Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Times are changing. There’s so much conflict and suffering in the world. Big changes are happening on a global scale that are causing many to feel unsafe and threatened. And yet as a result of all the turmoil, it seems more and more people are feeling a call to action; an intense desire to somehow contribute to making the world a better place. Many people are connecting to the causes they’re passionate about and finding ways to create positive change while building thriving enterprises that are highly profitable. In the old paradigm, dedicated altruists struggled to find ways to make a decent living. Nowadays, you can dedicate yourself to a positive cause and thrive financially while doing it. Many others are simply feeling a sense of restlessness in their career and find themselves constantly wondering if perhaps there’s something else they could be doing. It’s no longer considered reckless to make a complete career switch mid-life and it’s becoming more widely accepted that we may have a couple, if not many, different career paths during our working lives.

In addition to these changes, the internet is making it possible for everyone, everywhere, to be connected. ‘Virtual classrooms’ are connecting teachers to students all across the world. People are doing business deals while lounging by swimming pools at holiday destinations. Social media is enabling anyone with similar interests, anywhere in the world, to connect and develop friendships. Stay-at-home mums are running businesses from home while raising their children. The term ‘Mumpreneur’ has already made its way into the Urban Dictionary to describe entrepreneurial mums who combine business with motherhood. This global interconnectivity means it’s no longer necessary to be bound to a desk or an office to do your work and more and more people are embracing the freedom and flexibility that the internet is offering us. Small start-ups and entrepreneurships are flourishing more than ever before. As this sea of possibility and opportunity is opening up, we’re feeling a call to self-actualise and do something deeply meaningful with our lives. More and more people are asking the question – well, if I can do anything, what on earth will I do?

The wonderful thing about living in these exciting times is that the concept of following your heart is no longer an impossible fantasy. BUT – it’s not an easy decision to leave the comforts and security of a stable career. We all have financial obligations and commitments and it’s simply not always possible to throw caution to the wind and make a big career change, without the assurance that we’re going to make good money while doing it and it’s actually going to give us the fulfilment and meaning we’re chasing. Otherwise we’ll end up back where we were. So before making a big change, we want to be sure we’re making the right decision.

And this is why I believe it’s so important to find and live your ‘true path’. What do I mean by your ‘true path’? This is how I define it:

Your ‘true path’ is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.

Your true path feels like coming home. All niggling feelings of doubt and frustration are replaced by a deep and lasting sense of fulfilment. You know deep inside that you’re finally doing exactly what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing. It comes with a feeling of sudden clarity, optimism and energy.

Tim Kelley at the True Purpose Institute calls your unique calling your ‘true purpose’. In his book True Purpose: 12 strategies for discovering the difference you are meant to make, he suggests that we each have a purpose that we’re uniquely designed for. He proposes three things: 1) That your purpose has always been within you and has already been influencing the course of your life, 2) That some part of you already knows your purpose, and 3) That it’s possible to communicate with the part of you that knows your purpose. You can refer to that part of you as your ‘heart’ or your ‘soul’. Tim claims that our soul knows our purpose, and is always gently trying to guide us in the right direction. We get into trouble when our ego – the part of us that is concerned with our sense of identity and success – tries to over-ride the guidance from our soul; and this is when we feel out of alignment, lost or off-track. So if you can make the time and space in your life to get quiet, often, you’ll have a better chance of hearing that inner guidance and wisdom that’s always trying to communicate with you (Tim teaches wonderful techniques for connecting with your inner wisdom and Divine guidance that really work.)

I believe we come into this world already knowing what our unique calling is, but most of us go through a process of disconnecting from our hearts at a young age, while trying to become acceptable citizens and to fit into the mould that our society or family imposes on us. For most of us, learning how to grow up in this world meant learning how to conform. If you’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged you to nurture and embrace your unique self, it’s likely that you’ve been able to live a life true to your heart and you have a good sense of your true life calling. However, if like most of us, you grew up trying to be a ‘good kid’ or to fit the image of success that your environment demanded, you may need some more time to excavate the nature of the specific calling that lights you up and makes you want to jump out of bed each morning, and allows you to be fully you. After years of reflection on this topic and coaching others to find their purpose, I’ve come to believe that the ‘secret’ to finding your calling is to look for the special zone where the following three things overlap:

Figure 1: Your zone of magic – where your natural ability meets your passion and your true nature.

