The career-life guide for people who care about their communities and the planet.

Interview with the Author


What is the Ten Step Program and why does it work so well?

I’m only half-joking when I say this is a way to have it all. The program works because it aligns with the creative process, first generating lots of options and then, with careful structuring and the clearest possible criteria, winnowing them down so that you come through the process not only making decisions, but being able to say why you made them. Laid out chapter by chapter, the framework rests on concerted attention to the changes you’d like to see in the world, and preparation of your personal economics and relationships for success in working as a change agent. It includes the career development basics of self-assessment, opportunity investigation, and boiling down the essence of “your work.” It is distinct for its emphasis on commitment beyond the ordinary, coupled with the creative use of your support system to achieve breakthroughs.

How does one use this framework to uncover areas of opportunity for impact in the world?

You start with awareness of what moves you, what you care about influencing. You sit with that awareness - or walk/ hike/ play with it - until it ripens. You engage in some structured critical thinking about how your concerns translate into occupations and industries - and here’s where the exercises in the book come in. And out of all the possibilities, you identify two things: what you most want to do, and what you can make money at.

In some of your presentations, you talk about human capital and the importance of closing the gap between working and learning. How does that come home to regular working folks?

We’re in a new economic era in ways that are hardly ever discussed by the Washington pundits. We are running out of cheap natural resources and have to value them more highly, but we have an increase in under-utilized human resources, like it or not. We don’t want to think of people as cheap labor; better to think of them as under-utilized assets. So we need economic development strategies that develop and utilize human resources even when there aren’t enough jobs.

What on earth do I mean by that? I mean investing in people to become knowledgeable about the problems to be solved in a given community, and keeping them around to help with those solutions. It may be through any combination of internships, volunteering for those who are economically in a position to do that, entrepreneurship.

I am passionate that the regions where “making a difference” careers will thrive, are the regions that invest in education and training that connect working people to the community -- that is, action research and service learning. Those strategies develop and empower people like nothing else.

How can this journey begin for someone who is not economically stable? Fear can be such a roadblock.

That’s the reason for Step 2: Stabilize Your Life. We look at money budgets, time budgets, ways to decouple our lives from the cash economy through exchanges and other strategies, and ways to create security through stability and support. Economic challenges are very real, but they are compounded by psychological insecurity which can block creative response. I have lived through this myself.

 Many people are “all over the map” when facing their career moves, especially recent grads and those who have been forced into changes. It’s tempting to avoid choosing a path and try to be a renaissance person doing it all. What’s your advice on that?

“Renaissance person” is actually a kind of career identify, in my view. It’s characterized by a mix of art and science competence, a driving curiosity, an ability to synthesize. Renaissance people end up in surprising roles, from investors to reference librarians. But they don’t succeed unless they also get some focused content knowledge and make some choices about boundaries.

No matter how much the options change in their outward form, many things will remain real and important. There will always be a need for accountants, engineers, chefs, nurses, PR directors and farmers. Get good at something. Understand how your field of work, works. And get nimble in moving from one opportunity to the next. That’s as clear as it gets.

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