creating a portfolio life

Most of us have been conditioned to think of our life’s work as restricted to a single vocation. We start cultivating a one-dimensional perspective towards our professional life. But what if instead of making our work all about doing the “one thing” and considering it as a monolithic activity, we see our contribution to this world as an amalgamation of different interests, passions, and activities that appeal to us? 

What if instead of restricting ourselves to the duties and responsibilities of a particular role and confining ourselves to a predetermined job description, (decided by someone else), we connect different activities that bring us joy and group them all as what we “do” for a living?

This may seem a tad unrealistic and delusional, but this is where the world is heading now. 

The recent talks on the Internet are all about how freelancing is taking over and how more and more people are choosing to become freelancers rather than opting for traditional jobs. In fact, some statistics say that as soon as 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be either contract employees or self-employed.

I had an inkling that things with regard to work will change in the near future, but as I read Jeff Goins’ book Real Artists Don’t Starve and listened to his interview on The Creative Penn Podcast, I realized that this change is happening rather really fast. And through him, I got to know the concept of “portfolio life”.

This term was coined by Charles Handy in his business management book The Age of Unreason. It mainly refers to the reorganization of careers as portfolios comprising of different jobs.

In 1989, Charles Handy predicted that in the near future more people would orient their work lives around a body of work rather than maintaining a single position that lasts for 40 years. This has already started happening. Jobs don’t last forever, and career spans have drastically diminished. And many people are instead opting to create a portfolio that remains with them for their entire lives. More and more individuals every year are opting out of the 9-to-5 life to build something meaningful that lasts long-term and brings recurrent income.

It turns out that the best way to ensure financial security in the future for ourselves is to not put all our eggs in one basket i.e. to diversify our income streams and not rely too heavily on any single job or income source. This may sound unconventional, but this will soon be the new norm. 

We can make ourselves indispensable to the marketplace by acquiring multiple skills and integrating them to create meaningful products and services. We have to identify our unique gifts, talents and strengths and utilize them to fulfill the demands of the marketplace and eliminate the pain points of the people that we want to serve. 

In other words, having a portfolio mindset is crucial to set ourselves up for success in the long haul. Technology is revolutionizing the world of work and we can say with absolute certainty that having a portfolio life, in our lifetime, is inevitable. So, it’ best that we stop identifying ourselves with a job description and start seeing ourselves as multifaced beings with multiple passions and interests. 

We have to work towards becoming more well-rounded individuals, and the sooner we do that, the better it is for us. As Goins points out, the true challenge for us is not whether we should start building a portfolio life, but when we start doing it.