001: What Is the Portfolio Life? [Podcast]

You are not just what you do. You were made for more than just one thing. Your life is a portfolio of activities, all of which make you who you are.

The Portfolio Life

In this short, kick-off episode of my new podcast, my friend Jared Easley and I discuss why I’m starting a podcast — and why maybe you should, too.

We also talk about the idea behind the title, The Portfolio Life, and what it means for artists, entrepreneurs, and those who want to make a difference with their work.

I think you’ll like it.

Click to listen

What is the Portfolio Life?

I didn’t come up with this idea of a portfolio life on my own.

In fact, my friend Keith Jennings introduced me to the concept, who first heard it from Ian Cron. Turns out, neither of them came up with it, either. Like all good artists, they stole the idea from someone else.

As far as I can tell, Charles Handy coined the term in 1989 in his book, The Age of Unreason, which is a fascinating read on the future of organizations and chillingly prophetic.

So what is the portfolio life? In a nutshell, it’s probably closer to the life you’re living than what you tell people you “do.”

A portfolio life isn’t just about what you do — it’s about who you are.

My portfolio, for instance, consists of writing, speaking, blogging, consulting, traveling, and working with nonprofits. Not to mention time with my family and friends, as well as hobbies and pastimes I enjoy.

All of those things make me who I am, and without one, I’m not satisfied.

According to Handy, in the future (which I believe we’re living now), we will all be “portfolio people,” thinking of vocation not as a single career but rather as our whole body of work.

This podcast is aimed at those who want to live that kind of life.

Writers and artists have long had to figure such things out, but as the world of work changes, more people will be forced to think of their work less in terms of a job and more in terms of a portfolio.

And as Handy writes, that’s a good thing.

With the Portfolio Life, I want to help you do three things:

  1. Find the work you were born to do.
  2. Identify what makes up your portfolio.
  3. Get started creating it.

Episode takeaways

  • What you know is more important than what you can do.
  • You were made to do more than one thing, and it’s your job to discover that creative work.
  • Look at your whole body of work and create a lifestyle that allows you do all the things you find fulfilling.

Resources mentioned

What does your portfolio consist of? Also, what would you like to hear me cover in this podcast? Share in the comments.

108 thoughts on “001: What Is the Portfolio Life? [Podcast]

  1. Yes! It makes me very very happy that you’ve jumped into podcasting, Jeff. And this is a fabulous concept to base it on. I had a real aha moment a couple of years ago when someone said that what I was doing could be described as a ‘porfolio life’. It freed me from the narrative I had built up around the messy and seemingly chaotic approach I have to work – and the apparent stalling I was doing before choosing my one path/career etc. I get the impression that I’ve been waiting for this podcast ever since!

    Thanks man!

  2. Congratulations, Jeff! Enjoyed the first episode and subscribed. I’ll be following shortly behind you in Podcast Villa… first with a podcast I’ve been recording with my 4 year old son and then with my Confessions of a Terrible Husband one!

    So fun to record. And looking forward to hearing all that TPL has to share!

  3. Best I can tell, Mr. Jeff, ‘The Portfolio Life” podcast concept goes hand-in-hand with your ‘calling’ book that’s in the works. Message and life congruentis. 🙂 Thanks so much, Jeff. I appreciate your podcast. Thanks to Jeff and Jared for the launch! “Expect to be surprised.” I like it.

  4. Love this. The title itself really resonates with me and I can’t wait to listen to the next episodes.

  5. Jeff, you are awesome. I want to be part of your work. You
    have inspired a whole community and I am ready to share so much with you. The
    portfolio is a good way to understand that we all have more than one thing in
    our lives. Thank you

  6. Jeff, I love this. I listen to podcasts. I don’t have as much time to read blogs, so I’m glad I will get to soak up more of your knowledge on a much more consistent basis.

  7. Hello Jeff, I look forward to the Portfolio Life. I have wanted to do podcasts myself for my supporters (I am a missionary in China) as a Thank You, sharing with them some of what they are supporting. However, last July and August I had two strokes that left me with Parkinsons Stage 3 and a severe speech stutter. I am still interested in doing the podcasts (I chose to stay on the mission field rather than return to Nashville. I am at home among the people I serve in China.) Do you think the stutter would create a problem and supporters would loose patience trying to listen, or do you think they would want it?