Let me define what I mean by these terms.

Everyone has many different abilities and skills. But when you’re trying to find your joyful and authentic career path, you need to connect with what I call your natural genius. Everyone – yes, EVERYONE! – has a zone of natural genius. These are the things you’re naturally good at without even trying. The problem is, we’re often blind to the things we’re really good at, because we assume that everyone else finds these things easy too. You might be an excellent organiser, or be able to connect intuitively with animals, or make delicious meals without recipes, or take amazing photos without much effort. There will be something that you’re extremely good at. Perhaps you discounted it as a child because it wasn’t valued or rewarded in your environment. Perhaps it’s so obvious that you can’t even see it. Or perhaps you haven’t discovered it because you haven’t yet had the opportunity to express it or develop it.

Strengths tests such as the Gallup Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be very helpful in helping you narrow down the areas of your natural genius. But take heart – you absolutely have your own specific zone of natural genius and with a little exploring, you can find it. A good way to start finding your natural genius is to think back to the things that came easily to you as a child. What would your friends ask for help with? What came naturally to you? What would the people in your environment compliment you about? Ask your friends, family and work colleagues what they think you’re good at. Often they can see these things more clearly than we can.

Your true nature is who you are when you’re being yourself fully. It’s the type of person you are when you’re not worried about what others think of you, or when you’re in an environment that makes you feel at home and connected to yourself. There are certain environments that bring out your true nature more than others. Do you know what those environments are for you? Perhaps you love being with animals, or working with antique furniture, or being out on the water, or solving complex technical problems. Perhaps you love being in large groups, or working alone. Perhaps you love drawing, or orienteering, or leading, or coming up with new ideas. It’s important to think here about the things you love doing. When you’re being true to yourself and you’re engaged in activities you love, feelings of joy, happiness and fulfilment emerge as a natural consequence.

Write down all the things you love doing. If you had an abundance of free time, how would you spend it? What are the things you get so completely immersed in that you lose track of time? What are the things in life that bring you joy and satisfaction? Another good exercise is to write down all the ‘high points’ of your life; times when you felt blissful and carefree. What were you doing and where were you? Often those high points contain important clues about your true nature and where your joy lies.

When you’re passionate about something, it means you care very deeply about it. But being passionate about something doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always feels upbeat and joyful. In fact, in Joseph Campbell’s famous book The Power of Myth he explains that the Greek root of the word passion translates to suffering. Annabelle Parr describes beautifully that “Following your passion means choosing a vocation that is so important to you, so vital to your being that you’re willing to suffer for it.” She goes on to define passion as being “where fulfilment, growth, joy and change exist”. Your passion will push you to your growth edge and force you to fully develop and express your gifts which can feel scary, challenging and very difficult at times. But through this unfolding of your full potential, while being in service to something you care about, you’ll naturally feel deeply fulfilled and satisfied throughout this process of growth and change.

A good place to start looking for things you’re passionate about is to find those things that evoke an emotional response in you when you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or hearing others talk. What breaks your heart the most in the world? What would you most love to dedicate your precious time and resources to? Studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves, to something they care about. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can about things that you’re passionate about. Write them down.

The key now is to reflect on your answers and to see where and how these different parts of you might overlap. Brainstorm different ideas or vocations that would incorporate the three different areas. At this stage it’s important that you don’t limit yourself – wild and crazy ideas are very welcome at this point! You have to think wild and crazy before you can locate what feels ‘right’. Make a list of all the ideas you can think of. I highly recommend LiteMind’s technique of writing a ‘list of 100’ to do this properly. Also, think of your role models and people you admire and use what they do to inspire your ideas. A good litmus test for any idea you come up with is to ask yourself if it would bring you great joy, if it’s aligned with one of your deepest passions, and if it would allow you to fully express and develop your natural genius.

