How to Answer, “What Do You Do?”

When I first saw the future direction of my life post-bankruptcy, I was in fact captured by the brilliance of another man’s stories. My hero was a somebody else. That man was a prominent Christian pastor, Brian D McLaren. McLaren, a former US college English teacher, is an author, activist, public speaker and leading figure in the emerging church movement, who uses fictional characters to describe theological progress through philosophical novels and dialogue. During my enforced sabbatical, I spent a considerable time listening to, copying out, researching and studying his stories, which blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction to form principled arguments.

Disembarking from McLaren’s journey to develop my own body of work has not been easy. People consistently ask me the question, “What do you do, or even, what do you want to do now that you are free from bankruptcy?”

Without pigeon-holing myself as an apparent failure in the dog-eat-dog world of business, and the arena of hospitality equipment sales, articulating my new story has, at first, meant passing away the old, renewing myself with the present and walking the new road with its ongoing risks and uncertainties.

My answer to this question often remains provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting a new belief that clarity (perspicuity) is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity. You see my new story has to be easy enough for others to understand, and yet interesting enough to make me a trusted guide for others.

And so, to envision a new story, a more beautiful story, there has been a need for me to firstly, dwell on my past experiences to make relevant my current context and goals. Secondly, to wipe the slate clean from past pain and suffering by naming the crossroads that clarify my unique niche and position. And finally, to define my area of newness and innovation instead of endlessly justifying and defending what I do. Thus, if someone today asks me “What is it I do?” I only say, “I write and protest – and my words and actions are trustworthy and true.” That’s the simple part; the intrigue is the next bit … I write and protest about debt and indebtedness.

I don’t claim that I am the only authority on debt, but I’d like to imagine a new kind of finance, where those who are victorious will be the indebted and, the cowardly and immoral, who practice loose lending at usurious interests rates will be consigned to the world’s garbage bin. In other words a revolutionary, counter-cultural movement, proclaiming a ceaseless rebellion against money, and a breaking down of the injustice of consumerism.

To recap then: your character in business needs to trump your credentials, you need to hone your unique backstory to give you confidence as to who you are and then explain what it is that you do without putting yourself in a box. The next step is your 1-Sentence Bio.

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