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Breaking out of the ‘What Do You Do?’ Box

This week, we explore the age-old question, “What do you do?” and the anxiety that it can cause. What started with Nikki doing her civic duty as a potential member on a jury leads us to discuss how this question can lead to us feeling boxed in, forced to express our identity through a job title.

How do you answer this question differently, by sharing hobbies or passions that we enjoy, or aspects of our job that we find meaningful? These alternative answers can lead to more engaging conversations and can help all of us to reclaim our identity in a way that is more meaningful than just a job title.

Episode Transcript

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody, and welcome to Taking Control the ADHD podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
Oh, Nikki. We’re starting a new series.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, very excited.

Pete Wright:
It’s a job series. We’re talking about work.

Nikki Kinzer:
Jobs. But, in a little bit of a different spin because I had this idea.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, you had an idea, you had a brainstorm. We’re going to talk about all of that and how this came to you while you were doing your civic duty.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
Which I have to say, “Mad props for doing your civic duty.” And so we’re going to talk about jobs. We’re going to talk about the work we do, of our lives, and how we relate our lives to our work and our identities to our work, as well. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com, get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list, and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest at Take Control ADHD. But to really connect with us, head over to the Discord community.
Super, super easy to jump into the public Discord chat channel, takecontroladhd.com/discord. You’ll just be whisked over to the invitation page for the public channel. If you have a Discord account, you can log in with that and get into our server. If you don’t, it’ll click you through setting up a new account on Discord. It’s pretty easy, like any other social media platform. And then you will get into our server. If you want to see where all the secrets lie, then you have to become a patron, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. For a few bucks a month, you’re supporting the show. You’re helping support the entire ADHD community and all the things that we do on the backend to keep these things humming along. You’ll also get access to a bunch of new Discord channels. That’s really the important thing.
If you are in Discord and you know are a patron, but you only see the public channel, then your platforms are not connected. You have to enter your Discord ID into your Patreon account, and then everything magically unlocks. You will pull back the green curtain, velvet curtain, and see The Wizard of Oz. Is that how that works? I don’t know how things work. Make sure you do that. Know that you’re supporting the show. You’re supporting everything that we do to keep things moving along. And you get early access to the podcast and lots of bonus stuff. We just appreciate everything you do to become a supporter. patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. We have a couple of immediate hot announcements.

Nikki Kinzer:
All right. The first thing I want to talk about is the book club. Enrollment is open for the next term for the ADHD book club. As a group, we will be diving into one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Focused Forward: Navigating The Storms Of Adult ADHD. This is written by our good friend who’s been on the show now, eight times, I think.

Pete Wright:
Eight times.

Nikki Kinzer:
Eight times.

Pete Wright:
Hall of Famer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hall of Famer, James Ochoa. Whether you’ve read this book or you’ve never read this book, I would love to have you join us and consider signing up for this book club. Because James has generally offered his time to drop in a couple of times to share his firsthand insights through the eight weeks that we’ll be covering the book. You can sign up at takecontroladhd.com/bookclub. Don’t wait, because the deadline to sign up is Wednesday, May 31st. We will start with our first session shortly after that in June. That’s one thing that’s going on.

Pete Wright:
That’s just the one thing. But oh, no, there’s more.

Nikki Kinzer:
Pete, did you know that the decluttering challenge is happening in June, not July?

Pete Wright:
No. I didn’t know that.

Nikki Kinzer:
You didn’t know that?

Pete Wright:
That’s an embarrassing back channel joke because we’ve had some organizational issues on the backend. But, I do know now.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Absolute. With absolute clarity that the 2023 declutter challenge is coming in the month of June.

Nikki Kinzer:
June.

Pete Wright:
That is when the decluttering shall commence.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Everything prior to June is the preparation for the declutter challenge.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, and enrollment.

Pete Wright:
What is the declutter challenge?

