A few months ago, I heard HBS professor Christina Wallace speak about describing herself as a Venn Diagram. Finally, someone had a way to describe my life. Or how I feel about my life, but had never thought about it. I am in the intersection of multiple fields, and that’s ok. No single identity.
When I decided to move to a more regular writing practice and develop Make Space for Growth, a good friend who is a social media strategist told me to centre it around the pillars that were part of my identity. With careful consideration, I tried to group my passions into corporate strategy, charity and personal growth. Over time, my writing has been very much geared towards the later, as I have been through a few growth “spurs” over recent years that I found were important to share and had an impact on people. On the side, I dipped my toes into the corporate strategy frameworks I enjoy, however limited by the fact I had always committed not to talk about work directly. And then charity, where I have to admit I spent so much time working that I did not always write as much as the time I really dedicated to it in my life.
Defining these pillars was a bit odd. Even limiting. In a way, they all sort of had sub-categories and I had trouble not mixing and matching some. Pillars as a word sounded like something too independent and disconnected from each other. In a way, I felt my areas were somewhat disconnected too.
When I first launched the podcast, I decided I had to do an intro. That is when I realized I had to define myself in a different way. Not based on what I did, but based on what I was. That is when I started saying:
“I am corporate strategist, problem solver, social entrepreneur, writer, mum of 2 and passionate for growth. At home, in business or in my community”
With this, I felt closer to a description and whilst It still felt somewhat long to say, each of them made me smile and come with love and passion attached to it. It started feeling more like a flow to me. As an example, strategy is a key focus for me across all areas of “work”, as is solving problems, as is my passion for growth.
A few weeks back, I asked ChatGPT to help me re-write my Linkedin tagline. As a professional intro, I felt it had to have a bit more about what I did, but I did not want to lose the essence of what I am. After a few iterations, we got yet again to 6 individual areas. Talk about multi-hyphenated.
The Venn Diagram
In her book “The Portfolio Life“, Professor Christina Wallace describes further how she struggled to introduce herself in the various pitch events she was attending, especially if she had only 60 seconds. With a life flowing between arts, science and technology, it is not easy to have a confident way to present yourself. Until one day she introduced herself as a Venn Diagram in the interaction of these areas. It suddenly clicked. And when she said it in that lecture almost 5 months ago in Boston, just as I had left a big part of my life behind 24 hours before, it clicked for me as well.
My Portfolio Life
When I started reading the book, I knew I would have struggled to have read this book before (in fact, there are many books I avoided the last 5 years, in case they implied any dramatic life changes that I was not ready for). But back to the Portfolio Life. Funny enough, I have lived my life as a portfolio for the last 20 years, and more acutely for the last 10. However, I always had one part of the portfolio disproportionately large to what I think the professor is trying to get at. Loopsided I guess.
Suddenly, as I rebalanced and gave space for the other areas of my Venn Diagram to breathe, they all took a life of its own. To no surprise, my life feels even more full than before, with all areas taking the chance to breathe and earn their place. I even have a chance to see some overlaps that I did not realize before. In no time I knew, a Portfolio Life is what I have aspired for a long time. And here I am, reading about it without knowing what it was called.
Writing my Venn Diagram
A really great thing the book encourages you to do is to draft your own Venn Diagram by isolating a few questions. And whilst I am tempted to just draft the diagram on all the multi-hyphenated descriptions I have written above, I am encouraged by the possibility of exploring from a blank sheet of paper. Whilst I will eventually share back here no doubt.
I hope we each find out our “weirdly shaped puzzle piece”.