What Do You Do for a Living?

“What do you do for a living?”  We get the question all the time; especially when meeting a stranger.  However, I have never really known how to answer that question.  I know that sounds silly, but I do so many things that it is hard to pin it down into a single sentence.  It probably looks pretty silly to others as well.  I mean, it is such a basic question; so, why is this guy stammering around for an answer?

“I’m a real estate appraiser.  I’m a small business owner.  I’m a consultant, a serial entrepreneur.   I’m a…” Fill in the blank.  The fact is, I have given all of those answers at various times, but none of them really captures it.  Though I do them all, none of them really describe who I am. 

It happened to me again today.  I ran into an acquaintance that knows me, but not well.  In the midst of our conversation he asked the question, “So, what do you do?”  As I hemmed and hawed, once again, for an appropriate answer, I decided that I was done playing this game.  It is time to decide what I want to be when I grow up!

After our conversation was over (and I had made a complete fool of myself), I made a little time to be alone and think.  The question I wanted to answer was one that most people do not struggle with, but I do.  What do I do?  The journey I took in answering that question is intuitive for us all, I think. 

I decided that I do not want to answer that common question by sharing a common answer.  I did not want to answer with what I do most of the time (“A real estate appraiser”), because that does not really capture everything.  Furthermore, I did not want to try to encompass everything (“I am a multiple business owner”), because that is too vague.  Finally, I did not want to be too descriptive (“Well, let’s start at the top…”), because that sounds too pompous and furthermore, they are not looking for a long answer.  What I did decide I was going to do was answer the question of “What do you do?” with the question that I wished they had asked, “Who are you?” 

With that as my foundation, the answer came quickly!  Who am I?  Why, I am a teacher!  Short, definitive, descriptive, and applies to every aspect of what I do for my living.  It does not matter if I am appraising a house, managing my customer service company, or writing a blog post like this; I am a teacher!  It is my Mortal Mission.  It is what I love.  And most importantly, it is WHO I AM! 

So, from now on, that is my answer.  “I am a teacher!”  At that point, it is up to them whether or not to pursue the questioning further.  If they do, I can explain (and possibly teach a little in the process).  If not… well, at least I did not flounder around like a fool for an answer to an obvious question again.

Why am I sharing this, seemingly unimportant, story with you?  Because there is a deeper lesson here.  The story is not so much about how I should answer a universal question as it is about a journey of discovery.   Being unable to answer a simple question gave me the reason to explore an acceptable response.  Furthermore, that exploration allowed me to ask an even better question, “Who am I?”  I guess I would ask you the same question.  In the words of the Caterpillar from Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “Who are you?” 

If the answer to that question is “I am a real estate appraiser,” I would kindly suggest that you may be in the wrong profession.  There must be a deeper reason that causes you to get up every morning than “Well, it’s a job.”  As my readers know, I am a huge advocate of finding what your Mortal Mission is in life and then living it.  If your profession does not compliment that Mission, you will never be successful. 

 Now, go create some value!


Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.


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