Skill, Purpose, and Joy
Heads up, this content is 14 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

So… yes. The subtle references and whispered insanities are true: I’ll be leaving Cerado in September.

This means I’m voluntarily entering the worst job market ever to happen in my lifetime — a market in which heartwrenching handfuls of talented peers and friends have been unemployed for over a year now — as a free agent.

There. It’s acknowledged. And that is the last we ever speak of the Impossible Economy in association with me looking for work again. If I can get my mother to stop reminding me of this dismal fact (and I have), surely you can play along with my game, too. Do it as a favor to a friend.

The other seemingly ludicrous point to note is that I’m leaving on very good terms with a high regard for the company, and I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with them. Chris Carfi is an impressive hybrid of creative genius and brilliant storyteller — when it comes to social media marketing, he gets it on both a theoretical and a social level. I’ve learned a lot from working with him, and from working alongside fellow mad genius Mark Resch as well. The clients (hi, BlogHer) and developers (George the PHP guru, Eric the King of iPhone dev, …) I’ve been paired with have also been top notch. I will be sad to let them go.

So why am I leaving?  Because it stopped fitting me.  What the Job Needed From Me and What I Wanted to Do crept further and further apart over time, and it finally became evident that something had to change.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it was just growth. And it has a hidden upside for Cerado: being able to let go of the role means I can now help them restructure their management process without my interests in the equation. The result is shaping up to be something that’s much more tailored to their changing needs, with a more efficient use of resources.

I kind of enjoy working myself out of a job.  It has a certain satisfaction to it.

It just leaves one question: What’s next?

I don’t know.  And call me crazy (I’m used to it by now), but I’m not really interested in job leads just yet.  I’d like to give a little more thought first to what I’m looking for.

When I was in Chicago for BlogHer recently, I ran my situation past a childhood friend, Jim Conti.  He gave me a useful way of approaching the “what should I do next?” question:

Ask yourself…

What am I good at?
What brings me joy?
What does the world need me to do?

…and find the intersection of all three of those.

In other words…


When the grownups asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, they forgot to explain that this was what they meant. Most of us probably answered based on how we wanted to be seen, realizing that “astronaut” and “veterinarian” sounded worthy enough of praise.  So do “rich” and “famous.”

A psychologist friend of mine made an interesting comment to me recently.  She said, “This is going to sound terrible, but I strongly prefer working with wealthy clients. It’s not because they pay me better. It’s because they already know that money’s not going to fix their problems.”

Neither is doing what they’re good at even if they don’t like it. Or doing what they enjoy when it’s useless to the rest of the world. Or being a miserable martyr for the sake of humanity. We have more work to do than this.

And I still haven’t answered the question.

I know some of the things I’m good at…

– XHTML/CSS development
– Product and project management
– Social media consulting
– Technical and promotional writing
– Public speaking
– Building community spaces

I’m feeling the tugs of what the world wants me to do in terms of social media marketing, community development, and LGBT activism.

I just… might need to get back into the groove of what brings me joy for a bit.

Then maybe I’ll know what I want to be when I grow up.

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15 Responses to “Skill, Purpose, and Joy”

  1. LostTristian Says:

    Good luck.

  2. lori Says:

    I'm in a similar situation — how great for you that you had a wonderful company to grow out of! Best of luck. It was nice to hear your story. Brain+heart is a good equation to follow.

  3. Lin Ilsley Says:

    double ditto, good luck, kid. xo

  4. deb Says:


    I love the diagram. It makes it very clear how to get grounded again from a FAIL. So if the FAIL (or outgrown place) was a purpose FAIL, jump into what would do the world good for a bit to charge up that battery and then find your way back to center. Or a Competence FAIL? Do what you are good at to get your sealegs again. Very interesting.

    Much luck in diving back into your joys!

  5. Sean Says:

    Sarah, you are sage beyond your years.

    I have done what you are doing many times over — jettisoning myself out of a job and into the market with little concrete picture of what the next step would be. The first way this is wise you have touched on: You leave a place in good standing and the baggage you carry from it is light and colorful, not heavy and dour. The second way you encapsulated so beautifully in your chart: You get to call the shots, and determine what the next right step is. It's not about scurrying from one safe place to another. It's about the journey, the exploration, the discoveries.