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m so excited about this. We did something very similar in January of 2022. We’re doing it again in June of 2023. This is what’s happening. In January 2022, this is embarrassing, I worked on my garage. I did a good job. People that were part of that challenge, they physically watched me working in my garage. I need to tackle my garage again. And a lot more. I’m hoping. Please don’t make me do this by myself, is what I’m asking. I want you to join me in decluttering in the month of June. I’m going to keep saying that just to poke the bear a little bit over there.

Pete Wright:
Geez.

Nikki Kinzer:
But, what’s going to happen is we are going to do a challenge, the same challenge that we did in January. On June 1st, we’re going to find one item to get rid of, and then on the second we need to remove two items. By the time we get to June 30th, you will need to find 30 things to get out of your house. If you complete the whole challenge, you’ll have removed a total of 465 pieces of clutter. I’m going to beat that. I know I’m going to beat that.
During the challenge, we’ll be kicking off with a webinar where I’m going to share some organizing and decluttering tips and help you set some goals for the month. That’s going to happen on June 1st. And then Saturday, I’m going to be hosting a four-hour body double session to work on the challenge. At the end, we will have a final webinar where we are going to celebrate all of the wonderful things that we’ve done. I’m also going to talk about how to maintain those spaces so that I don’t have to keep doing the garage over and over and over again. And maybe the next time that we do the challenge, I’ll find something else. To sign up-

Pete Wright:
Because at this rate, people pretty much think you only have one room in your house and it’s a garage.

Nikki Kinzer:
But is it? It doesn’t look like a garage. Head over to takecontroladhd.com/declutter to sign up. I would love to have you join me. There you go.

Pete Wright:
Outstanding. I can’t wait. And you’re not going to do any attic work this time, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Not this time. This time I am really doing the garage because I got to tell you, I don’t know if I mentioned this on the show, but my attic, I did part of the attic in January of 2022, as well. It actually really did make a difference because this Christmas was a lot easier to get the stuff out and to put decorations back in. There was actually a lot of progress in the attic that I felt really good about. I didn’t fall through the ceiling. We’re good.

Pete Wright:
I was going to say, significantly reinforced floors of the attic, which is outstanding.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, we’re good.

Pete Wright:
So proud of you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you.

Pete Wright:
You’ve made it, made a lot of headway. Let’s talk about jobs.

Nikki Kinzer:
What do you do, Pete Wright?

Pete Wright:
We’ll get to that.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
We’ll get to that.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
This started because you went to jury duty.

Nikki Kinzer:
Went to jury duty. I’m in line and I’m bored.

Pete Wright:
But, you’re doing the right thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m doing the right thing.

Pete Wright:
You’re doing absolutely the right thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
But, I’m bored and I’m cranky because it was raining and I had to park a couple blocks away and I didn’t have an umbrella. I got there and I was wet. Then I didn’t know where to go. And traffic. It was just yucky. I’m standing in line and I’m looking at the law library, which is next to me. There’s a person there, librarian. I’m wondering if she likes her job. And then I see these people who are walking in the hallway. They obviously work in the building somewhere because they had their little lunches and they were going to work. And I’m thinking, “I wonder if they like their job. I wonder what they do. Wonder who they are.” And my mind just starts going. And I’m thinking, “I’m really interested in knowing what our community does. What do they do for a living?
Do they like what they do? Do they not like what they do? If they didn’t like what they’re doing, did they leave?” And then all of these questions came. I got out my phone and I went into notes. I started writing all of these questions. I thought this would be a great series. It’s not so much about interviewing and how to do your work or workflow. I’m really interested in just knowing how people choose what they’re going to do, and get feedback from our audience. Let us know if you left a job and why you left it and where you went, what you learned, all of those things. That’s what we’re going to do.

Pete Wright:
The reason this appeals to me is because it’s less about the practicality of preparing a resume and finding a job, but it’s about how the work that you do defines your identity, in some part.

Nikki Kinzer:
Especially, in this show. This specific show, for sure.