When you finally tap into your ‘zone of magic’, you’ll find unlimited creative energy, motivation, inspiration, dedication, devotion and a deep and lasting sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. It feels like coming home. Finding your true path connects you to something fundamental to your sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Living in this zone provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining and expressing who you really are and you finally know – without a shadow of a doubt – that this is what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing with your life. There’s a feeling of devotion and obsession, almost. Many people who finally find their unique calling describe it as an ‘epiphany’. You might start to feel unfulfilled, empty, burned out or lost when you find yourself in one of the following three situations:

1. You have passion and ability, but no joy: You might feel deeply passionate about your work and dedicated to making a positive difference in your chosen field. And you might also be naturally very good at the work you do (you’re in your zone of genius). But if it doesn’t feel light and joyful, you’re not in your sweet spot of life and things may often feel like a struggle. When you’ve found your unique calling, you’ll love what you do and the sense of lightheartedness and joy will light you up and fill you with positive energy.

2. You have ability and joy in your work, but no passion: You might be really good at what you do, and love doing it. For some people this is absolutely enough and they lead a happy and content life in this zone. But if you don’t feel completely fulfilled and satisfied, it’s probably because you have a niggling feeling that there’s something more you should be doing with your life; you want to feel truly passionate about the field you’re working in or the cause you’re contributing to. Many studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves. This is the key to feeling deep and lasting fulfilment. Perhaps you feel like there’s a positive legacy you’re meant to leave, but you don’t know what it is. And you won’t feel truly content until you find it.

3. You feel joy and passion in your work, but you aren’t so good at it: It’s almost impossible to feel fulfilled and deeply satisfied in your work if you have to struggle or work really hard to produce great results. You’ll tend to feel frustrated and demotivated because you’re not operating within your own specific zone of natural genius where things flow easily and effortlessly. In your zone of genius you don’t have to try to be good at your work; it’s what you’re naturally brilliant at anyway.

The problem I had in my professional career of almost 15 years was that I wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius and my work didn’t feel joyful. I only had one of the circles covered in the diagram above – passion; I was passionate about my field of environmental protection. But despite my passion, the work always felt hard and a struggle and it drained me of energy. As a result, overwhelm eventually turned into chronic fatigue and a perpetual feeling of being on the edge of burnout. I don’t recommend living like this! You’ll want to have at least two of the circles covered in your life work (natural genius, passion or joy). But the intersection where all three overlap is where the real magic happens. This is where you’ll find your calling.

The search for your unique calling can require a little excavating and digging. The fastest way to uncover your calling is to make space and time in your life right now, to not only get very quiet on a regular basis and connect with your heart, but to also start doing things that come easily to you, that feel joyful or that ignite your passion. Start by doing anything that fits into one of these categories, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day initially. You purpose will start to reveal itself to you as soon as you set the intention and make the commitment to find it, and then start taking actions in the direction of something that feels joyful. If you’re feeling the call to action, go ahead and get started my friend. The rewards and treasures are awaiting you. You won’t be disappointed. And the world needs your precious gifts more than ever right now. You have something incredibly special and valuable to contribute. As Dr Wayne Dyer always used to say “Don’t die with your music still inside of you”. Try not to be one of those people who wishes they had taken their dreams seriously when they had the chance! Studies show that the number one regret people have when they’re dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” [2].

If you’d like more help in identifying that unique calling that’s yours to live, please download my free eBook PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND AND START LIVING YOUR UNIQUE CALLING and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,


Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Career, Life & Business Coach
Helping you find your path & purpose so you can shine and make a difference, doing what you love.
Whispering Heart Coaching

Feeling frustrated in your career? How to get unstuck with Life Design principles

Feeling frustrated in your career? How to get unstuck with Life Design principles

Job hunting can be one of the most soul-destroying, confidence-zapping processes to go through. If you’re currently without work, or stuck in a job you hate then I’m sure you know how depressing the whole job-hunting process is. You troll the internet for job vacancies, then try to mould your cover letter to express a (perhaps inauthentic) desire and perfect match for that job and then wait seemingly forever for a confirmation email or response that sometimes never comes. The trouble in this situation is that we give all our power over to a process that we have absolutely no control over. And we’re only focusing on what’s available out there, not on the ideal or dream job we truly want to create. Enter Life Design Principles.

