Episode 011: Finding Purpose in Your Pivots
As children we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. I think this is actually still a thing, where adults, unwittingly, tell kids figure out your life early and figure it out fast.
While I do believe it’s never too early to start planting the seeds of the future, I know that what I wanted to be at 5 isn’t what I wanted to be at 7… at 14… at 19… or at 25. And now that I’m in my 30s, what I am and what I want to be is none of those previous things.
I didn’t know it at the time — I mean how would I — but I’ve been pivoting since I was a toddler! To be fair, those pivots weren’t purposeful, useful, or intentional — most were just growing pains — but a lot of us pivot for a myriad of other reasons.
The power in pivoting is finding the purpose in it…controlling your pivots instead of being controlled by them.
So in this episode, we’re going to get a little woo — talking about the shifts that you may be experiencing, avoiding, or even regretting as you navigate your designpreneur journey, and how you can do so with passion and purpose.
Did you know that one of the definitions for the verb pivot is “depend”? As in “the success of this plan pivots on the decisions you make”. Yet in business, especially in entrepreneurship, when we hear the word pivot, it’s mostly associated with a change or a shift, not a dependency.
So what is a “pivot”?
Well, I define a career pivot as that space between tweaking your master plan and just a complete upheaval of said plan; a change of perspective or agility in your plans. So changing careers from a biology teacher to an interior designer is not what I’d consider a pivot — you changed careers — but I liken it to when I’m standing in a spot, and pivoting myself to & fro on the balls of my feet.
I haven’t actually moved, but the view is definitely different.
In the intro I mentioned that I’ve wanted to be a lot of different things throughout my thirty plus years of life — from a pediatrician to a celebrity choreographer — but in my “adult” years, even with all the different career titles I’ve wanted to pursue, I’ve never really moved.
My career has taken a few different forms and certainly different titles, but all with the same underlying passions — I’ve always wanted to tell a story and create something tangible from an idea, to use technology to bring my creations to life, to study and understand the effects of what I’m creating, and to help as many people as people with my final masterpiece. Those pillars have never changed. No matter how many times the title I’m pursuing has.
That’s key — identifying, without a label, what exactly it is that you want to do.
Put verbs in place for that “thing” that you want to be when you grow up. What are the major tenets of what you want to contribute to the world with your skills and talents? Remember my analogy of shifting on the balls of my feet? That’s what you’re defining — what will be controlling your shifts?
I’ve shared my story with you before — I majored in architecture in high school, continued to study architecture for another two years in undergrad, changed majors to advertising & public relations, did freelance marketing services after graduation — from press kits to websites to event planning — while starting a decade long retail career as a visual merchandiser…all before landing on interior design, bringing me almost full circle back to grad school studying interior architecture & design. And even in “landing” on interior design, I’ve continued to pivot within my business model. This whole podcast, for example, is a pivot.
I’ve always known what I wanted to do — what my pillars are — but over the years I had to pay attention to how my talents were starting to manifest and what other skills they were unlocking. Because, believe me, what I just gave you was the extremely abridged version of my career path. I truly didn’t even start considering any of it a career until recently — in hindsight, there were all jobs…I was wayfindng, I just didn’t know it.
How does what you want to do translate into what you can do?
And I’m not talking about the whole concept of where passion intersects with what can make you money. I’m talking about the different applications for what it is you do.
Growing up, I’d always heard the story of how my sister, who’s 15 years older than I am, found her purpose — when she was little, she always said she wanted to “wear a white dress with a little white hat” when she grew up. Now, when you first hear that, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, she wanted to be a bride.” Nope. Her dream was always to be a nurse — back then colored scrubs weren’t a thing, hence the white. She always wanted to help people. She always wanted to heal. I’ve seen my sister work in a clinic providing vaccinations to inner city residents, in a high school teaching future nurses, in an emergency room as the first point of contact for the ill, in the NICU & pediatric care units consoling inconsolable parents, and in large hospital corporations as a hospital administrator. I’ve even seen her take mission trips after major disasters to help with relief efforts. All as a nurse. She’s pivoted — a lot — but has always been clear about how she would serve.
Some pivots are par for the course.
Some are planned.
And some are just life giving us a good kick in the head.
Those pivots — the kicking pivots — those are the ones that tend to trip people up, leaving them in a season of anxiety and uncertainty and fear. But those are the ones that should really ignite us, because those are the ones that push us to be raw & honest about what we’re doing.
What triggered your recent pivots?
Was it circumstance — a layoff, a move, a family shift, etc. — that was the catalyst for your change?
Was it a newfound hobby turned passion that propelled the desire to follow this calling?
Was it that after years & years of application, you’ve finally fine tuned how you want to apply your unique skillset?
No matter the reason, one of the hardest parts of pivoting is actually getting through it — completing it — because while you’re in the middle of the transition, it’s easy to fro get swept away by all the change.
Did I make the right decision?
What will people think?
How do I adjust to my new normal?
Will this stick?
But new beginnings are sometimes the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
That fresh perspective may be exactly what we need to truly be our best selves.
Maybe you chose the “safe” career path or something that was secure, and now you feel more confident or better equip to dive into your desired dreams. Or maybe you weren’t really ready — education, finances, life season, etc. — for the final destination, and you needed to experience those previous pivots to get ready.
I know that, aside from not even being exposed to interior design as a career choice, there is no way I would be who I am now if I tried to create this 10+ years ago. I needed the twists and turns to understand how I could serve. Each kick got me closer and closer to where I am now, to a point of planning my pivots & not simply tripping & landing in them.
I love that the iteration of my career allows me to still help people, not only through my designs but also through this podcast and my blog. I love that I can still create and tell stories by creating renderings and content. I love that I can still geek out as I research products and brands and topics to discuss. I still get to do all the things that I love, just in a more deconstructed model. There’s no way 5 year old Albie would’ve been able to stand up on career day and define this!
So what is a purposeful pivot?
How do you get through that period of “WTF am I doing?!”
Really it comes down to exercising discernment and being honest with yourself…
Are you pivoting for reasons that are true to you?
Are you still able to connect the dots to the pillars that you identified earlier?
Or have you changed courses out of desperation and discontentment?
The latter has been a catalyst for me more times than I care to share — feeling unfulfilled and lost — but because I believe everything happens for a reason, I also acknowledge that there were lessons to be learned in those seasons of desperation and discontentment. Not every season is meant to pull you back, but even the ones that do, do so like an arrow — pulling you back to launch you further than you even dared to go on your own accord.
I told you this conversation was going to be a whole lotta woo.
What lessons can you take from your current pivot?
Lessons of patience, leadership, strategy, new technology — there is so much to be gleamed from our pitstops and pivots. Keep asking yourself, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Because who are we kidding — we never really stop growing and there is always something to be learned. My architecture lessons developed my love, not only of space design, but also of technology in space design. Using programs like AutoCAD excited me more than drafting by hand. The same remained true studying in grad school. Pursuing public relations taught me the value in storytelling and communicating with brands, while working retail taught gave me an understanding of the consumer journey.
Purpose in my pivots.
I hope that whichever season you’re in — the beginning, middle, or end of a transition — you’re able to find meaning within it. And I’d love to hear about your journey to purpose. What unexpected pivots have you experienced and what have they taught you? Or are you still trying to find your way, maybe feeling a bit lost or defeated? Either way I’d love to hear all about it.