In his story The Overcoat, Nikolai Gogol talks about the civil servant and scribe Akaky Akakievich “who saw nothing but his own neat lines, written out in an even hand, and only if a horse muzzle, appearing from goodness knows where, came to his shoulder, and blew a gale on his cheek from his nostrils, did he become aware of the fact that he was not in the middle of a line, but rather in the middle of the street.”
What Gogol is describing is the human ability to immerse ourselves in one thought, one theme, one activity, to the point of forgetting everything around us. It’s called doing what we love. Doing what we love makes us all happier, better, deeper.
Doing what we love is brave. Not many people go for it. It’s brave because, the moment we were born, the world seems to have contrived an evil plan with one thousand two hundred distractions, specifically designed to derail us from doing what we love. So finding our path back to center is hard.
But do you know what I think is even braver? Doing what you love AND making money with it. That is a tremendous feat. Akaky never made money by scribing, but it gave him other rewards. However, the coat maker in Gogol’s story makes money. If you want to see someone who does what he loves and makes money, he is the protagonist to follow.
The thing about making money with what you love (or with anything for that matter) is that you can’t just go out in the world and say “Look, I am doing what I love, give me some money!” No. You have to package it, present it in a way that is enticing to a specific group of people and make sure it solves their problem. In other words, you have to brand it. Then they will pay you money. And chances are, you will be irresistible. But, believe it or not, making money is the easier one of the two tasks.
The harder part is finding your center. You get that one right, and making money will be a walk in the park. So let’s talk about why finding your center, or identifying what you love doing, is so damn hard. There are experts out there who talk about the importance of finding your gifts and doing what you love, and they make it sound so easy, so intuitive. Except that it’s not. It is hard work. Mainly because the traps are not so obvious. They live inside us.
Picking a profession based on how lucrative it is, or picking a profession as a form of rebellion, are all traps that live inside of us. I picked a profession in graphic design just to show my family, who had appointed me to be a writer, that I don’t need to follow in my father’s literary footsteps. And for that, I am paying dearly. Because truth be told, I am a much better writer than I am a graphic designer, and writing is, in fact, the one activity that makes time stop for me. When I write, I am one blissful Akaky Akakieviech.
Which brings me to another little detail that needs unpacking here: finding your center is double hard in our modern times because people are actually good at more than one thing. They entertain more than one creative streak plus they have more external choices. The ones that are born with one vocation, like our friend Akaky, are rare. For example, along with the writing, I also have visual skills. I would’ve never made it as a graphic designer if I didn’t. I have dedicated twenty years to building that talent and making a good living with it. But I make more money with branding, which, as it happens, allows me to write. I love designing, but if someone threatened me with the scenario of never being able to design a single logo ever again, I could live with it. If someone said I can never write, I would be devastated. Our center, even for people with many talents, remains the ONE thing that defines us. It’s the one thing that, if taken away, will make breathing in this overwhelming world really hard, impossible even. It often is something that has to do with our upbringing or early childhood.
If you are a solopreuneur and you’ve got an ignored passion, which might or might not be the center that defines you, get excited. Having more than one love affair (with your work that is), or more than one creative slant gives you an edge in branding. It is an aspect of magnetism and depth that your customers would appreciate. People build boring brands not because they don’t believe in what they do or they don’t love it, but because they lack depth. Depth often comes from the human complexities in life – the drama, the knots, the questions, the silence, the messes we create, even the prosaic concerns, the little agonies.
Being split between two passions is one of these agonies. Use it to your advantage.
Now, I want to be clear – I don’t mean to say that you should start selling two different types of services. The service you offer has to stay focused around one set of skills of yours. If your service is centered around the ONE THING you love doing the most, great. If it is not, then find out what else is there, keeping you up at night, wishing you had the time to do, but never do. We are talking about a second dimension of your personality, that can be added to your brand’s character. It could be an aspect of you that complements what you are already doing and the brand personality you already have; or it could be contradictory to it, in which case it gets even more exciting because it adds real human depth. And, if that complimentary aspect (or contradictory aspect) happens to be the thing that makes you forget time and space, BINGO! You’ve discovered your BRAVE POINT.
BRAVE POINT is the cornerstone of what I do for my clients. We dig deep to identify this one thing, one passion, that is vital to your personality, something that you could’ve easily ignored through the vicissitudes of life. And we give it a brand dimension. Or we blend it with the brand attributes you already have.
And that particular depth is what will make you stand out from your competition. We are complex in so many subtle ways, but when we are self-employed, we have a chance to be brave with it. And we give permission to other people to do the same.
I am giving you permission to be brave, right now!
What’s your brave point? Your practiced passion? Your ignored passion? The one thing that, when immersed in it, time and space freeze around you? What you got, Akaky? I am dying to know, so tell me what you’ve got!!!!!
PS: If you need help grasping your BRAVE POINT, you can schedule a free clarity call with me here. We can discuss branding and bravery, and, not mandatory at all, but just throwing it out there, we can discuss literature?