This week I learned of a staggering statistic in Dave Evans & Bill Burnett’s wonderful book Designing Your Life: Build a Life That Works For You – only one in five jobs are actually posted in job search engines or anywhere on the internet. This means that four out of five jobs are not advertised – anywhere. No wonder so many people feel frustrated and rejected when job seeking. If only one in five jobs are advertised, where are the other four out of five jobs? Evans & Burnett call it the hidden job market, which they describe as “the job market that’s only open to people who are already connected into the web of professional relationships in which that job resides. This is an insider’s game, and it’s almost impossible to get inside that web as a job seeker.”

So how do you become one of the ‘insiders’ when you’re on the outside? Accessing the hidden job market all comes down to one thing – networking. In a recent LinkedIn study it was shown that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking [1]. ‘Networking’ is a word that makes some people cringe while conjuring up images of making small talk with potentially helpful strangers or approaching people cold turkey with a business card. But it doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be that way. The whole process of networking to access the hidden job market can be turned into a very pleasant and enjoyable – and extremely productive – process, through a technique that Evans & Burnett describe as Life Design Interviews.

In this process you first figure out what your dream career path would be. This can be a challenging task in itself and it’s important that you first take the time to get very clear on exactly what your dream career looks like (if you need help with this, please be sure to get your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: How to find and start living your unique calling). Once you’re clear on what you want, you then invite someone who is already connected into your desired field to have a conversation with you about what it’s like to work in that field or job. You approach the conversation with a mindset of curiosity and interest and with the intention to find out whether this kind of work really is something you desire yourself. People are generally very happy to be interviewed to talk about themselves and their work, especially when they know that the intention is to seek information, not to request or apply for a job. Evans & Burnett state that you must approach the conversation “as a sincerely interested inquirer – someone looking just for the story (not looking for the job). That’s how this works.”

There’s something magical that happens when we move from a place of desperation and neediness into a place of open-minded curiosity and non-attachment. There’s a shift in our energy and we open up the conversation to an authentic connection and conversation, as opposed to an attempt to coerce the other person into giving you something you need. There are two wonderful outcomes of this approach:

1) You find out first-hand whether this field really is what you think it might be and if it’s something you really do want to commit your time, effort and resources to, and;

2) You establish a connection with an insider in that field. You are networking in a completely organic and non-forced manner, bringing you closer to accessing the hidden job market.

The more people you interview, the more information and insight you learn and the more connections you make. Evans & Burnett describe how one of their clients, Kurt, started off as a job-seeker. He submitted thirty-eight job applications, along with his impressive resume and thirty-eight individual crafted cover letters. Out of all his applications, he received terse rejection emails from eight companies and never heard back from the other thirty. “No interviews, no offers, no follow-up calls.” Needless to say he became disheartened and dejected. After learning of the Life Design Interview process, Kurt then identified people he could talk to and went out and conducted 56 life design interviews in different companies and organisations related to his dream field. During that process he established a wide web of authentic connections and in the end was offered seven wonderful job offers and had to spend significant time considering which one was the best fit for him. He turned his situation of desperation into one of being connected and in-demand. This is how the Life Design Process works.

