Not too long ago, my friend Tim Paige was musing on Facebook about people with dual careers.

Dual Careers by choice, and not because they were beginners.

Tim comes from over in Voice Over, and there are a lot of people that do that gig part time. Or they do it while also pursuing something else. This ruffles feathers because the established providers in an industry never take kindly to tourists who threaten their income.

But everyone has to start somewhere. Tim was a VO/Marketer for a long time. Now he’s focused more on VO than other opportunities. I hired him as a VO during the time he was splitting time, and he was more professional than very nearly about anyone (and we’ve hired probably 250 VOs).

But I’ve always resisted doing two things. I’ve tried to focus on one thing because that’s what all the good books tell us. I was afraid to be the “master of none.”

Let’s be honest. I was afraid to be perceived as the master of none. I didn’t want to be one of those boofy haired weirdos that, you know, had some home-based candle business, does “social media”, worked in a Kinko’s and would be happy to sell you real estate.

Hacks. I recoil at the thought of being that guy. Being in sales has enough of that doubt as part of the game, but why invite it?

Then that post led me to consider the people I deeply admire1 and their pursuits.

Lauryn Hill: Rapper / Singer / Actress

Steve Jobs: Pixar / Apple

Ben Franklin: Politics / Lightning / Recliners

Winston Churchill: Writer / Prime Minister

Elon Musk Tesla / SpaceX / Pot Smoking

Donald Glover Director / Writer / Actor/ Rapper

Brian May Guitar / Astrophysics

There are others, obviously, even peers of mine that do a little of everything.

These are careers I want. Man! Like if the ONLY thing that Ben Franklin ever did was to collaborate with Jefferson and edit the Declaration of Independence, he would have been remembered today.

I’ve resisted having a slash career, and instead, I’ve sat in this paralyzed tail chasing circle. Because you have to commit, right? If you’re not doing just ONE thing, you’re not committed, right?

That’s what I told myself for a long time.

Because of ego, really. And because the flawed Startup Founder Hypothesis2 infected my thinking to my detrement. I was in a decision mode regarding building a business that can support the goals of me/my family. I spent a lot longer there than I needed to, because I felt it had to be very binary. One thing or another.

So I think I’ll have a framework to pursue this:

  1. Roles: These are things that we do with professional aplomb and esprit de corps. Liam Veitch does a good job with this in his roles at his agency and with Freelance lift.A role is a thing that we do for an open ended period of time that we mean to use to make money. There can be overlap with other roles, and they generally require constant efforts.

    I think that one can have, say, 2 main roles at a time. There may be exceptions if you’ve been in a business for a long time or one is largely passive (like a real estate investor or a board seat).

  2. Projects/Campaigns: These are things that (generally) have a finite start or end date. They take a lot of time, but there’s an end in sight for them. Examples might be a book project, or a website launch, or even an initial round of funds raised.The finite nature of these things them from being a constant mouth to feed, and keeps the “load” manageable.
  3. Hobbies: These are things that could pan out financially. A thing that you do in your 20% time, maybe. A speculative app, or adapting an internal tool for broader use. For me it might just be playing Poker.Apple famously has their iPhone, Macs as “main gigs” but they have the Watch and the TV as hobbies. Facebook has Occulus. Danica Patrick has her vineyard, and a consortium of entrepreneurs all bought an old mining town.

Excellence is table stakes when you have the audacity to be a little bit different. To pursue a “slash” career, you have to be great at everything you do and outperform your peers the lifers and other pseudohustlers. Because that will immunize your ego against the snarky voices that say that say “ah, this a part time gig for you?”

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Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is writing this blog. He's a startup veteran, having built a company called Simplifilm. This blog is about things that he's starting to - but may not actually - think yet. It publishes irregularly.
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