Read & Watch

Thing Finding Thursday with Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation

Pam Slim. I adore Pam Slim – author of breakout book, Escape from Cubicle Nation (her blog with the same name is “one of the top career and marketing blogs on the web“); writer; coach; and former corporate manager who helps frustrated employees in corporate jobs break out and start their own business – and after this interview, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t.

It’s soooooo good. It’s about finding the themes in your life, your body of work – which may encompass several ‘things’ – and about how to STOP DRIVING YOURSELF CRAZY trying to identify your one thing…

…and instead use your interests and ‘list of personal ingredients’ to start making a difference in the world.

Go ahead, make an impact. Pam Slim is about to tell you how.

And how she put it was so incredible that although the video is just a snippet from our interview, I’ve attached the PDF. It’s epic in scope…and in length. (13 pages!). You might need it for reference – seriously! – so here it is (Pamela_Slim_on_Finding Your Thing).

Interview with Pam Slim for Thing Finding Thursday

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Genius. Let’s start with where Pam Slim left us: what impact do YOU want to make on the world? And what list of ingredients can you contribute to this delicious world-changing stew?

(let’s talk about this – really chew it over – on Facebook)

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You can find Pam Slim at her blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation and on Twitter.

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pssst: if you’d like to share your story (or question!) with Thing Finding Thursday, please e-mail me atwhatsmything@tanyageisler.com.


Edited Transcript of Interview with Pam Slim For Thing Finding Thursday

Tanya Geisler: So, you know what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about people finding their thing. So you want to tell us a little about your thing?

Pam Slim: I do. I have actually a lot of things to say about my thing because what I do is work with people generally who are wanting to start a business, so to make part of their thing the way in which they make money be in some way related to starting a business as opposed to a career.

And that path has come from a long time of working on the human side of business, first inside companies working within training and development and helping people to grow and develop within companies and then as an outside consultant where I worked in a whole bunch of companies to work with people to try to improve them from the inside. And then in the last six years I’ve escaped cubicle nation of working with corporate employees that want to leave and start a business.

So what’s interesting is although I have many, many conversations with people about what their thing is, I actually fundamentally don’t believe there is one thing for most people, which we can definitely get into.

I think that can be something that slips a lot of people up because they think the sky is going to open up and the answer is going to come and they’re going to know their thing and they’re going to tiptoe down through the pile of tulips for the rest of their life.

And it actually in my experience rarely happens like that.

Tanya: So how does it usually happen?

Pam: The broader context and the way I’m thinking about it lately is it’s related to your body of work.

So, your body of work is a way of thinking about everything that you do in the world, how you interact with people, the kinds of things you might physically produce, anything from needlepoint to a book to a whole generation of really fantastic entrepreneurs. (You know, if you’re somebody like a coach.)

And so your body of work doesn’t necessarily have to be around one particular thing.

If you think about your life’s work as including this huge body of work that can have some disparate pieces to it, it might reduce some anxiety for thinking that there has to just be this one thing.

SO what if you don’t yet have a huge body of work to analyze?

Pam: just start to list ingredients. I call it listing your own personal ingredients. So you can say, “You know what? I have a little bit of coach in me and I really love music and I think music is a very powerful thing. And I’m totally fascinated by Apple products. And I really love Thailand.” Just begin to list all of the different ingredients that can just have you become aware of yourself and what your interests are.

And also include things like you talked about,

  • What are your personal values?
  • What are lines that you know you will never cross when it comes to ethics or personal values?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are strengths that you have that you’ve noticed all the way through school?
  • Are you really analytical or are you great at presentations…?

So when you have your list of ingredients, what I tell my clients is just become ingredients in search of a recipe.

Once again, you can eat many different plates throughout the course of your life, so at a certain stage the recipe is found in problems in the world that are meant to be solved.

So to use a personal example, that’s part of what I saw when I did my own assessment of ingredients. I love to work with people, I love to coach, I’m fascinated by the start-up experience, I love business, I love marketing and growing businesses, there are a huge amount of people who are very highly qualified and competent who are coaching people how to do that. There are a ton of books written about it. But the gap that I’ve found is there were few people who were addressing the specific issue for corporate employees who wanted to leave their jobs and start a business and all of the issues that were associated with that.

So they would read all the books that just talked about, “Here are the ten steps to open for business.” These books would leave out things like how do you go through a massive identity shift? How do you tell your parents that you’re going to leave your job that they had worked so hard and spent all their money to send you through college to be a doctor or to be a lawyer and here you want to go open a cookie business or something, you know? How do you have those conversations, how do you deal with fear?

