“What do you do?”
There are two questions I’m often asked. The first is “What do you do?” Leaving aside that I don’t like the question because I think it lacks imagination as an icebreaker, it also makes me uncomfortable because I don’t fit into a box that most people would recognise. The second is “How can I do what you do?” This is easier to answer, though I’m always tempted to be flippant. “Don’t” usually springs to mind, followed by “Get a proper job”. Needless to say I never verbalise either.
Once I’ve got a grip of wayward thoughts, and realised that the questioner might be seriously wanting an answer (or wanting a serious answer, or both), I take a stab at it. This time the first which is easier to answer: I’m a father-husband-therapist-entrepreneur-performer-writer-joker-consultant-translator-trainer-mediator-lecturer-explorer sort of person. My passions include my wife, my children, my dog (the exact order varies, like the weather), beer, music, writing, contrariness (‘Life doesn’t have to be like that’), people, and proving to some of them that things are not usually as they seem/they are capable of great things/they shouldn’t follow me, because I’m lost.
As for the answer to the second question “How can I do what you do?”, read on and draw your own conclusions.
Graucho Marx said it best
People often talk about wearing several hats, and I’m one of those people. Except that I don’t actually talk about it much. I’m uncomfortable explaining my multiple roles, and I’ve often quoted Graucho Marx, who famously said “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
Started out in business and trained in business management in the wine trade. Became an entrepreneur and set up a clothing business (spot the natural link), in the 1960s and from there was asked by one of my customers, a clothing manufacturer, to be consultant for them, which I did. This took me to France for 10 years, the former USSR for two, and several European countries.
I’m getting there, there’s a point to all this… I was having good outcomes in my consulting work when in Russia but didn’t understand why. I needed to know more. My personal life wasn’t so great at that time either, and I started to look at anything that started with ‘psycho-‘ as I explored ways to better understand myself. These two paths converged and the result was 15 years of intensive reading and study involving human potential movement, psychology, systemic therapy, hypnosis… I could go on. As well as formal training in strategic therapy, I also qualified in a number of other areas, including mediation and conflict resolution. I studied mainly in the UK and the USA, and presented at conferences in Europe whenever I could.
I’m sure I’m not alone in the therapy/consultancy/training constellation in finding myself slightly embarrassed when people ask what I do. Like many eclectically trained professionals who blend life experience with theoretical understanding, if I explain what I do it can sound like an accidental mish-mash or that I’m an ego-junkie. The truth is there is nothing accidental and ego has been on the back seat for 30 years (except when I’m performing).
Personal development and reflection
I worked to become what I am and there was an unconscious design. The result though, is one where no hat sits well (maybe that’s why, in life, I never wear a hat!). But now, when someone asks me “What do you do?” I can point them to this post. When they write to me, I mean, if we’re meeting socially and they ask, I’ll probably just pick one of the above then change the subject to something more interesting, by asking about what they do!
The central thread that ties all of this together is that I have always been a ‘people person’, and my life experience and formal learning have allowed me to develop a set of skills that I use consciously in any of the roles I perform. And I continue to learn.
Barry Winbolt MSc.
To KeAndrea for asking me the question which prompted me to finish and post this.