I hear this question often enough when I go events where other people go. For many, is a straight-forward answer like Architect, Lawyer, Firefighter. For me, it is a little bit of a problem.
This last week I attended TED and I got asked this question so many times that I started realizing I need to give this question some thought. Not only for myself, but to free the people of the world of the chains of “boxing”. This is not a rant against the wonderfully violent sport of box, because I use the term when others want to put you inside a box. A box they can neatly organize in their heads along lots of other boxes they have. It is also useful to know if their box is bigger or better than mine.
Of course I usually devise a quick answer taylor-made to the “audience”. I’ve been known to answer anything from: business man, Founder of a telecommunications company, Mountaineer, technology entrepeneur, aikidoist, nothing much, etc. It is not that any of those is untrue, but anyone of those is incomplete and misleading. I know that this happens for most people that simply have a wide range of interests as I do. I have known many people like this in my life. But I also have found people who are so focused, so determined by one goal that seem to blend into their own actions. I don’t see that there is just one right way to go, both approaches seem fine to me.
I am exagerating the point a little bit because the question is just a conversation starter and I find myself asking it quite often. I don’t know exactly what the replacement question should be, but maybe the real replacement is not a question, just an open comment in a conversation: “please, tell me about you”. This statement can include many diverse parts of our life. The answer can include your families, your passions, your fears, what happened yesterday, your views and your opinions. Or maybe you can just answer: “I’m an architect”.