Pete Wright:
Especially, in this show. Yeah, for sure. I was just listening to one of our favorite people on one of our favorite podcasts, Rob Lowe, being interviewed on SmartLess.

Nikki Kinzer:
I bet that’s a good one.

Pete Wright:
This week or the week before. It’s pretty current. He was talking about the transition that he made from working in, they classified him as being a character actor in a leading man’s body because he’s so handsome and has always been cast as the handsome guy. But, he really is capable of a lot of other stuff. At one point he decided, “I want to do comedy. That’s what I want to do.” But nobody was interested until a few key roles. And then he ended up in the ’90s doing all Austin Powers and Tommy Boy and those kinds of movies. Talking about how, I think that made it really present to me this idea of being recast in a field that is so dependent on identity and preexisting identity. You only get your first shot at making an impression once.
How do you do that in other fields? I’ve been thinking a lot about that. We’ve been talking about getting and losing jobs and trying to find new jobs. Wondering constantly, “Am I in the right job for me? Am I satisfying who I am?” Right now, we’re in a job market that is rife with creative destruction, this idea that your job is going to be replaced by automation. Again, AI, massive layoffs and projected layoffs and massive destruction of levels of the economy because of the way work is done. How do you let the work that you do define who you are? I think that’s a really anxious question.

Nikki Kinzer:
For sure.

Pete Wright:
It’s certainly for me.

Nikki Kinzer:
Especially, if you don’t know how to describe it. It doesn’t have a title. Or maybe you don’t work and you do other things. How do you explain that without having that anxiety? And without going into detail that maybe that person doesn’t understand or know or care about? What is that elevator speech, I guess, is that we talked about that before. What is the speech? The elevator speech of telling somebody what you’re looking for or who you are? It’s definitely different. You’re at an event. There are people around you that you don’t know, Pete. You’re introduced to someone new. Once you begin talking, nine times out of 10, the first question you’re asked is, “What do you do?”

Pete Wright:
What do you do?

Nikki Kinzer:
Pete, I’m really curious about how you answer this question, because I don’t really know how to explain what you do.

Pete Wright:
It’s gotten easier. But, certainly since the pandemic, it’s gotten easier. But I have in my note, how do you answer if you have a job that to many people sounds like a joke?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Because my one word answer is, “I’m a podcaster. I make my living making podcasts in some fashion or another.” And as a result of that, I do a lot of other work. I do graphic design and copywriting and all kinds of technical stuff, and sound engineering and mixing and mastering and recording and all of that, which could, in themselves, be careers. But, it’s all packaged up for me as a podcaster. I run a podcasting network. For a lot of people, that sounds so far afield from what a job should be, that it just sounds like I’m making a joke.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
It sounds like a joke.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
It’s fine. I have internalized it to the point where it’s not a joke, and I can then go and explain it. Especially, when I say we make 30 shows. It’s not a triviality. That is my job. On my taxes, it’s a marketing agency.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, right.

Pete Wright:
But really, my identity is tied up in this new thing that’s still pretty new, even though I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years, called podcasting. That’s what I do. What do you do?

Nikki Kinzer:
This is what I do, is I work with people who have ADHD and I work with adults and college students.

Pete Wright:
You don’t say you’re an ADHD coach?

Nikki Kinzer:
No.

Pete Wright:
Why not?

Nikki Kinzer:
Not anymore. I don’t know if I ever even really did. I think because with podcasting, people don’t really understand what coach means. It’s easier just to let people know that this is who I work with. Then if they have more questions, I can expand on that. It’s interesting because I just went to the eye doctor and she asked me what I did. This happens all the time. What do you do? That’s exactly what I said. She assumed that I was some kind of therapist because she started talking about HIPAA. She’s like, “Well you now about HIPAA.” And I’m like, “Yeah.”

Pete Wright:
I don’t. I don’t care for HIPAA.