    1. Hey Joy one thing you could do is get someone to edit the recording for you. That way you just share your stories as best you can, and get an editor to clean it up so it’s an easier experience for your listeners.

  8. Love the feel, music and words Jeff. Are you guys together on mic, or was this via Skype? Sounds really crisp Thanks!

  9. Excited for this very much Jeff. This topic has come up a number of times on recent episodes of my show – I think I even credited you for the term “portfolio life.” It’s certainly the life I’ve been living this past year.

    I used to subscribe to the idea that it was all about finding your one true passion. But who wants just one? 😉

  10. Excellent job, Jeff. I hope to try this one day. I’ll be excited to for the next one you do, for sure. This first one was terrific and based on an intriguing concept. Portfolio life indeed. 🙂

  11. So excited about this podcast, Jeff! I just spent two hours making two new notebooks in OneNote for my relationships and responsibilities, to organize every part of my life. And then I opened this email about your podcast. Haven’t had time to listen yet, but looking forward to it and future podcasts!

  12. Jeff, I’m so excited for this podcast. I think the concept of a “portfolio life” is a breath of fresh air, allowing me and others to embrace all the different talents, passions, and possibilities that may seem unrelated but all make my heart beat just a little faster. I’ve been mulling over the same idea for the last few weeks and taken the plunge into starting videos for my blog and offering editing consulting services for bloggers–both things I never entertained before as possibilities.

    All this to say: you’re spot on and your message is one we need to hear. Thanks for starting the podcast and inviting us into the conversation!

  13. I’d never heard the term PORTFOLIO LIFE, but love it. As humans, we truly are multifaceted. I’d like to hear from both you and your guests regarding concrete steps they used to battle BIG creative monsters…starting their own business, writing a novel, etc. I look forward to hearing more.

  14. I am really looking forward to this podcast, Jeff! My portfolio consists of…

    …leading and loving my family, writing, blogging, speaking, teaching, coaching, homeschooling, and soon (video) webcasting and podcasting. 🙂

  15. Jeff,
    Just got done listening to the first episode and emailed 2 friends about it because I want them to listen to it as well. This sounds like it will be really timely and I look forward to applying the nuggets.

  16. Love the idea & concept for the podcast. I will definitely be tuning in!! You are making a difference…keep it up.

  17. All my life I’ve been interested in doing several things, but nothing seemed to fit into one vocation, and I thought something was wrong with me. This concept of The Portfolio Life validates my desire to embrace all the things that make me me: teacher, writer, blogger, manager (of my family), artist, athlete, volunteer. Thank you so much for starting this podcast- I can’t wait to hear all of the great things you will share.

  18. Will all the podcasts be free?
    I am very excited about this concept. My portfolio (as a 14 year old homeschooler) is blogging, writing books, and decorating, besides spending time with friends and family.

  19. Loved the Podcast and the Portfolio Life. It is so true and instead of feeling like we are falling short in one area of our lives, we can embrace the whole of who we are. Thank you!

  20. Jeff,

    “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26
    We are already programed and equipped to build a Portfolio Life:) It’s just a matter of being guided by the right people He puts in our path…that being you.

  21. I have been hoping for a podcast from you for a while. Glad to see you chose Portfolio Life as the theme. I look forward to see what you have in store and how you will surprise us.

    Jared Easley is a great fit for host.

  22. Jeff – enjoyed the music intro’s and outro’s and the podcast – looking forward to how you approach it. I like the concept of a portfolio, or something that has many parts woven into one.

  23. Really enjoyed the first show! As an artist, entrepnuer and podcaster myself I can really relate to the concept of the portfolio life. Looking forward more episodes… Just left that as a review in iTunes.

  24. You might have a Portfolio Life if..
    Job interviewer says “Your resume lacks focus”. Happened to me.

  25. Oh my goodness!! I haven’t even listened to this yet, but I KNOW it’s for me… You are describing me to a T. Now I have a name for this life I live… Portfolio Life. Now, to figure out how to make some money at some of the many things I do…

  26. This is an inspired message Jeff. I’ve never thought of this concept, but I surely do know there are many aspects to my life, and I’m never satisfied if even one of them is missing. I now have a clearer focus of what makes me, just me! Thank you.

      1. Your message really inspired me, because I go to school almost full time, work full time, play the piano almost full time, and socialize with family and friends part time, but my uncle keeps thinking it will be impossible to get a good grade in school, being that I have a lot of activities I do, not to talk of the chores I do, like cooking, cleaning, and washing.

