In VUCA times like these, discover your Body of Work.
COVID-19 has thrown some amazing curve balls at us this year of 2020, and like many I've found myself working from home instead of out of an office. That ended up being fortunate, as I glanced across my home office and my eyes landed on Slim's book Body of Work, one of those books I'd wanted to take a deeper dive into and just never made the time. As I've been diving back in, I'm struck by how important the concept of having a "body of work" is today, when everything we've counted on has been thrown up for grabs. I found Slim's book very helpful in thinking about the threads that pull my varied projects and work together.
Some of Slim's questions are beautifully relevant to the times we are in: "How do you make sense of your career in a work environment that no longer has any predictable career paths?" "How do you plan for your financial future when you have no idea if your income stream will slow to a trickle, or even dry up completely if you get laid off or go through a difficult stage of business?" For many, these questions will evoke a rueful, "Yup, been there, done that." And then the question: where to go from here?
One of the things Slim does beautifully in this book is to create hope. Regardless of where you are in life and how you've built your career, you'll find ways to connect what you've done and what you want with the beginnings of some threads to tie it all together. Slim offers one example of a man who had three very different paths he was following, each of which he cared about: "When we have many divergent interests, people often think we are unfocused, therefore ineffective. They buy into the 'specialty mode' ethos, where you are only valued if you have deep expertise in one area. I never saw my multiple interests as a problem. I saw them as threads in my story. It was a natural, logical quilt."
One of my favorite chapters in the book was "Surf the Fear." I am a big believer in "post-traumatic growth," and found this chapter to capture much of what I've discovered in working with those who've experienced significant adversity and trauma. It is better on the other side, and one can't get there without experiencing strong emotions like fear. Slim offers coaching questions and suggestions to move through external barriers and internal resistance, yet what I found most valuable was the normalization of fear in the face of a challenge.
We are in VUCA times---Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous--and in VUCA times, we can access our Values, Us, Curiosity, and Aspirations (VUCA Tools TM) to get grounded and move forward. Slim's book offers many ways of doing so, and the experience of vicarious resilience upon hearing the stories of others who have.