Nikki Kinzer:
Confidentiality, I get that. But, I didn’t correct her. I’m not going to say sit there and tell her the difference between a coach and a therapist. But, that’s how I came to it. I don’t really talk about the podcast unless it comes up in conversation. But, that’s my canned answer because people just don’t really get it. If you say ADHD coach, like, “What? What do you do?”

Pete Wright:
Yeah. That’s the hardest thing. I think it’s only gotten more challenging to a address that question, especially if you’ve bounced around a lot. Or if you’re not sure. You don’t have a job where it’s easy, in one word, to say something that everybody’s going to understand. I’m a doctor. I’m a lawyer. I’m a pharmacist.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m an accountant.

Pete Wright:
I’m a journalist. I’m an accountant. And yet, I have run into more and more people who have those kinds of jobs and are realizing that, due to many different factors, many of them complex, are able to build careers doing something that they really want to do, not something that they feel like they should do. I look at David Sparks and Glenn Fleischman. These are all guys who used to be attorneys, and they’ve turned into making media careers for smaller audiences where they can actually teach about something that these guys love. And as it happens, they’re nerds about typography and max stuff. They’ve made themselves publishers to niche audiences and realized, “Oh my God, it takes fewer and fewer people to create a career than I ever imagined I could possibly do as a kid when I was told I should go get a stable job.” Sure, you can do something in this field if that’s really, as a hobby, but you should have a stable job that allows you to have something you can count on.

Nikki Kinzer:
Listening to you, you’ve made a really good point that I didn’t even connect. That’s the differences between generations. Where we are today compared to when you and I were in high school, or when our parents were just starting out in their jobs, because it was more of a, “I’m an accountant. I am a doctor. I am a receptionist. I’m the lunch lady.” Whatever it might be, there’s this short, quick title of who I am. Now, it’s so different because I don’t even think you could have told me when I graduated from college that I would be doing the business that I’m doing right now.
I wouldn’t even think it was possible. Cell phones weren’t even a thing then. It is an interesting thought to think about how different things are now, yet we still expect to be able to give somebody a short answer that summarizes it. It’s interesting because this conversation came up in one of the Coaching With Nikki that we do monthly. If you’re a Patreon member, got to use that plug. But, it came up with, how do you deal with this when maybe you have some shame or distress around.
I think this goes back to what you were saying, what if I’ve had multiple jobs and I’m not in a career? Or what if I don’t work, but I volunteer? I volunteer at several different places. How does this come across?

Pete Wright:
I never say tell people, in my sphere, about my educational background because it doesn’t really come up. But at some point, you made a choice to go into HR after college. Wasn’t your degree in merchandising or something?

Nikki Kinzer:
I was in merchandising management. I started retail management right out of college, it’s relevant to that degree. Then I went into HR.

Pete Wright:
Where did that influence come? What was it that made you go into H?

Nikki Kinzer:
Because I’m a nosy person.

Pete Wright:
That’s a weird way to segue way.

Nikki Kinzer:
No, I can tell you. One of the reasons why I loved being in HR is because I want to know what’s going on with everyone.

Pete Wright:
That’s so funny.

Nikki Kinzer:
It was always really interesting to me to… HR is a very different kind of job because you’re in the middle. You’re working for the employee, but you’re also working for the employer. You have to be neutral. But, you have to know everything that’s going on with the employee, and you have to know everything that’s going on with the employer.

Pete Wright:
Ultimately, it’s the employer that pays your check.

Nikki Kinzer:
At the end of the day, it’s the employer that pay pays the check. But at the same time, you’re the advocate of, if an employee is being harassed or having a hard time, you want to make sure that they’re being treated fairly and that you do the proper channels of investigating. All that stuff. There’s more to HR than just that. But, I just always was interested in what people do. Maybe that’s why… Now, I’m connecting the dots. That’s probably why I was standing in line at jury duty wondering if these people like their jobs.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s just natural curiosity I have.