  27. Just listened to the introductory podcast. I have been dealing with this idea for years. As a teacher, I am not just a teacher, but a counselor, a coordinator, and a mediator – just to name a few. As a parent, I was a chauffeur, a laundress, a cook, a tutor, and a cheerleader – just to name a few. As a soon to be retired teacher with more time to do what I love – write -, I am putting myself out there as an eclectic woman with interest in a wide variety of topics. I am just beginning to find my voice on my blog https://karnatecla.wordpress.com/ and in two months, I plan to be getting all my “ducks in a row.”

  28. I just listened to your kickoff episode. I’m glad you pulled the trigger on this! I think it’ll be fun. Looking forward to what is in store. And you’re right, many of us are artist-entrepreneurs with a passion for fill-in-the-blank. I think that’s the only way we CAN be. To do otherwise would be pretty boring, don’t you think?

    1. Thanks, Brad. I think you’re right: at least some people are wired for this life, not because they want to, but because they can’t live any other way.

      1. I have a book called “Why are you creative?” and it asks that question of many famously creative people, mostly filmmakers and famous authors. More often than not, the response is, “I don’t have a choice.” Interestingly, the second most common response is, “I didn’t know I was creative. I just do what I do.”

  29. Love this. “Not JUST a writer…a communicator” – this is definitely what I am striving for. I think one challenging aspect of this “portfolio life” is balance. I think a lot of people have to have jobs that they do not consider a part of their “portfolio life” until their passion begins to pay off. This can be difficult to juggle your “real” job with your “passion” job.

    1. This is exactly what i was trying to say but didn’t know how to say it. Balance, its the main key to find love and passion in your life.

  30. Good thoughts, Jeff. Sometimes I get frustrated for not concentrating on “The One Thing” rather than embracing my portfolio and really living!

  31. hi jeff; congrats on starting th podcast and i want to wish you the best of luck with it. i didn’t know that th portfolio life is what we call it, but i am a equipment broker, blogger, video podcaster, and a source of inspiration to many. I want to travel, speak, and be an ambassador for th amusement industry and for blind people everywhere. looking forward to learning more about this. thanks, max

  32. So glad you started the podcast. I will be a faithful listener. Your work is truly helping me in my life. I appreciate it so much!

  33. Jeff – I am finally ready to zip through all your podcasts! WOOHOO

    I have been meaning to do this for a while, but I am very creative with excuses 😉

    Would you say that a ‘Portfolio Life’ begins with a ‘Personal Mission Statement’ (a term I have seen thrown about lately)?


  34. Fabulous kick-off, Jeff!

    I know I should say, “I am a writer”, but I still hesitate to own my calling because of my meager achievements! LOL

    Anyway, I think this is (one part of) my portfolio: I am a writer who wants to utilize the power of my words to empower, heal and transform lives for the better!

    Thank you

    Moving on to No. 2


  35. The podcast message is true. We all have multiple skills we are good at, and multiple professions we can do if time is utilized. Science has also proved that we tend to use just ten percent of our brain, which shows that we have the tendency of doing more than we do. People who are good at in fixing things, playing basket ball, and dancing do not have to limit themselves, because all those activities can be done, we just have to plan, and manage our time well, which reflects to the message in Jeff’s podcast. Many people set their own limits most of the time, because they do not know their capabilities. This podcast has a very important message, which needs to be more viral, because they are a lot of people who need it.
    I believe SLCC is already helping because of the resources on campus, like the gym, which consists of weight room, basket ball court, running tracks, and lots more, which is very helpful for people interested in going to SLCC, because it is more convenient to go to the school gym before or after, compared to catching a bus or driving to a different gym.

  36. I honestly like how you started by saying “I’m not a writer, I am a communicator”. Often, personally, I feel afraid of sharing what I write or do due to the fact that someone might judge me. I should simply be more smart and appreciative about what I do. It is usually difficult to do it but I like how this helps you recognized all those things. Also how you point out that this is a “conversation and not just a simple interview”. I think it is hard to even think about if your life is a portfolio or no, mainly because we never see that as part of our lives. We, sometimes, get caught up on the monotony that we forget who we are and it becomes difficult to explain who we truly are. But I like how this gives you different examples and teachings you how to reach out those qualities in you and how to identify them.

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