Are you ingredients looking for a recipe?

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I spend a lot of of my time working with people who are trying to figure out what to do for a living.

I usually start by sending them on an internal expedition, examining the nuances, thoughts and feelings of their body, mind and spirit for clues about what interests them.

They carry around notebooks in which they furiously scribble insights, create vision boards, bookmark websites like crazy, make spreadsheets and stuff files with pictures and magazine clippings.

Then they get back in touch with me, feeling a bit perplexed and overwhelmed, sharing a summary list which looks something like this:

My interests:

old rugs
The Pittsburgh Steelers
organic farming
my family
writing code
drag racing
web 2.0
speaking Russian
salsa dancing
small business marketing
space travel
old episodes of Friends

They say “I sure love all these things, but how in the world can I make a business out of them?”

To which I reply:

You are ingredients in search of a recipe.

Or perhaps many recipes.

A common misconception about the process of entrepreneurship is that you have to fit all your interests into one neatly tied up and integrated business which will allow you to express all of your passions.

Instead, I like to think of skills and interests as ingredients to use selectively in different business models, depending on the opportunities and market.

So you could say:

“I think I want to use salsa dancing as the main staple for my next venture.  I will round out the flavor with a bit of coding, by creating a killer website that hosts great instructional videos for novice dancers, and will sprinkle in a little bit of photography so I can take stunning photos of professional dancers to use in their promotional materials.”


“I would love to spend some time in Pittsburgh so I can catch all the Steeler home games live. I think I will focus on organic farming in the northeast, using a few cups of marketing to help local farmers expand their offerings in the slow winter season.  I hear that there are some amazing rug dealers in the area, so when not doing small business marketing, I will try to find some great pieces and sell them on eBay.”

Looking at your interests this way, you can see that you don’t have to use all the ingredients at once, in the same measure, in the same recipe.

All you need to do is to continually refine your list of ingredients, and combine them in ways that interest you and taste great.

When you feel like something is off or missing from your current endeavor, experiment with adding shakes of ingredients to liven things up.

“My coaching business is really boring at the moment. How could I add a touch of Burning Man to the mix and make it more interesting?”

“My traditional wedding photography business is hitting the wall. What if I added a few teaspoons of drag racing to it, how would that impact the photos?”

“I love my accounting work, but am bored to tears in my small town. What would happen if I added some location independent to the mix and balanced books from Burkina Faso?”

Try it!

What is your list of ingredients?

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27 Responses to “Are you ingredients looking for a recipe?”

  1. […] I confess. I stopped half-way through reading Pamela Slim’s post “Are You Ingredients Looking For a Recipe” so I could hop over and make a note to blog about it. (And then I just kept going and wrote […]

  2. […] quickly became a regular reader of Pam’s blog and was touched by one particular entry she posted during my final week on the job.  In it, she mentioned how she requests new clients […]

  3. […] you? What kind of people bring out the best in you?  If you view your interests and and skills as ingredients searching for a recipe instead of searching for the perfect job, you will be much happier over the course of your […]

  4. […] Catalyst (be sure to sign up for Michael’s newsletter-killer content), Jonathan Fields, and Escape from Cubicle Nation. Trust me. At least one of these blogs will offer you a gentle boost each […]

  5. I love the idea of using our individual strengths (ingredients) to create a fun and unique recipe – creating a business that allows us to use our strengths and talents and be successful and happy!

  6. Andreas says:

    My list has already led me to a business model and is a very common one (not so common in Austria though): Online Marketing for SME’s, Website Owner, Webdesign for SME’s, offer Mini-Jobs.

    Like your article but in most of the cases people DONT come up with ideas like posted, but are stuck in job they don’t like and think they don’t have any option. Coaching needed…


    Thank you for making my business case Andi!

    I agree, a lot of people get stuck with the ingredients list. That is my favorite part of my work: making recipes and finding people to eat the food. 🙂


  7. eric says:

    It’s so helpful to realize that sometimes all that it takes to renew a career is:
    A teaspoon of seasoning in the form of a new perspective from the psychic pantry.
    A bit of that dormant skill hiding in the back of the refrigerator.

    And that all the ingredients of my life have a place at the table.

    eric’s last blog post..Why do teams crash & burn?

  8. Shanna says:

    As always, Pam, a creative and useful post. I am never content to do just one thing. I need to evolve and flow organically as I learn more about myself and the world. This helps me to bring my best self and service to my clients–all while staving off boredom and keeping my hungry head fed 🙂

  9. […] Are you ingredients looking for a recipe? (Escape from Cubicle Nation) […]

  10. Nikki says:


    Love this post. I’m not sure why we feel we have to only do one thing at a time. I was just telling a co-worker that one thing that slows me down is feeling that I have to choose when I have so many interests.

    Thank you for giving me a different perspective.

  11. Yes! I have so many ingrediants that have been sitting in the cupboard and now I am learning to cook! (really, I am learning to cook in real life as well as metaphorically) And everything is so much more vibrant! What a great post!