Pete Wright:
Probably why you’re a coach, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Because you’re able to poke around corners, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
And develop a relationship on a level of intimacy with somebody that is deeper than you normally would.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
My undergrad, I started thinking I was going to be a psychologist, and I did a couple of years there. And then I went into journalism, transferred schools because dad was in journalism. First job was at a TV station. Thought I’m going to go into television. Worked in television for a little while. It was not for me, after I graduated. That was miserable. Lived in Korea. Got into marketing because somebody, literally off the street said, “Hey, I need you to help translate a meeting.” That was a person from Hyundai and ended up in the marketing department in Daegu, South Korea, while I was teaching over there. Then came back and was in marketing and PR, but I got my graduate degree. Got my master’s degree in organizational design. I have a master’s degree that is an HR degree.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
I spent years studying how organizations work and how they function as complex organisms made up of more complex organisms. I’m fascinated by that stuff. I think I can make the case that I use the collection of skills that I got on all of those early careers today in my podcasting degree. But, it’s a very windy path, if you were to chart a path from graduation day, high school to today. It’s all a collection of skills. I think that’s why I want to get to this series. That the idea that we are a collection, we are a giant basket that is a collection of skills that makes up a career, makes stuff hard to describe easily to people. That’s okay. That’s the part that we’ve got to get to, that it doesn’t have to be filled describing who you are as a function of what you do. Or conversely, describing what you do as a function of who you are doesn’t have to be filled with confusion, humor, shame, any of those things. It just is. It just is.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. I agree.

Pete Wright:
We made a joke about it because I have, in my head for a long time, had this idea of doing a podcast called Headstone. Don’t take it, everybody. It’s mine. I want it. It’s all about humans and the legacy that we leave behind. The joke is, on the headstone is, “Here lies Pete. He wishes he’d done more accounting.” That stuff cracks me up because nobody has ever said that. Nobody said that.

Nikki Kinzer:
I need more numbers in my life.

Pete Wright:
I just wish I had done more rental car agency management. Nobody says that. How do we communicate who we are without associating it with a job? How do we break out of that particular box? Because we are so much more complex than the stuff we do nine to five.

Nikki Kinzer:
So true. And yet we’re still going to get asked that question when we go to the eye doctor or wherever. This is off-topic, a little bit. It’s on topic, but going a different way. I’ve been talking to my daughter a lot about colleges and where she might want to go and study. I can see the stress and anxiety that’s coming up because she feels like she has to make this decision. She has to decide now what she wants to do. And I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no, no. You don’t have to decide now. You’re 17. You have a long way to go. You’re going to be working a lot. You don’t have to decide.” There’s also that.

Pete Wright:
You might not decide until you’re 20 and then decide again when you’re 30.

Nikki Kinzer:
Exactly.

Pete Wright:
And then decide again when you’re 42.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think where we tie this into our conversation is that those expectations too, of this senior in high school has to know what they’re going to do. Or when you’re in college, they need to know what the right degree is so that they can do this. Anyway, it’s just going back to those expectations that are so high. It’s interesting. With us having this conversation, would you change what you say to anyone? Instead of saying, “I’m a podcaster,” would you say something different?

Pete Wright:
It’s hard. For a long time, when I first started, I had, even on my business card, I was a storyteller, which seems so pretentious now that I’m 20 years on. It seems so ridiculous that that is what I would do. The problem is that’s not a great question. I almost think the first habit is that we have to figure out a new way to inquire about one another, about who we are. To not necessarily assume when you hear, “What do you do,” that the answer has to be for work. That part of the responsibility in that exchange is on each of us individually. When you ask me, “What do you do?” I need to say, “You know what? I’m super into exotic cars. And I love Max and technology. My favorite color is blue.” How do we create this question that better defines our identity beyond, I work with numbers all day, I spreadsheet.

Nikki Kinzer:
What’s really hard is that, with GPS, for example, we’ve got a new cohort that’s coming in, and I do a one-on-one with each of the new members. One of the things that I do want to know is what they do, what is their profession? What’s their industry? To get an idea of where, because there’s a lot of other people that might be in the same industry. But now I’m questioning, I still want to know that information, but I don’t want to put anybody on the spot or feel bad about it. I’m torn here.