To get unstuck in your current career crisis, it’s crucial that you shift yourself out of a powerless, dependent-on-others mindset into an empowered, proactive and non-attached mindset. This shift in itself will create several positive benefits you hadn’t anticipated. Take back your power and rather than wait for the next best thing to come along, get busy deciding what you want and figuring out how to create it. Burnett & Evans describe five Life Design Principles that are essential to accompany your Life Design Interviews. These are:

Life Design Principles

1. Be Curious

There is something interesting about everything. Endless curiosity is key to a well-designed life. Which fields interest you and what would you like to know about them? Which kinds of people could you talk to to find out more information? What do experts in this field argue about and why? What are the key issues people in this field deal with? What are the problems/issues/challenges that keep these people up at night and are these issues you are passionate about too? “Endless curiosity equals increasing knowledge, options and clarity about your life direction.”

2. Try Stuff

When you shift into a mode of bias-toward-action you stop being stuck. There is no more analysing, worrying, pondering, or solving your way through life. Evans & Burnett talk regularly about “building your way” into your dream job. Keep figuring out the next action to take and do it. Who can you talk to next? What is something you could do to find out more about a certain field? What can you read or learn to find out more about a particular idea you have? Are there any courses or self-study modules you could follow to learn more and upskill yourself?

3. Reframe Problems

Reframing is a change in perspective, viewing something from a different angle and changing the meaning around it. For example, a dysfunctional belief could be “I’m too old and it’s too late to find my dream job”. A reframe would be “It’s never too late to design a life you love and I have the power to create anything I desire.” Ask yourself “What perspective do I actually have in this situation?” and if there is a way to change it for your own benefit and empowerment. We have the power to reframe any situation and substitute a limiting belief with a resourceful one. We get to choose and design our own life.

4. Know It’s a Process

Knowing that building your dream career is a process means you don’t get frustrated or lost and don’t ever give up.

5. Ask For Help

We’re not meant to walk this path alone. Our success depends on building networks of support and collaboration. Find yourself a mentor (or several) and join groups or networks of like-minded people with similar aspirations. Facebook Groups is an amazing resource for people looking to link in with groups of people on a similar path. As Jeffrey Davis always says “Doing it Together (DIT) beats Doing it Yourself (DIY)”.

So get yourself unstuck by brainstorming who you could conduct some Life Design Interviews with and get out there and start actively and intentionally building the career you desire. YOU are in charge of your life and your destiny and only you have the power to build the life you want. And good luck dear friend, please let me know how you go, I love hearing from you!

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In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching


The rise of 4 species of entrepreneurs. Which one are you?

The rise of 4 species of entrepreneurs. Which one are you?

When I was growing up I rarely heard of the term ‘entrepreneur’ and when I did, it usually referred to one of those unique people who had managed to make millions out of business-savviness and clever risk-taking. My Dad knew a few of those people and they always seemed terribly impressive to my young self. But in my world, the messaging I received at home and elsewhere centred around the need to create a stable, financially secure future for myself by getting a good education and finding my way into a large corporation or organisation as soon as possible. Getting a salary package, holidays, benefits and opportunities for ladder climbing would mean that I had ‘made it’ in life (at least that’s how I interpreted all those messages). So the idea of entrepreneurship simply never entered my world of options and seemed like a scary and risky proposition reserved only for the incredibly bold risk-takers among us.

But when I finally achieved all of that, – the salary, the employee benefits, shares and ladder-climbing opportunities – instead of feeling the great satisfaction, sense of accomplishment and happiness I thought I should feel, inside I felt miserable and empty. After almost fifteen years of working my way up through academia and the corporate world, in 2011 I knew the time had come to take a leap of faith and go it on my own. Even though it was the scariest thing I’d ever considered in my life, the call to follow the small-business-owner/entrepreneurial path was impossible to ignore. The alternative – spending the rest of my career working on someone else’s payroll, on their terms – was no longer acceptable. Suddenly the concept that once seemed so impossible became the only way forward. I’ve since learned that those two emotions – fear and excitement – are in constant tension on the path of the entrepreneur.

