I was shooting a mini-documentary of Steve B, of Steve B Leatherworks, who has built a nice business creating custom leather products for bikers, housewives, executives and everyone in between. Steve, a marketing veteran who started Steve B Leatherworks as an invigorating hobby, now combines his thriving leather business, marketing consulting and journalistic writing as a career. As I was shooting him over the sewing machine working on his latest belt, he summed up his career by saying, "These days, we're all stitching it together."
Sometimes, the perfect pun appears when you least expect it.
Back in the day, you chose a career, then a company, and basically stayed with that company for most of your career. That evolved into choosing a career, and trying to stick with it even as you bounced from company to company.
Today? Everything is up for grabs: the career path, the company, the industry, and everything in between.
You might start out as an accountant with a passionate hobby of collecting baseball cards, only to be deemed redundant and unemployable in a shrinking industry. Those baseball cards you've been collecting? They could become your best new source of income.
Maybe the baseball cards become part of your income through a consignment booth at a collectors mall, along with contract work in accounting, and maybe a bit of teaching at the adult ed center. And while the transition from one steady job to a series of disparate gigs may seem frenetic and fearful, you may discover you like the action and adventure of reinventing yourself. You may love turning a lifelong passion into a career. And you may find that the chaotic entrepreneur world actually gives you more control than the now tenuous nine-to-five thing.
That's what stitching it together is all about. And like Steve B, that's what more of us are doing—and having fun while we're at it.
Even in the digital / visual / social media age of micro-mini attention spans, writing rules. Whether you want to persuade, explain, entertain or sell, if you can’t get your ideas across in words, the rest of it is just eye candy.
To hone your writing skills, take a look a writing rock star: Plato.
The classical Greek philosopher Plato was a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy of Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
He was also one of the first regular users of an alarm clock (a water alarm clock, specifically). And that makes him a writing rock star.
Set an alarm, spare the writing angst.
How many times have you sat down in front of a blank page and froze? Like I do on just about every piece I write, including this one. You think about how much you have to accomplish, how many pages to fill, what to say, how to say it, why it needs to be said, and on and on and on.
Minutes, hours, days later, and the page is still blank.
That’s why you need to take a lesson from Plato and make a simple alarm clock (or timer) your most important writing tool. Here’s how:
Somewhere in high school, we’re introduced to, and then inundated with, the “career” word. We’re instructed to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. The career pressure used to start when we became high school seniors. For my kids, it started as high school freshman.
Right. Like a 14-year-old who can barely decide on her next anime binge can suddenly figure out her life calling.
A legacy of slow, steady, boring.
For many, this approach led to a steady-if-unspectacular-career, in an arbitrarily chosen field, with the goal of spending decades moving up the ladder to a middle middling position.
But in today’s world, maybe the last thing we should think about is a career.
The danger of career thinking.
While a long track record in the same company used to convey loyalty, selflessness and determination, it can now connote laziness, lack of initiative and unimaginative acceptance of the status quo. All of which could land you on the wrong side of a downsizing, asset consolidation, destaffing or whatever head chopping euphemism is currently in vogue.
So how can you avoid turning a career into career suicide?
By mastering a craft.
Craft for life.
A craft can be anything you have a passion for — whether it's writing, financial planning, auto repair or knitting. It means devoting yourself to your craft, always looking to improve it, and sticking with it whether you get paid or not.
Do what you love; love what you do — or some combination therein.
Ideally, you’ll love your craft and make a living at it. But not everyone can be so lucky. You may love a craft but not get paid for it, or get paid for a craft you don't love but excel at.
Whatever your situation, you still need to hone a craft. By doing so, you'll continually rekindle your spark to create, and that spark will be reflected in your overall outlook, energy and determination.
Craft is the new black.
Because you'll move quickly and decisively while working your craft, you'll rediscover what it means to act with a sense of purpose and passion, which can help turbo charge your career.
You'll also be more interesting to bosses and coworkers when they see your rock collection at a mineral show, or your time management app featured on mobile sites. All other things being equal, people like to work with people who are passionate and engaged ... in something. Anything.
Time well spent, even if you have none.
I know: you barely have enough time to get through your day; how are you supposed to work on your craft? Start small by cutting out a sliver of your downtime, like twenty minutes of TV or setting your alarm fifteen minutes earlier. As you delve into your craft, you’ll discover new levels of satisfaction and challenge, which makes finding time even easier.
Craft it up.
Maybe one day, you can figure out how to monetize your craft by either selling your creations, or teaching others. At the very least, you'll sharpen your career-enhancing cognitive and creative skills, and enjoy the reward of accomplishing something special in an area you love.
No matter how the rest of your day goes with work, life, family and friends, you'll always have your craft to work on. That’s something no one can take away from you. And something that can take your career to a new level.