Q2 - What You Do
Updated: Feb 9
The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment. – TONY ROBBINS
WHAT YOU DO is all about action. It is what you are currently involved in and what you intend to be involved in moving forward.
The power in this question of “WHAT YOU DO” lies in its ability to change perceptions from ordinary to unexpected —to easily associate your work and activities with positive attributes and communicate your purpose in ways that give people something they didn’t yet know they wanted.
Years ago, I worked for the largest technology company in the world, leading global brand strategy for its software division. The company had a difficult time explaining what problems their software solved and relied on complex data in grammatically correct sentences to try and differentiate themselves. During one memorably frustrating meeting in which a few decision-makers refused to budge from talking about "speeds and feeds." One of the marketing managers growled, "it's like describing sushi as cold, dead fish!" He was right. While it's factually accurate that sushi is dead fish served cold, sushi is also a marvelously delicate way to experience the lush flavors of fresh food sourced from the ocean.
Do you see the difference in how using words that inspire an emotional response to describe WHAT YOU DO can immediately change someone’s perception? One states facts, while the other engages the imagination as to what someone will experience and how they will benefit.
See WHAT YOU DO Through These Examples
Personal: A friend of mine loves to write. She believes strongly in the power of straight talk, beautifully penned, and this belief is what fuels her creativity. But how do you explain this quickly, and in a way that makes people want it? After completing The Five Questions of Perception, my friend came to understand that what drives her is finding patterns in ideas and then translating those patterns into candid and meaningful stories. She is uniquely skilled at turning what seems to be ordinary tales of experience into extraordinary narratives of authenticity. Because she now describes what she does as "I help people tell truthful stories," she stands out more.
The key isn’t just to state facts, but to convey the emotional story behind the facts. Facts (labels, categories, titles, checklists, etc.) on their own don’t tell the story of how what you do makes a difference to someone else. The story behind the facts, or context, is needed to move from ordinary to a fascinating account of potential. Context ensures that people clearly understand how you will make a difference because they can understand how what you do is relevant to them.
Business: A man who’s a partner in a scientific research firm saw that the five critical words in his word cloud were “organisms,” “deep-water,” “discover,” “treatment,” and “infection.” Using the insights gained from The Five Questions of Perception, he answered the question of “WHAT YOU DO” this way: “I lead deep-water explorations to discover new organisms with the potential to treat bacterial infections.” On the surface, this new explanation may seem very straightforward but compare it to how he used to describe what he does: "I lead academic research focused on adaptations in microbes to extreme environments using methods from biophysics, molecular biology, informatics, and microbiology."
Which do you prefer, the surprise of sushi, or the plainness of cold, dead fish?
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. – ROB SILTANEN
To discover WHAT YOU DO, you'll need to tell the story behind your words.
Step 1: Go back to your word cloud. Look at the most prominent words, as well as the next layer in. Answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper to tell the story behind your words.
What story do they tell about your drivers?
What is the relation or commonality between those words?
What do they describe?
Do you see a pattern between the words that feel most emotionally real and those words that are new to you, but won’t go away?
Helpful Tip! Sometimes when a new concept makes itself known, it can feel uncomfortable. That is a good sign! When discomfort is the result of a new idea, it makes sense to do a reality check with your three brain centers: gut, heart, and mind. Remember, your gut and heart won't mislead you, but your mind can often fool you.
If those weekend words are making you itchy or antsy, don't push them away. Listen to them. Sit with them. Let your gut and your heart determine if they are trustworthy. Given both personal experience and guiding others through this process, I'm pretty sure those weekend words that make you uncomfortable are reliable guides to help you express your unique calling.
Step 2: Pick out the top five words that resonate most strongly and truthfully in your heart and gut. Now, write a minimum of 3-5 different sentences that include those five words to describe WHAT YOU DO.
If this feels futile or frustrating, don't give up! This is where you define your calling and give honest phrasing to what it is you do. If you are encountering mental or emotional blocks, this means that you are nearing a breakthrough, not a breakdown. Remain persistent, and you will get that flash of recognition that happens when the accurate description of what you do falls into place. It's an "oh, there you are!" moment of awareness. Push through your doubts and annoyance. Those emotions are the debris of old ideas that no longer apply to you. The reward is the satisfaction that comes with discovering how to describe WHAT YOU DO confidently!
If you’re still feeling stuck, another way to unearth insights is to consider past successes.
Looking back on a specific accomplishment that means a lot to you, deconstruct it to see how you achieved what you did, and how that aligns with your weekend words from your word cloud and think about these questions.
Did you develop a more concise process for a team to follow? How would that illustrate and expand the understanding of WHO YOU ARE by explaining WHAT YOU DO?
Perhaps you designed a house that set a new standard for using recycled products. How would that illustrate and expand the understanding of WHO YOU ARE by explaining WHAT YOU DO?
Maybe you led a team in organizing an ongoing community project to clean up and maintain a neighborhood park. How would that illustrate and expand the understanding of WHO YOU ARE by explaining WHAT YOU DO?
Now that you’ve looked at past successes describe here WHAT YOU DO now to support your word cloud.