What do you do?

“So… what do you do?” is a question that we’ve all been asked more times than we can remember. This simple question can lead to people going on forever on what their complicated Executive Director title really mean for their business while failing to communicate their core product in less than ten minutes. If this is an elevator pitch, I guess we’re going up to the top of the Burj Khalifa.

My friend Peter answers this question the best. He runs his own business and is a total pro. What does Peter do? He helps companies advertise on Facebook. Simple as that. That’s 6 words and you get a pretty complete picture. No matter your technical background or how internet-savvy you are you get it. Even my grandma understands the essence of what Peter does.

Very few of us answer this very basic question in a simple way. We share our titles and roles rather than what we do. Seriously, what does an Account Director really do? We use industry-centric terms (like UX-designer) or, even worse, we describe our business by using other businesses as examples. If you say your company is the Uber for -insert whatever-, you’re assuming that everyone knows what Uber does. If they don’t, they might end up feeling stupid and embarrassed.

A couple of weeks ago I was flying home from France and was seated next to an Australian photographer. Somehow we started discussing and I was waiting for the question “What do you do” to come up. I had already rehearsed my response in my head and weighed the alternatives. Am I a UX-designer? Just a designer? Will he think I’m an industrial designer? A painter? His real question actually left me baffled and searching for words.

What are you passionate about?

Rather than asking what I do, he asked me what I was passionate about. It’s a question that hits home on a much deeper level and, for many people, actually has nothing to do with what they do for a living. I’m passionate about being a small business owner and helping others like me. I’m passionate about football and Liverpool in particular. I’m passionate about dogs. Am I passionate about user experiences? Maybe not, but I AM passionate about improving day to day lives for millions of people by removing bad user experiences.

My friend Peter is fortunate enough to also be very passionate about Facebook and if you have any interest in all the different product updates Facebook is rolling out, Peter’s feed is a gold mine. Turns out, passion is a majorly important factor if you want to be highly successful.

Sam Altman, interviewed by his brother Jack for their series “How to build the future”. Excerpt from Mastering Freelance:

I think you wanna look for the intersection of what you’re good at, what you enjoy and in what way you can create value for the world. And in my experience, if you don’t find something at the intersection of those three, it’s hard to really have an impact. I think most people kind of just fall into what they work on. They don’t give it much thought and there is benefit to that. Sometimes you actually have to just try stuff to figure out what you like. But I really do think it is worth upfront thought about what you’re going to spend most of your waking time doing. So I think it’s really good when people think about what they’re good at, what they like and kind of how they can create value for the world.

Magic happens when we find the intersection of what we’re good at and what we’re passionate about. The Internet has made the possibility of making money from combining your passion with what you’re good at a reality for thousands of people. The very same logic applies to the products we’re creating. I believe all of the most successful products have one thing in common - founders/creators that are passionate about what they’re building. And while things like revenue, active users, and engagement are important for the survival of your business, they tend to have very little to do with passion.

So the next time you’re out and about, rather than asking the person you’re meeting what they do, try asking them what they’re passionate about and see where the conversation takes you. Perhaps you’ll meet another Liverpool supporter or dog lover 🐶 ❤️.

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