Now before we go further let me clarify; I’m a fledgling ‘entrepreneur’ and can’t speak with any authority yet on this whole topic. Up until very recently I’ve been a solopreneur in my coaching business Whispering Heart and just this week I hired my first virtual assistant (a big milestone for me!). It’s been up and down and I’ve been on a steep learning curve since quitting my corporate career in 2011. Through piloting and feedback I’ve developed a service that meets a need that people happily pay me for, and my services and products are constantly evolving and expanding. I’m on the path and continually learning and growing, thanks to some wonderful mentors and teachers. One thing I’m learning is that the definition of entrepreneurship is subtly changing. Bruce Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management and executive director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University says “Entrepreneurship is much broader than the creation of a new business venture. At its core, it is a mindset — a way of thinking and acting. It is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value.” And we all know you don’t have to be running a multi-million dollar company in order to imagine new ways to solve problems and create value.

Linda Rottenberg, entrepreneur extraordinaire, founder of Endeavor and author of Crazy is a Compliment: The power of zigging when everyone else zags says “Today entrepreneurship doesn’t just mean starting a tech company. It means undertaking any bold venture – from improving your neighbourhood to selling crafts out of your basement; from modernising your family business to proposing a new initiative in your corporation. The techniques involved in sharpening your idea, facing down critics, recruiting boosters, and handling setbacks apply in almost every realm of work.” She goes on to describe the increasing trend of entrepreneurs worldwide: “In the world today [there is] the unstoppable, unwavering trend toward individuals who seek to improve their own lives and, in the process, improve the world around them. They’re entrepreneurs.”

Research in Australia, my homeland, shows that “small and micro business is Australia’s fastest growing employment sector. Aussie start-up culture is burning brighter than ever before as Baby Boomers and Gen Y lead a movement to ditch the corporate ladder in favour of becoming their own boss.” [1]. Research in the USA shows that people are increasingly choosing entrepreneurship too. A study by Intelligent Office revealed that nearly 65 percent of workers would rather be an entrepreneur or independent employee than work in an office. Rottenberg says “If some moments have been ripe for diplomats, financiers, soldiers, or politicians, today is ripe for entrepreneurs.” The reason for this she says is this: “The reasons behind the shift are complex, but they come down to one simple reality: We live in a time of uncertainty. Our economies, our companies, our jobs are no longer stable and secure. Change is the only constant. To survive, we all need the skills required to continually reinvent ourselves. Everyone needs to take some risk or risk being left behind.”

Despite the enormous growth in the entrepreneurial sector it’s true that it’s not cut out for everyone. There’s a general consensus that certain qualities make a good entrepreneur including: Unwavering passion, open-mindedness, the desire to become an expert, a forward-looking approach, a constant flow of ideas [2], a clear vision, an effective communicator, a desire to continually learn, view setbacks as opportunities [3], a moderate risk taker, self-confident, enjoy hard work, love challenge and problem-solving [4], enjoy change, uncertainty and variety and love to lead, motivate and empower others. If the majority of these qualities don’t sound like you, then entrepreneurship isn’t likely to float your boat for long.

As happens with the growth of any field or model, the entrepreneurial field is diversifying and spreading in its form and impact. Once reserved as a term largely for the start-up industry, it now infiltrates just about any sector you can think of. Rottenberg has spent her entire career finding, coaching and financially supporting fledgling entrepreneurs with big ideas through her organisation Endeavor. In her many years of experience of working with thousands of entrepreneurs and speaking on countless panels on the topic, she defines four different types of entrepreneurs. I found her definitions fascinating and insightful. Here are the different types and their characteristics. I’m most definitely a butterfly. Which one are you?

All definitions below are taken from Rottenberg’s book Crazy is a Compliment.


Gazelles, Rottenberg explains, are the classic entrepreneurs of myth and reality: “Someone who starts a new business venture and aims for it to explode into a white-hot phenomenon”. Examples are Home Depot, Facebook, Jenny Craig and Instagram. High growth is the goal. The term ‘gazelle’ was coined by economist David Birch in 1994 to describe high-growth businesses whose sales double every four years. Though only a miniscule 2-4 % of companies fit this model in the USA, this group accounts for nearly all job creation in the private-sector. When you hear politicians say “Small businesses really create most of the new jobs”, they’re talking about gazelles, Rottenberg says. In her experience, while wildly brilliant and visionary, gazelles tend to make the same mistakes over and over: They expand too quickly, they lose focus, they tangle with their partners and they can’t give up control. But when they have a supportive team around them who can help them balance out these aspects, they’re unstoppable.


