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A Portfolio Approach to Life

Thoughts on viewing art, friends, and work as a portfolio of life experience.

A few times over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself drawn towards a particular idea about how to use my time and energy. It’s an intentional variety. A collection of experiences. A portfolio approach to life.

It usually comes up in moments of transition. A move. A change of jobs. Some life event. Because when change is happening around me, I’m compelled to find some way of making sense of it. Some framework, or simply a way to organize my thoughts and actions.

But organizing alone isn’t enough. I want actions organized in a direction. Or at least in some kind of coherent whole. It’s a whole that encompasses multiple things. Things that enhance one another. Or balance one another. Mutual inspiration. Productive integration. Creative surprise.

So, it needs to be multiple things, not one thing. Organizing around one thing is both unrealistic and kind of boring. I’m often better at doing 2, 3, 4 major things in parallel, integrating them, having them build and feed upon one another, than I am at doing one single thing. I mean, who really does one single thing anyway? It’s all perspective. It’s one life, so that’s one thing. But it contains multitudes.

Professionally, I’m happiest at the intersection of helping businesses succeed and creating experiences that leave people feeling special, impressed, and cared for. “Wow, that was SO good. Honestly, it gave me the feels. You’ve gotta check it out” is the aspiration. When I’m at my best in this space, it doesn’t feel like professional work at all. It feels like “doing my thing.” It’s a central part of the portfolio.

My art/music practice has been thriving. I’m not successful in those spaces by any conventional terms, but they fill me with joy. Choosing to treat them as important parts of the life portfolio changed my perspective on them. They are no longer an indulgence, an escape, or a pipe dream. They are part of what I nurture every day. I make and invest time in seeing and experiencing art.

Life at home is entertaining with silly dogs around, beautiful with plants and art and music around, and fulfilling with lovely humans around. Home life, part of the portfolio.

After pandemic lockdown in an island nation as a foreigner, I craved having my friends close. We reconnected from afar, forming new bonds, We reconnected in person with great relief and raw emotions. And new, deep, meaningful relationships in my local community emerged. While physical distance and time-difference are a daily reality of global friendships, I realized how fulfilled I can feel by putting in the work to maintain relationships near and far both. Community is integral to the portfolio.

I’ve been advising and helping companies I’ve invested in. I’ve joined advisory boards for venture funds, schools, and governments. I’ve been advising graduate design students on their thesis projects. Treating this activity with intention, as a practice of its own, and a part of the life portfolio has made it more impactful and feel inevitable. It’s a natural complement to other aspects of the life portfolio.

The portfolio idea helped tremendously. It allowed me to add some order to chaos. It gave me direction without feeling constrained. It helped me see the relationship between disparate interests and parts of my life. There’s nothing magical here. What’s above can be easily explained with many other metaphors. Frameworks like Ikigai, a purpose-filled life, and Bentoism might lead me to the same conclusions.

For me, the portfolio works. I feel more at peace in life now than I have in a long time.

Posted on

November 24, 2022

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