    I have always maintained that the universe is a profoundly abundant place, and that there is always room for talented individuals. You'll land on your feet, if that's what you choose. Or, perhaps you'll pirouette your way along for a while. Whatever makes you happy.

  6. Adisson -Sheik- Says:

    at the risk of sounding sappy, you honestly give me hope for the future. You are such a clear thinker when you get down to it, and that will definitely serve you well. ^_^ best of luck.

  7. Nikolas Coukouma Says:

    Possibly the second best venn diagram ever (best remains: ). Best of luck, though!

  8. ruthritter Says:

    Follow your heart Sarah. I hope we meet again in the future.

  9. Maura Says:

    I find myself at this same crossroads, though leaving my job at this particular time was not by choice. However, it would have been, soon enough. I'm also taking some time to see what fits me. I can no longer do what I do now. Good luck finding your intersection, too.

  10. Emma McCreary Says:

    Nice diagram! I think I might print that out and put it in my Book for Reminding Myself What Is True (working title LOL). It's kind of a personal scrapbook of wisdom.

    Questions that might help focus the joy issue is: What do I want to learn right now? What do I feel internally called to play with right now? Intrinsic motivation is where joy lives. What do you do because you want to? What excites you? And even if it doesn't immediately seem to lend itself to work, it's a clue.

    Here's another question: who do you want to be next? Who do you want to grow into, and what could help you do that?

    I am realizing for myself lately that I create projects to learn/explore a certain space. And the most important thing for me to remember is the art of completion (I'm very good at the art of starting), and to close out a project when I've learned/expored all that interested me there and I just feel "done". So congrats on completing gracefully!

    And I'm glad you are giving yourself time to let this next thing arise organically. Yay! I'm excited to see what ends up coming next for you. =)

    For me it helps to be solid in the faith that there of course is a perfect next thing, and I just need to follow the internal and universe clues until I find it. And be willing to go on whatever journey is between here and there.

    I believe that ultimately, the Universe *wants* you to be doing your epic win thing. Because nothing makes you more competent and purposeful than truly being engaged and excited about what you are doing. The Universe has your back.

    So for me it's a matter of trusting, letting go, listening, being open, and following the clues. Rather than trying to "figure it all out" – I want to follow the internal path of least resistance….ie where does my soul want to *slide* to? Or *run* to. Or *dive into*. Or what d I want to run around excitedly telling everyone about. That's always a good clue.

    And, you may need some time to "detox" or "unwind" to be able to listen. That is completely part of the process.


  11. Alana Pahku Says:

    Hey Sarah,

    Maybe it is a bit of time adventuring, getting out of the space to be able to bring new perspective. Maybe it's time for a walkabout?

    When I faced those intersections in my life, I asked for signs, OBVIOUS ones that I wouldn't miss that would lead me to the next step. When I knew I was done with the energy of San Diego, I kept asking where am I suppose to be? Loud an clear one day I heard TAHOE. Figuring if this is where I was being guided, I'd need a job. Then looking on the jobboards I found the job at UNR that fit me perfectly.

    I may also be heading into another period of this what's next. Haven't gotten the answer precisely, but following what I can act on which is traveling to Australia for 3 weeks. Making it happen despite not saving up for it. Somehow knowing it is connected even if I don't know right now how it is. Just keep acting on the smallest thing that you can. It will lead you to doing what your heart fills good at doing. It is the time.

    Anyhow, hang in there. Love to see you when I head over the hill to visit Heather's new place!


  12. sarahdopp Says:


    I try to take a mini walkabout at least once a month. :) Wonder where a longer one would take me.

    It's really good to hear your story. Please let me know when you're next in town.


  13. sarahdopp Says:

    As usual, there's a lot here that's right on. I'm slow in responding, but i heard it all right away. Thank you for continuing to speak up around me.


  14. jibreel riley Says:

    I like this chart, good luck

  15. Dopp Juice » Blog Archive » “AWAKE!” Says:

    […] it still has a long way to grow, but it already embodies everything I spent the last year trying to articulate.  I have a path now, and it’s not based on what people told me I should do. […]