1 Sentence Challenge

04/28/2015 10:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2015

In 1 sentence, describe what you do!

You meet someone for the first time; they ask the question, "What do you do for a living?" What is your answer? Like many, your reply might be the business equivalent of name, rank and serial number. An example of a typical response could be "I am the VP of Sales for XYZ Company." This is a rote reply but does little to answer the question.

Our normal pattern establishes position, status and self-identity. All of which may be socially acceptable, but in my opinion is a lost opportunity to open the door to a potentially meaningful and valuable dialogue. A few months ago, I made the commitment to kick that door down and avoid the normative retort. I must admit that at first it was very awkward. I felt clumsy. Early on, I would answer that most basic of questions with more of an elevator pitch. Let me share with you, that strategy was not well received. In many cases, the one asking has little real interest in the answer, other than to establish position, status and identity. To return with a reply that offers a relatively brief, but in-depth explanation of my role and how I impact society as a whole, was received in much the same manner as the teacher's voice in those Charlie Brown specials.

So, I challenged myself further. Could I distill what I do for a living into a single sentence? Offer no more data than what would be expected by current convention. I must admit this turned out to be a real challenge. First of all, I do have an admitted flair for the narrative. There is so much to include. I wanted to add qualifiers, descriptors and even a few acceptable embellishments. I could only get it down to one medium size paragraph. I unleashed that on a few unsuspecting souls, again the result was not very positive. It got to the point, where I would be driving in the car asking myself, "What is it that I do for a living?" "What is my purpose?" It ultimately came to me in the middle of the night. I bolted out of bed and declared; I know what I do, finally! My wife was not amused.

That next day I could not wait until I was asked that question. I started conversations with total strangers hoping to bait them into asking. It took two days. At last, I was introduced to someone over coffee and the question came, "What do you do for a living?" My heart raced, my palms became clammy. I answered; " I work to help businesses and business leaders who are stuck, grow!" "Cool" they replied. Maybe not the meaningful conversation I had hoped to generate, but success nonetheless.

I am still longing to foster that dialogue. My hope is to do so right here and now. So, in one sentence, tell me, what do you do for a living? Take on this challenge, it will help you to clarify your own purpose and could start a great and vibrant conversation. Please share your answer in the comments below.

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