Prisoner of what you learn

I heard this phrase while listening to a webinar last week.

It resonated with me in the context of career and vocation because I have a technology degree and it has taken me years to get to the point where I could consider doing something (for money) outside of technology.

Which is funny, because I try to jump out of proverbial planes (take risks) for a living. My interests are many and varied — music, fashion, poetry, writing, technology, traveling, etc. — but I, out of habit, confine my life’s trajectory to a narrow spectrum of possibilities.


The modern artist (yes, I’m an artist and you are too) combines their interests and skills and mastery and motivation to plot an original course.

I always go back to this example: when I first left my job in 2010 and started freelancing, I wasn’t able to make a living because I was particularly skilled in the areas of web design and development, I was able to build a reputation for myself and make a living because I understood what I was selling.

That is, I wasn’t selling someone art or lines of code, I was selling them a story and the ability not to worry about things that are terrifying to the people who hired me: FTP, PHP, HTML, CSS, etc. (So it seems I intuitively grasped the concept without appreciating its significance.)

In the same way, Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes, Apple is a lifestyle cult company that happens to sell computers, and a lot of luxury brands are actually selling the ability to tell others that you’re associated with them.

(Years of reading Seth’s writing has taught me how to analyze what’s actually being sold in a business instead of just taking their apparent model at face value.)

So the lesson for me here is that at the intersection of courage and insight and art and practices…lies the life I’m truly after.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.