    Katana Barnett’s last blog post..Talk Like That- Artist Talks

  12. I LOVE this, simply because what held me back from starting my own business (for years!) wasn’t a lack of knowing things I wanted to do, but the thought of making the commitment to do one thing for the rest of my life. I knew, even if I committed myself to something I enjoyed, that I would soon grow tired of it, all because the idea of doing only one thing for the rest of my life makes me feel as trapped as a 9-5 job does. It was through working with a coach that I realized that working for myself didn’t have to be a traditional job, with just one title and just one responsibility. As you said, lifestyle and business should all be taken into account. I love to scuba dive and, while I don’t want to own a dive shop, I would one day like to have the freedom to have a job that is not keeping me tied to a location far away from the sea. I feel like I’m creating my life now, which is much more fun and freeing than than labeling myself with a single job title could ever be. Thanks for the post!

    Melissa McDaniel’s last blog post..How to Lose Your Best Friend

  13. Yes, Pamela, exactly. Not only do the most interesting things take place at the boundaries between specialties, but your own life takes on a unique shape when you combine your particular mix of passions and skills.

    In the Spring of 1983, stuck in midwest suburbia, I sat down one night and made a list of my passions: travel and adventure, ham radio, networking, computers, bicycling, romance, invention, writing, learning, tinkering with electronics. Within 6 months I had put my house on the market and hit the road on a computerized recumbent bicycle, freelance-writing for a living. That shaped my whole technomadic career, and has been the most fundamental piece of advice I have given everyone from “stuck” friends to corporate audiences: identify your passions and find a way to combine them into something greater.

    Nice post, and I like the food metaphor… it works well.

    Cheers from Nomadness,

    Steve Roberts’s last blog post..Digital Nomad Redux

  14. Lisa Snyder says:

    “Are you ingredients looking for a recipe?” is a great way to expand on the concept described in the book One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher.

    Lisa Snyder’s last blog post..No Excuses-get in control

  15. Mark Spieglan says:

    Wonderful metaphor! I will rummage through my pantry with this in mind. 🙂

  16. I don’t like to cook, but once fed, I am happy to do dishes!

    Know thy strengths and match them to what people need.

    My ingredients are…
    *Oregano – I enjoy providing bits of spices (helpful hints) when presenting.
    *Salt – 28 years of corporate selling and marketing experience to round out the flavor.
    *Corazon – I bring my heart to my work so I can connect to people in an easier way and in turn they can feel freer to connect with me.

  17. Love the post. I think it is key for people to think, as you point out, in terms of variety of projects. Looking forward to your next post.

  18. This really strikes a note with me. I have about 2000 notes in Evernote (, I’m not affiliated, but it’s AWESOME) with idea after idea and they are all over the board.

    You are right on the money. For me, building robots goes together with Speaking Japanese and loving Space Exploration, but has nothing to do with food, fishing and music. There isn’t any reason for them all to fit into the same idea, and in fact, the narrow focus is good for business these days.

    Once again, Pam seems to know what’s happening in my brain. She’s creepy like that(in a lovely way).

    Michael Doornbos’s last blog post..Jim Lovell Tells Ithaca College Graduates To Expand Their Horizons

  19. This is great! I feel like I’m coming close to my ideal recipe, but I especially love the ideas about how to spice things up. Excellent post!

  20. I love it! And remember, you can always have a side dish as well. 🙂

    My main recipe is personal finance, taxation, accounting, writing, and marketing.

    On the side: vegetarianism, gluten-free cooking, tree hugging food lover.

  21. styleosophy says:

    Pam, this post spoke to me!!! I have been wondering the past couple of weeks why I can’t really focus on my business, and figured out I wanted to do a few things, primarily virtual assistance, and wardrobe guru.

    I guess my recipe would write “I think I want to use lifestyle and wardrobe consulting as the main staple for my next venture. I will round out the flavor with a bit of volunteering, by helping women and teens with business dress etiquette for entry and reentry into the workforce, and will sprinkle in a little bit of virtual assistance so I can also work as a LIP, location independent professional.”

    styleosophy’s last blog post..all-year round wardrobe tips, part one

  22. Wapello Warbler says:

    In small towns it’s not uncommon for people to have multiple small businesses that cater to the local community. One of my friends is a loan officer, auctioner, real estate agent, bus driver, and paramedic. His wife runs the ambulance service. His daughters runs an ice cream shop with a custom embrodiary business in the back. In larger town any of these would be a full-time business, but here you need to do several.

    That is the coolest example EVER! Thanks so much for sharing it!


  23. Dale says:

    I like the idea of not doing too much… you don’t hafta use all the ingredients! Just do something to get things started. It makes it a lot less daunting. Thanks for the great post!


  24. I’m always looking for a great recipeype career guide websites where you can put in all of your interests and skills and it spits out good jobs for you. Sadly I’ve never found one. :[

    Ms Constantine’s last blog post..Pick N Mix – Week Starting 18 May 2009

  25. Gail Blesch says:

    Great post! I love the metaphor and what is possible when you toss together new perspectives. Hmmm, that gives me an idea for a new project….and dinner! Thanks Pam!