Thank you for reading this week’s Operation Melt update.
Operation Melt started as a blog to share my personal transformation and weight loss story. After achieving success with that goal, Operation Melt has evolved into a platform to help inspire, motivate and equip people to achieve their own personal and professional goals so they can live their best lives.
I am trying to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.
Goal Success by Choice
We can choose to be successful with our goals if we make the right daily choices, build the right habits and behaviors and adopt the right mindsets. Goal Success by Choice shares lessons about the choices we can make that can either move us closer to our goals or hold us back. I hope this post helps you get a little closer to crushing your goals.
A Long Time Ago
You may not be old enough to remember it, but things used to be different. There was a time when we could go to in-person social events with other people. A time when you didn’t have to stay six feet apart. A time when you could shake hands. A time when you didn’t have to wear a mask. It was a long time ago, like early 2019!
I want you to picture this time in our history while I tell you the following story. Remember it was set in that period so you don’t get the jitters when people congregate, don’t distance and make real physical contact.
Deep breaths… you can do this!
Picture being at a social event, let’s call it a networking happy hour with some people who you know and many others that you do not. It is a full room and people are trying to get to know each other.
Your friend Sally is talking to somebody you don’t know and she introduces him to you, we will call him John. John reaches out his hand, you introduce yourself and shake hands.
Just then, John asks you the question. That small talk question that we all hate.
“So, what do you do?”
Who Are You?
Beyond being kind of a boring small talk question, “what do you do” has other risks associated with it.
We all know that John was just innocently trying to get to know you, so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. But he just asked you a potentially dangerous question. A question that is tied with “how are you doing” for being one of the most dreaded small talk questions (see Dreaded Questions from 2/14/21).
Ok, in fairness, the question isn’t really dangerous at all. But the way you chose to answer this question can be positive for your mental health and your goal success or it can hold you back.
By asking “what do you do,” the questioner is asking you to share a portion of your identity with you and he will reciprocate by sharing a portion of his identity. Instead of hearing the innocuous question as it was asked, think of John as just having asked a little different question.
“So, tell me who you are.”
It’s Tricky… Tricky, Tricky, Tricky
One of my top lessons learned from 2020 is that identity is a tricky concept.
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If we live our lives as chameleons or define our identity based on our achievements, the roles we play in life or external measurements, we can find ourselves struggling to rediscover who we are when any of those things change (see My Mental Struggles – Part 1, 11/24/19). Investing time in getting to know our real selves pays huge dividends.
By answering “what do you do” by mindlessly telling somebody that you are the senior director of nonsense at Acme Labs (which would be a pretty cool job title, right), you are telling the other person that this is your identity. This is who you are, not just what you do.
An answer like this can inadvertently tie your identity as a person to your job. I know that is not what your intent was, and you weren’t even thinking of it in that way, but say this enough times and you train your brain to believe it. This can cause many challenges.
Jobs Don’t Last Forever
Job changes happen. Sometimes by choice, but sometimes not.
Take it from me, you can walk into work one random Tuesday morning and your company can tell you that your job has been eliminated. It is out of your control when this happens (though you can control it a bit, you can force losing your job if you really want to do so, but I don’t recommend it).
If your job is your identity and your job suddenly comes to an end, then what. This is one reason that people have such emotional reactions to job losses and walk around lost for a little while.
You’re Bigger Than That
As I said above, the “what do you do” question is asking you to tell the other person who you are. If you just answer that you are the VP of nonsense at Acme Labs (yep, I just got promoted!) you aren’t telling the full story. You are downplaying the complexity, magic and specialness of who you are.
Our jobs are just one aspect of our lives. Yes, they are important. Yes, they are where we spend a big chunk of our time. Yes, they are an opportunity to make an impact on the world. But, is your job the only thing you want to be known for in the world?
When somebody asks you to tell them who you are, tell them about the whole you.
When you have finished answering the “what do you do” question, the other person is going to walk away with a story in their mind of who you are. Do I want that person to walk away just thinking that I am the manager of nonsense at Acme Labs (yep, that’s a lower title now, don’t ask, long story)?
The story that you let the other person walk away with is important. When somebody only knows your job title, with few exceptions, you become pretty forgettable or risk just being filed away in their brain as a tool for future needs. Their brain may even classify you as being boring.
It is up to you to control this story. You have choices and you have power here. If you tell your story, it will be hard for the other person to forget you.
Tell Your Story
So, what can you do to improve your “what do you do” answer? You can tell your story!
Before going any further, I have an important reminder for you. Remember that there are no rules about how you have to answer the “what do you do” question. As I discussed last week (see You Don’t Need Permission, 2/21/21), you are the only person who needs to give yourself permission to change your answer. You are the only person whose permission you need to be different.
Take some time to brainstorm how you would like people to remember you. When somebody says “tell me who you are,” what are the important points you want them to walk away with? What things do you do every day that you are proud of?
Use the list of items from your brainstorm to create your story. Craft a story that is short, memorable and reflects who you really are. Keep refining this story until you are happy with it; though you will keep refining it forever. Then practice telling it so you are ready.
Finally, the next time somebody says “so, what do you do,” confidently tell your story and be yourself!
While my story is still a little bit under construction, I will happily share it with you. When somebody asks me “so Tony, what do you do” the answer I am working on is:
I help individuals and businesses achieve their most important goals.
If they are intrigued, confused or want to know more about what this means. I will share some additional details.
- I do this as a consultant specializing in technology project management.
- I do this as a leader specializing in building and developing teams and growing talent.
- I do this as a coach specializing in goals and goal success.
- I do this as a writer specializing in goals and personal development at OperationMelt.com.
- Plus I do this by sharing my journey to conquer obesity and to keep improving as an amateur athlete.
I plan to tailor this to the audience a bit, but that is my story. I am not completely ready to confidently deliver it yet, but I also haven’t practiced much. There are surprisingly few “what do you do” questions during the time of COVID.
Thanks again for reading today’s post and here’s to achieving your most important goals!
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