Coming Full Circle to Find Purpose
How reconciling two separate paths led me to an intersection
Well now this is awkward.
In what can only be considered a moment of prescience, or perhaps simply keen self-awareness, just under two years ago I wrote the following, in a post titled, “Confessions of a Design Imposter:”
"...inevitably I’ll become frustrated by the things that will never change, exhausted by all the little exigencies of daily life (meetings), and I’ll be parting ways dramatically to make declarative, no– definitive fresh starts doing something completely different.”
Re-reading it now, I can see from this safe distance that I wrote this missive as a kind of defense mechanism. It captures a vulnerable moment, one that forced me to mitigate some of the guilt and shame I’d felt for abandoning my food business to return again to my design career.
Two years is a funny punctuation mark in my life, an em dash connecting one phase to the next with only minor pause. Here I am today, completing the other 180 and returning to Amsterdam to reconcile my competing selves–cook, designer, business owner, who knows what else. I’ve got enough perspective to give myself the permission to not insist that I be just one or the other, feeling optimistic that I can find a way to make them whole and connected.
It’s creating this coherence that is my mission, my raison d’être, not just for myself, but also for the work I’m setting up to do with others like me, we the ‘scanners’ and ‘multipotentialites.’
Call it serendipity that the central theme of my career as a design thinker has been the persistent negotiation of the Desirable, Viable, and Feasible. In other words, finding breakthrough ideas at the intersection of our values, our unique skills, and the opportunities afforded in our space. The sweetspot.
Several months back when I’d just started writing again, I began to feel a kind of tightness, an agita. It wasn’t a negative feeling, it was more a build-up of potential energy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to draw it out on my own, so I enlisted a good friend who’s also an amazing coach. One evening, we decamped to a cozy wine bar nearby. Propped in the window seat with glasses of Austrian red, she asked thoughtful and pointed questions, and as I answered, she sketched out a diagram. Suddenly, there it was in front of me- the sweetspot, my sweetspot.
We christened it “FoodXDesign,” a coherent way forward that made perfect sense of my passion for food, my design strategy expertise, and the idea of coaching and facilitating workshops for ‘foodpreneurs’ (although we agreed to never, ever refer to anyone as a ‘foodpreneur’ outside of that single moment. It was a revelation that burst open the seams and let the light in.
I sprang into action, super-charged by what the wonderful author and speaker Jane McGonigal calls “urgent optimism:" the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success. Within a few short weeks, I kicked off work with a (now sadly defunct) food business accelerator program, I designed and prototyped a coaching program with a friend who was seeking a new direction, and began taking the material steps that have led me to this moment, leaping forward toward my own purpose-driven venture.
Ironically, throughout this whirlwind of discovery and motivation, I’ve cooked less than I have in years. I eat the same breakfast every day, I make my dinners from recipes kits (still cooking!), and–don’t judge–occasionally order Domino’s pizza. The collateral damage is that I’ve stepped back from writing about food, given that most the time I’d spend reading cookbooks and planning meals has been diverted towards setting up my business.
Still, food remains my heart-center. It’s all I want to talk about all day. I constantly dream of menus for dinner parties I want to throw, pop-ups I want to organize. I am always hungry.
Of course I’ll always fight with myself, waging an eternal battle with my ‘all or nothing’ tendency. Instead of going headlong in one direction, I’m giving myself the time to explore possibilities, and not putting pressure on any one of them to be THE answer. I’m prototyping. Giving myself constraints. Not being too precious. Trying more, and planning less. The thing about intersections is that the whole point is to cross paths. I don’t need to choose one way or the other, I can just sit in the sweetspot.
What are you doing on Tuesday?
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