The term ‘skunk’ was adapted by Linda from the Lockheed Corporation, which during World War II set up a secret division to build fighter jets. It was called Skunk Works. Linda uses the term to describe “Entrepreneurs operating within large corporations [who] go out of their way to stink up the joint.” They’re sometimes also referred to as ‘intrapeneur’, an employee operating within a company who takes responsibility for “turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.” They’re often people who have become fed up with the limitations of conventional company practice and develop a better way to do it, or see something that is desperately needed and go against all bureaucracy, traditions and resistance to get it done. Given the rapid pace of change in the world and the need to adapt and innovate, corporations are now urgently requesting and encouraging their employees to be more independent and creative. The corporate world knows it’s essential to their survival.


These are people who dedicate their skills and services to helping the social sector become more entrepreneurial. These days they are referred to as ‘social entrepreneurs’. Rottenberg explains “Dolphins are contrarians in the non-profit or public sector who are willing to buck the conventions of their professions and agitate for real change. Why dolphins? Because they’re smart and social (they live in cooperative pods) and are one of the few animals shown to be altruistic toward others. But they’re not pushovers: Harm a dolphin’s pod, and watch out! Today even causes for which there are no compelling private-sector solutions are ripe for entrepreneurial shake-up. It’s dolphins making the waves.”


This may be the fastest-growing group of all. These are small-scale or lifestyle entrepreneurs. First among these are sole proprietors – plumbers, yoga instructors, freelance writers, organic farmers, artists etc. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that a majority of U.S. businesses have no paid employees. Forty percent of American adults have now spent part of their careers working on their own, and 24 million more are expected to be self-employed by 2018. Globally the number of independent contractors will reach 1.3. billion by 2020. Rottenberg explains “These fields are booming because they’re open to anyone: moms, dads, grannies, twenty-somethings, even teens starting microventures in their basements, cars or bathrooms. As Jay-Z put it ‘I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man.’”

The second group among the butterflies have a handful of employees. There are 7 million companies in the USA that employ workers; 90 percent of them have fewer than 20 employees. While some of these entrepreneurs aim to be fast-growing gazelles, many are content to stay small and local. Rottenberg’s reasons for calling this group of entrepreneurs ‘butterflies’ is beautiful: “Butterflies are incredibly varied (there are at least 17,500 different types of butterfly) and [are] driven by freedom and individualism. In both Eastern and Western cultures, butterflies have long symbolised the soul, especially one reborn after a period of cocooning. Beyond personal transformation, butterflies are vital to their habitat and an indicator of its overall well-being. More butterflies equal a healthier ecosystem.”

At first glance, this group may not appear to reflect the ground-breaking level of skills that entrepreneurs usually harbour. She says “Do you really need to be disruptive when you’re selling homemade cheese at the farmer’s market?  The answer: You do, especially because your competitor probably has an in at Whole Foods, now accepts credit card payments with a Square reader and has just launched a vibrant Web business.” Besides, she says, “butterflies are uniquely suited to this age of disruption. In chaos theory, ‘butterfly effect’ is the term given to the idea that change can come from anywhere. The weather in Central Park can be affected by a butterfly flapping its wings in South America […] Don’t underestimate the tenacity of a butterfly. […] They aren’t waiting for changes to happen to them; they’re making changes happen every day.”

So clearly entrepreneurship is no longer restricted to a minority group of high-growth tech start-ups but is infiltrating increasingly into every corner of life including the public sector, the corporate sector, and the small business/lifestyle sector. I found it humbling and validating to know that butterflies like me are on the rise and that “more butterflies equal a healthier ecosystem.” At the end of the day, a healthy ecosystem is one in which all species are thriving and growing. And in the case of entrepreneurship, this definitely seems to be one large, thriving and growing global ecosystem.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching