What Should I Do with My Life?
Type “what should I do” into Google, and there’s a decent chance it’ll finish your sentence “with my life.”
If you’re feeling a bit lost or have no clear sense of what you’re here to do, you’re not alone. Millions are right there with you, searching for an answer to the same question, yet never quite finding it.
It all starts with one central question, “What am I here to do?”
When most of us ask, we’re thinking about work. What is my unique contribution? To my life. To the lives of those around me. To society. Whether it’s the thing I get paid to do, or the thing, once discovered, I can’t not do, simply because it’s the air that breathes me.
This book is your first giant step into a level of understanding, validation, and, for many, revelation that holds the key to a different way to approach your work, living, and life. An approach that bridges the gap from just getting by to coming alive.
How many sparketypes are there?
The quick answer is ten. Funny enough, we began with a slightly larger number, 7.8 billion, the number of people in the world. We’re each unique, so there must also be 7.8 billion unique imprints. We cannot be distilled, right? Not so fast.
Your Sparketype is a bit like your DNA. On the surface, it may express itself in billions of unique, gloriously-you-and-only-you ways. But when you start to peel each person’s purpose, engagement, meaning, expression, and flow onion, billions of valid, surface-level, time-limited, circumstance-driven expressions reduce down to a remarkably small set of source code level elements or imprints. This leaves us with ten distinct DNA-level drivers. The Sparketypes.
I live to learn.
Mavens are all about learning. Often on a level that goes beyond curiosity and lands as fascination, even obsession. Can’t. Stop. Learning.
As a Maven, you’re fueled by a near-primal drive to know more, even if there is no end beyond simply scratching your often misunderstood and sometimes maligned “that is insanely cool, I must know more” itch. The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is the opportunity to go to sleep knowing more than you did the day before. You view learning as an almost sacred pursuit, one you easily get lost in.
I make ideas manifest.
Makers gotta make. Creation is your call; it’s the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. You are most alive and engaged when you start with an idea, then turn it into something that exists in the world. Something that reflects the taste, sensibility, and notion of possibility you have in your head, the vision of what could be. And, now . . . it is. Because of you. Physical, digital, experiential, ethereal, or permanent, it doesn’t matter (though some Makers are, in fact, drawn to specific channels of expression as we’ll see), as long as you are making. Even if it’s brutally hard, you know you’re doing the thing you’re here to do.
Makers are very heavily driven and also satisfied by process. When you are working in a way that allows you to spend the greatest amount of time immersed in the process of creation, you feel most alive. When the thing you are making is a true reflection of your vision, your unique ideas, lens, values, and sense of taste, you become Sparked. When you have control over the resources, steps, decisions, and ultimate vision and are in charge of all of the elements that allow you to work toward that idea you see in your mind’s eye and know is possible, you come alive.
I figure things out.
Scientists are all about the pursuit of burning questions, wicked problems, puzzles, riddles, and quandaries. The more involved and complex, the better. You also tend to be very process-driven. Sure, solving the puzzle, finding the solution, or figuring out the answer feels great, especially if it ends up helping others in a way that matters to you. But it’s the hunt, the process of discovery—or what Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize–winning physicist, described as “the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery”—that is equally, if not more, enlivening. You feel a sense of excitement, energy, and purpose not only when you arrive at an answer, but through the simple experience of searching for it.
When the question, problem, or puzzle you are pursuing is tied to an area, topic, person, or community you feel some personal connection to, or innate pull toward, even if you have no idea why it feels so compelling, you become even more drawn to the work and the feeling may well rise to the level of not just a devotion, but a calling.
I create order from chaos.
For Essentialists, the impulse is all about order, distillation, simplification, and clarity. Because order—and not just anyone’s order but rather your unique approach to it—is a primal driver of effort. But also because, for many Essentialists, usefulness and beauty (even if they don’t use those words) are important values, and your brain sees order as the foundation of both.
When everything is in its right place and presented in a way that just makes sense for the Essentialist, so, too, does the world. It doesn’t matter where you go, whether at work or home or on vacation (or a restaurant, store, experience, etc.), Essentialists see chaos, mess, complexity, lack of organization and, instead of wanting to cry, it triggers an urge to create order and simplicity.
I turn moments into magic.
Performers come alive when animating, enlivening, and energizing—breathing life, emotion, and sensation into an experience, interaction, engagement, moment, role, or pursuit in a way that makes it come alive with energy, emotion, and understanding.
Performers are among the rarest and most misunderstood Sparketypes. Many bounce between feelings of shame when they go full-on Performer and repression when they stifle this impulse that family, friends, colleagues, and society in certain domains exalt and revere, yet in others, disdain and even punish. It is also one of the most misdirected Sparketypes, in no small part because it is so often artificially constrained by the notion that it can only be expressed in the world of the performing arts.
I awaken insight.
For Sages, illumination is your call. You live to share insights, ideas, knowledge, and experiences with others in a way that leaves them in some way better, wiser, and more equipped to experience life differently—and maybe sparks something in them that makes them want to learn more.
While there is definitely a process-fulfilled side to the work that makes you come alive, you tend more often to find your fullest expression and get your greatest reward when focused on the impact you have on those you seek to help illuminate and elevate. It’s rarely enough to just know your topic well or have command over your craft. You can’t just stand in front of a room, or write a book, give a talk, or produce a podcast and feel like you’ve done what you came to do. Sages want to know what you share actually lands in a way that is understood, integrated, and embodied. When you see the lights of discovery go on in the faces of others, it’s magic. But for you, it’s not enough to simply convey information; you want those you teach to truly “get it.” Comprehension, integration, and understanding is the ultimate goal and the thing that allows you to complete the cycle of illumination.
I gather and lead people.
There is, and has always been, something inside Warriors that yearns to gather people, organize them, harness their collective energy, assume responsibility, make decisions, and lead them on some form of meaningful, fun, or challenging (sometimes all three) quest, experience, mission, or adventure. For you, it’s not just a skill, position, or title as a leader or community organizer, it is a DNA-deep impulse. It is the work you’re here to do, even when it’s personal, social, and fun.
You might express this through a deeper connection to a specific industry, field, group, or community. It might find an outlet at home, with friends or family. Some Warriors become attached to a particular area of focus, mission, or pursuit for long windows of time. Maybe you captain a team to win a race, game, or season, or summit a peak. Maybe you lead a faculty of teachers to raise graduation rates, or a team.
I guide to grow.
For the Advisor, the work of coaching, mentoring, and advising fills you like nothing else. You’re the person who swoops in, develops sustained, personal relationships, most often with individuals or small groups, cultivates trust and confidence, and creates the safety needed to guide people in a hands-on, engaging way toward a desired end. It’s all about wisdom, trust, confidence, curiosity, presence, and guidance (though, as you’re about to see, not necessarily in the way you think). Whoever you work with, their win is your win.
While you see yourself as someone who is wise and skilled, for you, it’s less about illumination or teaching a particular body of knowledge the way a Sage might be drawn to do, and more about the interactive experience of walking people through a process of problem-solving, application, achievement, and, ultimately, growth.
I’m your champion!
Advocates advocate, simple as that. It’s all about shining the light, amplifying, and championing everything from an individual, community, or population to an idea, ideal, paradigm, institution, and beyond. This may involve literally “giving voice” to a person or cause that is, but for another’s efforts, largely voiceless. Animals or the environment come to mind—they can’t easily speak for themselves. Actually, they can (see barks and wildfires), but humans need to “translate” these signals into awareness, energy, agency, and action.
Other times, it’s less about giving voice and more about joining in an effort to champion and amplify an idea, need, point of view, voice, or community of voices. Being a part of that process makes you come alive. And, for most Advocates, it’s been that way for as long as you can remember.
I’ve got you.
Nurturers nurture. They give care, take care, offer support, see you, hear you, hold you. They help lift you up and walk beside you when you need them. They help when you’re going through something (which, at times, is entire seasons of life). They see and often feel unease, pain, and suffering in others, and seek to ease it in a very personal, hands-on way, not because they’re paid to do it (though that may be the case), but because they can’t not do it.
This Sparketype, in fact, often finds a powerful outlet in nonprofessional pursuits, expressed as a desire to help friends, strangers, animals, or even entire populations or ecosystems whose pain they simply cannot witness without doing something about it. When they have the opportunity to give care, and witness or even share in the difference it makes, even if they’re never directly thanked, they take refuge and deep satisfaction in knowing they’ve done what they’ve come to do.
