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“So what do you do?”    

“Oh me, Im an accountant? I do spreadsheets and stuff”


“Great, how about you?”    

“I sell office equipment”


So, that’s what “you do” is it? That’s your defining act? And it may well stay like that until you’re retirement, in a cool 40 years or so. Not quite what you had in mind when you were 14, and all starry-eyed.

you are not your job

Where did this question, and its meaning, stem from? When did we let our jobs define “what we do”? This, I hasten to add, is not my normal damning opinion on life in western Europe or north America, this viral sentiment has spread the world over, and shows no signs of letting up unfortunately. But we don’t need to accept it.


Todays article is more of a call to action than anything else. On two fronts actually. First up, I urge you to never ask anyone “What do you do” IF your actual question means “What job do you do”.


From a sociological point of view we need to begin to understand that those are two hugely different things. If we continue in our current mindsets, we’re never going to shift our psyche to an area where we can actually live our lives doing what we love to do, with ‘work’ coming a distant second. A peripheral necessity.


Secondly, when someone asks you “What do you do” be prepared to answer openly and honestly. Don’t let your work define you, that’s not “what you do” as a person. Tell them your passions, your hobbies, your dreams. Educate them not to be defined by their job, spread the positivity.


If someone asks me, “Johnny, what do you do?”, my answer is invariably along the lines of:


“I travel a lot, I love to go kayaking too. I party too much with old friends, but I wont apoligise for that. I try to experience new things regularly and I love meeting new people. I try to avoid my comfort zone as much as possible!” *Queue furrowed brow from the questioner.


If you struggle to think of a free and open answer, then have a look at your life. Is it full? Interesting? Exciting? If it’s not, do something about it. Photography class, yoga lesson, speed dating. Whatever. If you have nothing to answer to “What do you do” then that’s even worse than the questioner assuming that your work defines you. Because maybe it does.

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Got a question? Wanna comment? I'd love to hear from you

17 thoughts on “Motivational Monday: You Are Not Your Job

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  9. Hi Johnny, Stumbled across your site today and have read a fair bit of it. It’s awesome – well done! Perfect timing with this post too as I have a 10 year high school reunion on Saturday and you just know what the number one question will be!
    Also looking to teach english OS next year, possibly in Taiwan – might email you to get opinion on this.

  10. It’s been a while before I can honestly say that now I have couple things to say about what I do besides the job.

  11. Johnny,
    This is perhaps my favourite post on your site, mainly because I echo every single sentiment within it. I’m a big believer in this idea that your job is only your job (something to get money from) but it’s NOT WHAT WE DO.

    I go to work, I do a day job – that’s my job. What do I do? I travel round the world and write about it on my site. I’m a travel writer. That’s what I love and that’s what I do.

    I’m going to be writing about it this week – will pop up the link when I do. I seriously urge any readers to listen to what Johnny is saying here – so true.

    And we will live our own lives, the way we want! You’re an inspiration to one and all.

    Don’t Stop Living! Jonny (yes another one)

      1. Hi Johnny, I did! I run a series every Wednesday on my site now called “Working Wednesdays” since Ive had so many different random jobs, here’s the one about Travel Writing – I see this as what I do as I enjoy it so much. Live your dreams and don’t succumb to being tied down to a company. Loving your inspiration. Here she is: Jonny

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