Pete Wright:
Okay, keep talking about that.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because I do want to know what they do for a living.

Pete Wright:
There was a while when I didn’t ask the question, “What do you do?” I remember this pretty clearly when I would introduce myself by saying, “I am Pete. Who are you? And tell me the story of your life.” As a joke, it starts as, “That’s a very comically broad question.” But eventually, people ask and they’ll say, “I’m Sean.” Then they start thinking about it. They start thinking about their life and the story that encapsulates their life. Invariably, the answer to that, in fact, I would encourage you to ask this question to somebody that you’ve never met, because my bet is the first thing they tell you is, “I have two kids.” Whatever. They’ll start with something that isn’t their job.

Nikki Kinzer:
Ask, “Tell me about your life?”

Pete Wright:
Tell me the story of your life. They’ll think, “Oh my gosh, that’s so big. I don’t know how to answer it.” But the first thing that they say won’t be what they do for a living. Or they’ll answer what they do for a living, but it will be answered in a way that probably defines the reason they do the thing that they do. Say, Sean is an attorney. But, the answer will be, “I help people save their relationships in a divorce.” He’s a divorce attorney, but the reason he loves what he does is because he saves relationships from being completely destroyed in a highly contentious situation.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s so interesting. I am going to change that because I think you’re on to something. Because I’m thinking, if somebody asked me, “Tell me the story of your life,” I wouldn’t start with, “I work with ADHD adults and college students.” I would probably say, “I’m married. I have two kids. I live in Oregon.” Then I might go into, “This is what I do. I’m really invested in the ADHD community. I love helping.” I could see myself expanding it, but not starting there. That’s really good.

Pete Wright:
I have a friend who answers that question differently every time, but he always comes back to, “But what buys my shoes…” And then talks about where he gets the paycheck. I think that’s a different question. I look at this from the perspective of, if I were out looking for a job, or if I were thinking about how the industry is changing, you still have to look by titles. But, you don’t have to stay by titles because that’s how businesses tend to work. That’s how HR departments present jobs. You still have to have an understanding of how titles tie to functions. But, does that have to tie to who you are as a human being? I’m just not sure that it does. I think part of the responsibility is on how we ask that question. And part of the responsibility is on pushing back and figuring out the answer for yourself that is more than just a one word thing, so that you can push back when that question is asked to you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Okay, so going back to what you’re saying, if somebody’s asking you what you do, you could actually share a hobby that you’re excited about. You could say, “What do you do, Pete?” “I love photography.”

Pete Wright:
I’ll tell you what I’m doing right now. I am teaching my son how to play the piano and sing while he is doing it. It nourishes my soul to help this kid discover his love of music. That’s what I’m doing right now. That’s who I am right now. This is legit. I’m not making that up. He’s on a trip right now, but when he gets back, the first thing we’re going to do is sit down at the piano. He’s working on Piano Man. Learning to play and sing Piano Man is the thing that nourishes us together. That’s number one. For sure. What buys my shoes? Podcasts.

Nikki Kinzer:
Really is how you decide you want to answer it, is the do about your job or what you’re interested in right now? Or what do you do? I’m having a lot of conversations right now with my kids about what they want to do. What they’re interested in, passionate about, and what opportunities they have. You could really answer it in a lot of different ways.

Pete Wright:
Here’s another way to think about it. Let’s just say you’re talking to Ben Affleck. What does Ben Affleck say? Because Ben Affleck has the benefit of knowing that, by and large, everyone who’s talking to him already knows what he does. How would you answer that question, “What do you do? Tell me the story of your life.” How would you answer that question if you had the benefit of assuming that everybody else knows what your job is? Does that change the way you perceive your own identity?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, because I don’t think it would be asked. I wouldn’t ask Ben Affleck what he does.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
It would be a different question.

