My Inbound 14 Bold Talk - Why I Hate the Question of "What Do You Do?"
Yesterday, I gave a Bold Talk at #Inbound14 and while it was recorded and will hit the web at some point, I thought you might like to read the speech as I wrote it out. I rarely script any of my talks, but for this one I really wanted to nail it. I went off script quite a bit so for those who were there. I hope you enjoy.
Thank you to Laurie Davis Edwards for the photo.
My name is C.C. Chapman and today I have one simple request of each of you in this room and to anyone watching a recording of this talk.
My request is a simple one and that is to stop using one of my least favorite questions to judge other people.
That is the question of “What Do You Do?”
Now, on the surface there is nothing wrong with this question. It is a good question.
For years we’ve been told it is a great icebreaker and conversation starter.
You’ve probably already used it more than once at this conference. It gets asked at cocktail parties, backyard barbecues and quickly following handshakes around the globe.
I don’t so much have a problem with the actual question, but rather with how people use the information that is given as a response.
In the past, people were judged by the title on their business cards. It was a simpler time when you went to work, came home, repeat the next day.
You might switch companies a few times, but most people did the same kind of work their entire lives.
They were an accountant, chef or teacher. Maybe you were an executive, salesperson or store owner.
My dad was a forester, among other things, and my mom ran what today would be considered an illegal daycare. Don't freak out, that just means she babysat a few children in our home.
You were defined by your employment.
Right or wrong, that is how it was.
Today is different. The jobs I’ve had didn’t exist when I was growing up. The jobs my children will have could be anything.
If I had ten of my closest friends answer the question of “What does C.C. do?” I’m betting you’d get a variety of answers.
Their answers would include being a writer, photographer, speaker, podcaster, volunteer, advocate and father.
They might also throw in vaguer answers such as marketing, online media or entrepreneur.
I don’t blame them for not having a solid answer. Heck, if I were to give you one of my business cards, they currently read Storyteller, Explorer and Humanitarian because even I have a hard time fully expressing all that I do.
But, back to the question at hand and how I want to change it.
What we DO for employment is one thing.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Amos Kennedy who is an artist in Detroit. I still remember the smile he gave me and a room full of Misfits in Fargo, North Dakota when he talked about quitting his employment, not his work.
Stop and really think about that for a moment.
What is your employment?
What is your work?
What do you DO?
The technology that empowers anyone to ignore borders, walls and gatekeepers to create and do amazing things has also allowed anyone to sound like they do a lot without ever doing anything at all.
I can find self proclaimed experts and leaders on any topic in the world. How many of them have ever rolled up their sleeves with a client and actually done the work?
How many have gone beyond typing, talking and tweeting about what everyone should be doing and yet have never done it themselves.
THAT is the real problem I have with the question of What do You Do?
No matter what the business card says, I don’t see a lot of DOING going on in the world these days.
Yes, there is work being done. Money is being raised. People are putting in the time at their desks and creating things.
But, there are too many people rolling along through life and never doing anything of substance. That is what I’m hoping to get at least a few of you thinking about and changing in your lives.
I’m calling on each of you to take some quiet time and think about if you are doing enough with your life.
Is there a charity, organization or school committee you could volunteer your skills and time to?
Instead of only promoting brands and products you use or complaining about the ones that have wronged you in some way, why not champion causes and organizations you believe in!
See, I don’t like the question of “What Do You Do?” because I have such a hard time answering it.
I don’t like it because I don’t see enough people doing enough to improve the world around them and I’m putting out a call for each of us to do our part.
Each of us has the same twenty four hours in a day and seven days in a week. But, none of us know if we have tomorrow.
Recently I had a dear friend named Justin Levy have his life turned upside down when a brain tumor was discovered. He is one of the most fit people I know. He is a young and vibrant soul and then this happened.
He is doing fine and recovering thankfully. But, it could have gone very differently. It was a reminder of why doing more is so important to me and should be to you as well.
Don’t just talk about social good, giving back and helping your fellow man.
Actually get away from your screens and get out and do more.
DO something in your community that makes it better.
DO something to help a global charity reach it’s goals.
DO more. Talk less.
My name is C.C. Chapman and I know there will never be enough days to do all that I want.
Update - You can watch my INBOUND14 Bold Talk below.