Work Archetypes

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Working alone can be scary. It’s easy to get discouraged and the more time I spend by myself, the more brittle my self image becomes. Luckily I don’t have to do it all alone, thank goodness for messenger. Using instant message, I can chat with my BFF and accountability partner. We’ll talk through ideas, schedules and challenges together. We check in on each other, encourage each other to do our best, and gently but firmly suggest adjustments when things aren’t working. I’ve boiled the roles we play down into three archetypal characters to help me talk about them.

Astrid the Fox is full of big ideas

Astrid is awesome, and everyone gets excited when she’s around. She has ideas that build on ideas and her enthusiasm is infectious. She’s always looking to the future and dreaming about how this project will effect the next one. All the parts are amazing but it can be difficult to see how they all tie together into a whole. All the different tasks can begin to feel overwhelming without a plan, so she relies on her friend Eric to help organize everything.

Foxes are good at a lot of things. She’s clever and inventive, but tends to lack focus. She says “the best part of having a job that’s also a hobby is that if we have an idea we can pursue it. Work is like play.” The fox dreams and builds ideas upon ideas. She’s capable of doing the much of the work, but often ignores her limits and boundaries and can get tired pushing against those walls.

Astrid is a firm believer that your vision can and should exceed your capabilities. She looks at inspiration as a seed that can grow mountains. She’s involved in most parts of a project, always talking about that inspiration and the map it’s drawing in her mind.

Eric is great at coming up with a plan.

Eric can sometimes be kind of stuffy, and people might groan when they see him coming. It’s easy to complain that he’s a bit of a downer when he starts to talk about a big idea in terms of numbers, and skills, and schedules. Trust me though, he wants to see your idea succeed as much as you do. While Autumn does just fine writing lists, looking at possibilities, and thinking up all of the cool details that look like sparkles in her eyes, Eric excels at looking at the big picture. He organizes those lists, makes plans for the possibilities and ties all those details together. In short, he’s in charge of the break down.

The role of the hedgehog is to look at the big picture. The first thing he does is set project goals and boundaries, which includes a schedule with check points. He begins to prioritize things, identifying what can be done now, and what needs to wait. He also asks some hard questions about skills, resources and collaboration.

Eric’s advice is to keep focused on one thing at a time. He’s very involved at the beginning of a project, doing research and planning. As a project continues, he will check in to make sure everything’s on track and help make adjustments to the schedule. It’s always tempting for Astrid to get overly ambitious, and to keep adding to a project, and that’s okay. If things get overwhelming, he’ll ask her to remember what inspired her. If new additions don’t serve that inspiration, then they work together to dial things back to something more manageable.

Jan is everyone who ever lent support

Often Jan goes unnoticed. At least at first, because he’s so small and not really working on the project. Little by little though, she becomes harder not to notice. All of his brothers and sisters join him to cheer, offer suggestions, and sometimes set up a fooseball table exactly where it’s most needed. No major undertaking, no great achievement was ever completed without an army of mice there to lend a hand.

Sometimes encouragement is our greatest resource. Jan is the grandma who passed by a kit on the living room floor and said their coloring was great and to keep it up. Jan’s the mom who let a hoglet use the garage to practice (badly and loudly) with their first band. Jan is all the fans and followers on Twitter and Instagram that like and comment on progress posts, set-backs and successes. They answer polls, go to shows and shop in online shops.

Jan believes you’re a magical unicorn and honestly wants to know what you’ve been up to. Share it, and talk about it. Document your progress, and ask for help when you need it. Some of the best friends and collaborations we’ve ever had came from plugging in and being part of a community.

Next time we’ll start looking at how to break my project up into smaller pieces. We’ll talk about the skills I already have, the ones that I might reasonably develop, and what I’ll probably need to find collaborators for. Finally, we’ll block the major outline of a schedule.

Until next time then, don’t forget what inspires you!
Your friend,
Jeffrey

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