and my mind has a lot of context to work with.
Third, I’ve hardly been consuming news or digital media. I’m no hermit, but lately I have been so engrossed in my work that I’ve been ignoring everything else. I’ve been reading more, too—more books, more journals, more essays. Also, I’ve hardly been listening to any podcasts, which is a change. I’ve been reading, writing, and consulting. That’s about it.
The reason I think this is noteworthy is because all these things have created a more permissive mental environment for the creative act to happen. My mind has not been as molded or influenced by the upsetting or entertaining issues of the given day, while it’s been engaged with the ideas and thoughts of other authors.
So, combine all three—a real problem to solve, lot’s of groundwork to make sense of the problem, and a clear mind that’s able to work away on the problem—and I got something special.
Now begins the work of translating the resulting vision into something real. And that’s, wonderfully, what I can call a life’s work.
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