The Best Answer to ‘What Do You Do?”

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October 17, 2013
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October 28, 2013

The Best Answer to ‘What Do You Do?”

“We see the world not as it is, we see the world as we are” –Quote

[Adapted from my forthcoming book, “Turning Your Setbacks into Major Comebacks”]

So I got to ride in a new neighbor’s car a few days back. Being strangers, we had to introduce ourselves and know more about each other.

The conversation was normal…about our work places, spouses, kids, nationalities and the like. However, when I got to the office, I was so unhappy with myself. Unhappy because I had not interested this neighbor with the product I was working on at work, neither had I made an impression on them to want to get a copy of my upcoming book…yet I had mentioned it to them.

I was unhappy because it would not take long for me to craft a speech that would capture my neighbors interest.

I was happy however with one thing: I volunteered the information about ‘who I am’…they did not ask me. Then I realized how easy it was to add value to the lives of people, simply by telling them what you do/who you are! Next time my neighbor’s company are in short of a speaker and they needed one…guess what?

One of the most dreaded questions that you can ask someone in a crisis is this: “What do you do?”

We live in a society that apportions our worth to what we do and not who we are. That is why people are so obsessed with titles than functions.


In equal measure, most people who do not have titles tend to feel worthless. Sometimes, a crisis normally gets rid of our titles. A divorce makes a married woman single, a retrenchment makes a worker jobless, death of a parent makes a child fatherless, loss of investments make an investor bankrupt, loss of a house makes a family homeless, and so on.

These ‘new titles’ that adversities give to us almost always espouse our ultimate fears. We need not accept these new titles. 

I am not saying that we are now living in denial. I am just saying that we choose to refuse to let a crisis define who we are, who we really are. I think your definition is not based on the result of your setback.


Your definition however is the sum total of your deepest aspirations as well as your positive contribution to mankind. You should never forget that.

When you assume a victim title that has come as a result of a setback, you self-stigmatize yourself. You walk around unconsciously dispelling anything good that can be attracted to your life. You keep re-affirming what the world has dealt with you and not who you really desire to be.

So, how best do we answer this question, “What do you do?”

  1. Document Your Greatest Aspirations: Mostly, it has to do with either the change you want to make in the world, or the difference you are bringing to it. This statement is as a result of documenting my greatest aspirations: “I see myself guiding people in living legacies in this life because I believe that that is one of the ultimate reasons for existence”. I believe everyone does have great aspirations.
  2. Document your Audience: The whole world might not necessarily be your audience…depending on your aspirations. Your audience might be your children, your spouse, married men, married women, singles, single parents, business executives, illiterates, the learned and so on. Make sure you  narrow down to an audience. Take some time with this because it is absolutely important.
  3. Merge the two together into one statement: Your statement must not necessarily be a business pitch…it just has to be conversational. Take this example: “I am the kind of guy that loves seeing fathers introduce their sons to the world to make a difference the way Kenny G introduced his son on stage to sing with him some time back”. What this statement does is that it communicates your passion in the simplest and conversational way. I would not be surpr
    ised if your ‘audience’ would have questions and more questions to ask you…and the more they ask, the more details you reveal about your passion. This can be one of those conversations that is not easily forgotten…and next time there is a chance for your services to come to the fore, they will think about you. We must not forget however that ‘who we are’ is not just about what we do. Who we are also has to do with Whose we are, where we are from and how well we are serving the Infinite intetions of our lives.
  4. Rehearse: We seldom do this. Let me speak for myself. I have not been doing this because I have been thinking that it is not important. Nothing is further from the truth. On a daily basis, I have an opportunity to showcase who I am…even if I do not have a title! I therefore need to be as thorough as possible not only in answering ‘What do you do?’, but also in offering ‘Who I am’.

So let me ask this: Is there anyone who cannot say who they are even when they do not have a title? I do not think so!

So what do you do? I mean…who are you really? Please share with us..and leave us your contacts while you are at it. Thanks.