Spark Your Work
You completed the Sparketype Assessment and discovered your Sparketype profile. You understand what kind of work, on a DNA level, makes you come more fully alive, what empties you out and takes the most effort to do, and how it looks and feels when you do work that sparks you in a healthy, fully expressed way.
Your Sparketype is like your Sparked-work DNA. It tells you, on a root level, what kind of work makes you come alive (or empties you out). For many, simply knowing this triggers all sorts of awakenings. You start to recognize moments, experiences, interactions, jobs, roles where your Sparketype has found an outlet. You also begin to see where you’ve been required to do things that are expressions of work that empties you out. Now, it’s time to build on that early awakening and get granular.
Take a breath.
We humans are a quirky bunch. We sometimes do things, with the best of intentions, that set us up for failure, when all we want is success.
The intention isn’t to cause self-harm or sabotage our careers. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Still, good intentions, bundled with painful work experiences, can sometimes lead to outcomes that are the exact opposite of what was hoped for. Nobody is immune. It’s not about how smart or savvy or experienced you are, it’s about a little glitch in human nature that sends you screaming to the exit door, before you realize you just might be complicit in causing your own unease.
Do not blow everything up.
Turns out, once you discover your Sparketype, then understand how to express it in work and life, it’s not unusual to realize you’re not doing many of the things that make you come alive. You think, “Now that I know what kind of work makes me come alive, why am I not doing it?!” Valid question!
But here’s where things often go off the rails. Instead of zooming the lens out and taking a bit of time to reflect, get honest, and put together an intentional and intelligent plan of action, you start to think, “It’s so obvious that I’m doing the wrong thing; this is horrible. I need to make a big, disruptive change, and fast! I need to blow everything up and start over somewhere else!”
- NOT. DO. THAT!!!
A different approach.
Consider a different first step. Instead of blowing up what lies outside, break open what lies within you. Before burning down your so-called malignant work experiences, first hit pause and take the time to look inside. To wake up. To embrace the thrash. To own your contribution to a status quo you so feverishly yearn to leave behind. Along with the grace, the blessings, the gifts, and resources you might reallocate to the task of “righting your own ship.”
Then, ask what might happen if you stayed where you were, but did the work needed to reimagine and realign your current job, position, or role to allow you to more fully express your Sparketype, and do more of what fills you and less of what empties you.
At the same time, it’s important to realize that these scenarios tend to be the rarer ones. More often than not, you discover the story you’ve been telling yourself about hating your current job, your partner, your people, your culture is just that. A story. One story. Not “the” story. A script rooted in a bit of truth that makes it easier to justify walking away and enduring the pain of disruption in the name of a future reality that you believe will “free” you, but may in fact be equally, if not more, fraught than the abyss out of which you seek so desperately to climb. You continue to look for the shiny and new, never realizing the feeling you so desperately lust after is less about what happens to you, and more about what comes from you.
When we talk about work, what are we talking about?
We all live different lives with different responsibilities, constraints, limitations, fears, desires, hopes, aspirations, and values. Sometimes, there’s a fairly direct, conventional path to work that Sparks you. Other times, you can reimagine and realign your work to give you more of what you need. Then, there are those times when conventional paths aren’t easy to access and optimizing around your Sparketype gets you closer, but not entirely there. This sometimes happens when a deeply held value of financial security bumps up against a desire to come alive through your work, but there doesn’t seem to be a high-probability, low-risk way to make it happen.
Rather than give up on the possibility of feeling fully Sparked, this is a great time to explore expanding your definition of work beyond simply what you get paid to do, and looking at a blend of paid full-time or part-time and non-paid experiences that, together, may well hold the potential to let you come alive.
It’s a freedom thing.
Expanding your definition of the work that is available as the raw material to become Sparked gives you freedom. It lets you step into the greater truth, that we all come from different walks of life, with different circumstances and different abilities to contribute to the world in different ways. Some of those ways may become your primary source of income. Other channels of expression may generate revenue on the side
Still others may never yield any monetary compensation, but serve as very real paths to doing the thing you’re here to do. When you look at the blend of opportunities to contribute and expand your definition of work to encompass all of these potential outlets for your Sparketype, you find yourself with a far greater abundance of options to come alive.