Pete Wright:
What would be the question? What are you up to right now? I wonder if that is, some of that is, I’m spit balling here because I wonder if that changes the way. If you ask me what I do, knowing that we both know I’m already a podcaster and I run a small podcast network. How would I answer that question? I’m working on creating this new show called Headstone. It’s a show that explores human legacy and what we want to leave behind. I’m really curious about how our identity is tied up in the work that we do when it comes to the legacy and how we want people to think about us.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s interesting, because then I could say, I’m thinking, yes, I work with adults with ADHD, but I’ve got this membership program that I’m building around planning and scheduling and time management that’s going to help ADHD-ers find a planning system that works for them. It really goes into something different, doesn’t it?
And if you think about it, if you volunteer, because this is where the conversation went with in the Coaching With Nikki, if you think about, you’re volunteering in a lot of different organizations, which I don’t think is anything to be embarrassed about, that’s something to be really proud of, that you are in your community, giving your time for these things that you really believe in. You could also replace what you do, and almost flip it, like you were saying, “I volunteer, da, da, da, da. What pays for my shoes is da, da, da, da.” If you’re not working and you’re volunteering, then you don’t have to worry about what, you don’t have to finish that sentence with how you pay for something.

Pete Wright:
Because that is really important, because I do think it’s important to acknowledge what the question, what do you do, is implying. Because there are so many hidden signals of expectation and position and social hierarchy and wealth and all of these things. If I come back and say, “I’m a doctor. I’m a surgeon. I’m chief of surgery at Gray’s Memorial Hospital.”

Nikki Kinzer:
And I talk like this because I’m so fancy.

Pete Wright:
But, because that question presumes fanciness and a certain station, and so asking the question is a way to figure out how we are supposed to relate to each other.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, you’re so right. So true.

Pete Wright:
That’s part of what we’re trying to do-

Nikki Kinzer:
That is true.

Pete Wright:
… is deflate some of the stature. Are you having an awakening?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Because when I say I work with folks with ADHD, almost immediately somebody will say, “I know someone. That must be really difficult for a college student to have ADHD. Or I think I have ADHD.” There’s always this sentence back to me about how they are connecting to that.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s just interesting. It’s just an interesting reflection to see what the-

Pete Wright:
But, here’s the thing. Do you get a different answer? And I think this is important. When somebody says to you, “What do you do?” And you say, let’s just say, your options are, I’m an ADHD coach. I work with adults and college students to help them with their systems, et cetera. What you said, that’s option two. Option three is, I’m a small business owner. Those three things communicate different messages.

Nikki Kinzer:
They do.

Pete Wright:
… to the person you’re talking to.

Nikki Kinzer:
They do.

Pete Wright:
You are a small business owner.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
That is principally how you are able to do this other stuff, to actually do the coaching, because you’re a small business owner. I have the same thing. I’m a podcaster, but I’m also a small business owner. I look at the money that I pay to the people who work for me, and I think, “Oh my goodness, I’m a small business owner.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. I think you also have to decide on, who you’re talking to, how important it is to what information you give.

Pete Wright:
Yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
How invested are you in this new person or in this conversation? Because I’m going to take it into a different angle. My husband has a disability. He hasn’t worked full-time in a long time. We came up with this elevator speech that when he meets new people, he says he’s a photographer because he is.

Pete Wright:
He rightfully should, he’s so good at it.

Nikki Kinzer:
He is a photographer and he gets paid for it.

Pete Wright:
He gets paid for it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Whether people need to know it’s full-time or not, doesn’t matter. Or if it’s just for fun, it doesn’t matter. He is a photographer.

Pete Wright:
It doesn’t matter.

