Hello. My name is Jennifer and I’m a singer-songwriter… in disguise. It’s my alter ego. Not one that would be featured in the panels of a comic book, preoccupied with prodigious capers (of the unsavory variety), but one that manifests another facet of my personality. I’ve wondered whether my other self was valuable beyond my own psyche. More candidly, it didn’t occur to me (over the 15+ years since I earned my first calluses clumsily navigating a fretboard) that the sounds I was making would ever reach an admiring cochlea.
In my “known” life, as a product manager, creating value for the user is a guiding principle for my decision-making. Distilled down, it is making them great in whatever domain they are using our product. As a product marketer writing content, that guiding principle of value remains the same though expressed in a different form—as communication of value, not the primary instrument of it. When you deliver value to someone, you create a connection with them (even if tenuous). Ultimately, as a person who wants to find and forge connection, focusing on the value makes all of the arduous work of creating it, worthwhile.
We all struggle at times wondering if what we do has value for others—not just in the work someone pays us to perform, but in the hobbies we fall into when we need a place to land. I think we are tacitly taught that work is of real value to others but hobbies are not. Work is your professional contribution to those that need it. Hobbies are escape hatches; they are personal indulgences for one who perhaps has too much time on her hands. But in the last few years I’ve realized that other human beings might actually find value in my alter ego, where previously I firmly thought it solely held value for me.
Some hobbies are not built for sharing. I get that. And I’m not advocating that we all quit our jobs and try to pay the mortgage bedazzling. But I am saying that if you are anything like me, you just may be wondering if that other thing that you just possibly may be good at… just might be worth pursuing in a capacity other than on your sofa.
Consider whether what you have to offer is of value to others. Will there be at least one person (who is not your mom) that will benefit from what you can build, communicate, or otherwise provide? I’m not necessarily talking about starting a side business, for that entails far more than this weak post can hold, but I am talking about starting a connection. For the connection is the value.
Have confidence in the value of your professional work, yes. Make that value the reason why you endure all the frustrations and social oddities that accompany it. But also realize that it is ok to have confidence in the value of endeavors that those professional folks who “know” you can’t imagine you actually do. Use that confidence in the value to propel yourself forward, even while fumbling any confidence you may have in yourself.
For me it was assembling a band, getting into a recording studio, and then actually opening my mouth to say I did this crazy thing. At times it felt like I merely added a thimble of water to the ocean. Noticeable? No. Impactful? Uh, is this thing on? But there have been moments where it’s felt like the tide was rising. So dive in where you can, unmask your alter ego, because there could very well be someone who values what you have to offer far beyond the confines of your mild-mannered perception.