Say "No" to Focusing
A Contrarian's View
For many years I have been told that to be successful I should focus. "Focus on one major goal." "Focus on one niche market." "Focus on one career." "Give each of these all of your attention, energy and investment of time and effort, and you will become a rich success." Well, I say, "No." If you have read any of my biography, you know that I maintain what I call, "A Portfolio Career." This is a combination of careers that also span a variety of niche markets and focuses. I use different skills and talents for each. There are times when I focus only on one. But, more often, I work on several of my areas of expertise within the same time period.
Yes, life can get hectic and sometimes overwhelming. However, I can promise you that I wake up every morning excited about the day - and I can't imagine what being bored even feels like. If you are like me and love the flexibility and variety afforded by multi-tasking (or think you would), then read on about the pros, the cons, and some of the ins and outs of having a "Portfolio Career."
I have a feeling that the majority of free agents, independent professionals and freelancers are already handling a "Portfolio Career," but may be feeling a bit guilty because they can't describe their services in ten words or less. Well, I have news. It is believed by career forecasters that before long people who work one full-time job will be in the minority. As management guru Peter Drucker puts it, "Corporations once built to last like pyramids are now more like tents .... You can't design your life around a temporary structure."
To become a portfolio person, we must stop thinking in terms of having or not having a job. We need to take control of our life, make flexibility our credo and develop a portfolio of skills and activities, some for sale and some to be given as gifts. A portfolio is a collection of different items, but with a theme. Rather than working for one company, you take on various projects and cultivate several clients. A successful "Portfolio Career" fits together bits of work in our life to form a balanced whole.
If you are having trouble convincing yourself that this might be the way to go for you, here are the PROs as I see them: Flexibility, Creativity, Change, Autonomy (being in control), Excitement, Achievement, Development of Expertise and Many Skills, Personal Freedom & Personal Growth, Pleasure Doing What One Likes, Risk Taking, Variety, Fast Pace, Leisure Time, Money, Emotional Health, Meaning, Continual Learning. Do these appeal to you?
On the other hand, if the following CONs are distasteful to you, reconsider, start focusing and move on: Risk, Change, Lack of Stability, Overwhelming When Deadlines Overlap, Fast Pace, Lack of Leisure Time, Lack of Money (or financial stability), Pressure, Other People's Opinions, Lack of Company Benefits and Lack of a Regular Routine.
There are different types of "Portfolio Careers:"
I love the variety of having many part time careers. To give you an example. Presently, I teach eleven fitness classes every week; design. develop and maintain websites; do training and coaching of presentation, computer and storytelling skills; write for four websites and three e-newsletters; produce a monthly, printed newsletter; do professional storytelling; and am actively involved as a volunteer in several organizations. As I mentioned before, life can become a bit hectic and overwhelming at times, but I love the challenge. There are weeks when I do concentrate on and devote more time to a particular project (which is actually "focusing"), but I always have at least two or three different activities I am juggling at a time.
When should you consider a "Portfolio Career?" I suggest starting a "Portfolio Career" the minute you have any dissatisfaction with your present work life (or lack of work life), the minute someone offers you some opportunity (either for pay or for volunteer) that sounds interesting or fascinating, or when there are several career areas you would like to investigate. The key to making the portfolio life work is planning, knowing what you are good at and being able to take risks. Fill in any missing parts by volunteering, trying out new areas, taking classes, listening to tapes, researching and being honest with yourself.
Start making lists to help put together a portfolio career that would work for you! There is something about writing lists that always works for me. Try it and see if it works for you.
When Should I Add to My "Portfolio Career?" I add to mine when something I've always wanted to try is made available, and I feel that I can handle it without jeopardizing what I am already doing and "love."
When Should I Drop a Profession? I drop a profession when it has lost its excitement and joy. It is almost harder to drop something than to add a new opportunity. It has become a "habit" and "breaking habits is often harder than breaking bones." One of the other great advantages of the portfolio life is that with having plenty of professions, when one isn't working out, you can drop it without starving.
As you have probably realized by now, this isn't for everyone, but it might be fun for you to try. And, at least, the next time someone frowns and says, "You would be better off if you focused more," you can think of me, smile, thank them for the advice, then do what suits you and makes you happy.
Or, do you wonder if a "Portfolio Career" would work for you? Take the The 'Portfolio Career' Self Test - or Am I Someone Who Would Love to Have One? by clicking HERE.
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