Nikki Kinzer:
But, that was the easiest way to explain it, because people didn’t understand why he was home during the day or why he didn’t have a traditional nine to five position or why he could volunteer when very few dads do. I remember having the conversation of, “I think it’s just going to be easier if you say this.” And then you don’t have to go into the whole thing about MS and all of that. I think that it’s helpful to have a canned, when you’re in a situation like that, of what you want to say that you’re comfortable with. But, then if we’re having a conversation with new friends, they’re going to become new friends, it’s not just a meet and greet. But, now they’re at our house and we’re hanging out with them, then it’s worth having a conversation of, “This is what’s been going on and why we are where we are today.” Then it’s worth the conversation of the background.

Pete Wright:
Because you get to gauge the kind of relationship you want to have with somebody by the first impression you make with the answer to that question.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Good stuff.

Pete Wright:
Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that interesting? The one I look forward to the most is retired.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right?

Pete Wright:
I can’t wait. I’m going to be in Italy, and I’m going to just say retired.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s funny that you say that.

Pete Wright:
I’ll probably still run a podcast.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Because we were talking about that too recently because he’s 52 now. We were like, “Pretty soon you can just say you’re retired and no one’s even going to question it.”

Pete Wright:
Right. Days are clicking away.

Nikki Kinzer:
Something that my sister did, which I thought was really interesting is because most of her life, she stayed at home with her kids. She never really had a career. She doesn’t have that title of accountant or whatever. She did miscellaneous jobs. She volunteered. She was a CASA for a long time. But, now she says she’s retired. And people will be like, “What are you retired from?” She’s like, “Raising my kids.”

Pete Wright:
Enough. Enough already.

Nikki Kinzer:
She’s just very flippant about it. “I raised my kids and I’m retired now because they’re adult children.” They’re adults and they’re running their own lives. There’s a lot of
excellence there. Be proud, you’re right. You did your job, sister. You did a good one. You did a good job.

Pete Wright:
And I think, and you just said something that is a little bit, it just makes me think, as we’re talking about the shame associated with saying who you are, what you do, I think that the effort,
for me at least, is being able to come up with an answer that I can say every time to anyone who asks with pride.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
It doesn’t matter what I do,
it’s that I’m proud of doing that work, right?

Pete Wright:
The reason I do the thing I do is to help somebody else in the world who doesn’t do that job.
Whether they choose not to do that job or needs to do the job or wants to learn something new. The reason I do what I do is to help someone else somewhere. I’ve done some dirty jobs in my life, and I did the dirty jobs because I was there when somebody else would not do that job. And that’s how you say, I’m proud to do what I do because I help somebody else who can’t or won’t do this job.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, love it.

Pete Wright:
Great. Okay, that’s awesome.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thanks everyone.

Pete Wright:
I feel good, do you feel better?

Nikki Kinzer:
I feel good.

Pete Wright:
So this whole series, we’re gonna be looking for more input from everybody about how you think
about the work that you do in the world and how you do it and are able to say it with pride and are able, for those who are looking for work right now, like how you’re able to fashion a position statement for yourself that allows you to do it with pride, no shame. and let’s help other people.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and we wanna know everything. Melissa, we’re putting together a survey to send out to our listeners, and Melissa was like, “What kinds of questions do you want?” I’m like, “Everything, I wanna know everything. I wanna know all the things about jobs.” Because again, it’s my curiosity that just keeps running. So I’m sure we’ll have a question there about–

Pete Wright:
So if you get the survey – Questionnaire says, “Don’t worry, it’ll only take an hour and a half to complete. That’s because of Nikki.”

Nikki Kinzer:
I want to know everything.

Pete Wright:
OK, well, thank you, everybody, for downloading and listening to this show. It is a little bit off the beaten path today, but I think this makes for a good introduction to our conversation about jobs, the work we do, and who we are as we do it. Thank you, everybody. We appreciate you downloading and listening to this show. Thank you for your time and your attention. Don’t forget, if you have something to contribute to the conversation, we’re heading over to the Show Talk channel and our Discord server. And you can join us right there by becoming a supporting at the deluxe level or better. On behalf of Nicky Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright, and we’ll see you right back here next week
on Taking Control, the ADHD Podcast.
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Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.