That, for me, was an example of taking my ingredients and finding a particular place in the market that had a need for the specific kind of thing that I wanted to develop. And so that has been my thing for the last six years.

Tanya: that piece where you recognize the opportunity or the transition, were those from personal experiences that you had where you were moving from this realm to that realm and sort of felt some of those pains yourself?

Pam: But for whatever reason, in my own life it’s always been pretty clear. And the way it generally appears is I’ll find the vein of what it is I want to be doing, and I might be in it and kind of put out that though like, “What is that next thing? What’s the next thing I want to do?” And things generally open up.

Now, that said, and the reason I say that is exactly for the reason that you and I have talked about before. It’s so annoying, it’s like somebody who if you struggle with that issue and it isn’t easy and it doesn’t come and there’s somebody like me. Like, “Just set the intention to the universe, man. It’ll come.” That is not helpful. And so that’s where I’ve learned working with different people that there are particular tools to use, you know?

But that said, I remember when I was getting ready for that transition between the corporate consulting, which I did for about nine years and escaped from cubicle nation. I was definitely in that whole stew of trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and I took a class with a woman named Suzanne Falter-Barns that was about developing an online presence. I had been trained as a life coach with Martha Beck and I loved her methodology, but I wasn’t totally vibing with just doing life coaching.

Tanya: Yeah.

Pam: Because I had this whole side that I really love business. And I spent a few months of really deep introspection of thinking about my market and sharing ideas and kind of moving things around and really putting myself intensely into figuring out what might that recipe be. And that’s when I eventually hit on “Escape from Cubicle Nation”, and it was something that evolved. I really didn’t, I had no idea it would turn into a book, I didn’t know it would be kind of a thing. But that’s an example of where many people I think don’t have appreciation for how long it takes sometimes to be stewing on ideas. So in one hand it’s totally okay if you’re stewing on ideas and you’re asking yourself questions, like I’m sure you’re going to be helping people with in the overall program and process…What are great questions to ask and how can you start to track things?

Tanya: Yeah. I think that that’s where the theme piece comes in as sort of a bit of saving grace. And you know, I think the comparison piece – it’s like that person, “I can do that, I can do that, and I can do that.” And I think that that piece there, we’re losing sight of the ingredients that we have. So when we look at what everybody else has around us they might have a little more cayenne than we have cumin or whatever that is.

Pam: Exactly.

Tanya: And so we just kind of can’t force that to happen.

What do you really want for somebody who’s watching this – knowing that the people who are watching this might be seekers, might be multi potential-ites, might be on the cusp of or feeling more lost than ever or whatever it is – what is it that you want them to take away from this?

What do you really want for them?

Pam: What I want is to reframe things in terms of instead of thinking about one thing that you have to figure out in order to be happy, just shift the focus to think about what is the kind of impact that you would love to make in the world.

But the other thing could be what is some bit of a problem or something that you just really want to address.

And it goes directly to what you talked about; Martha Beck calls it ‘compare and despair’. Where you’re like, “Oh man, this is really my thing but look at this person! They’re cuter than me and they’ve done it for five years and oh my God they went to Harvard.” And you tell yourself all these stories.

For the most part, when you look at what impact needs to happen – especially around really large issues like helping people in their careers or solving hunger or inequity in the world – there is so much more need than the people who are actually serving that need.

Focus on where you can make an impact based on who it is that you are.

But really what’s important in the long term is the kind of impact and footprint that you’re going to leave on the earth…and if you’re spending all of your time in agony, beating yourself up because you don’t know the thing, then you’re missing this opportunity to be engaging in a bunch of really wonderful activities that are going to help make a difference in the world for things that you care about.

And that is often the really fertile ground for where it is that you end up finding out areas of deep passion is by doing things, not by stepping back in analyses

However, acting in the world and making impact is I think the way that you’re going to start to get better answers to the question.

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PS – Love that Max Mendoza fellow. Here’s why:

You can find Max on Twitter. 

1 Comment

  1. I love Pam! I’ve talked to her in person a few times, pretty briefly, but she just radiates this kindness and present-ness that you don’t feel from a lot of people. And I just want to give Max a hug ;)

    I agree with her that so much of the time, we put way too much pressure on finding “the one” project or thing or whatever, and it’s okay to have more than one! Haven’t read the full transcript yet, but I’m definitely coming back (in the morning, ahem) to do so.

    Reply

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