JONATHAN FIELDS: “So many people spend so many of their waking hours investing themselves fiercely and spending a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, and a lot of cognitive thought doing something that is anywhere from mildly to horribly misaligned with the fundamental impulse that they have for effort, for work. And when you do that, you can work really hard, but you're working in a way that is not a true expression of the thing that you feel that you're here to do.”
INTRO: I'm Amy Porterfield, and this is Online Marketing Made Easy.
AMY PORTERFIELD: You are in for a treat, my friend. Today's podcast guest is absolutely fascinating. I could literally listen to him for hours, and I've been so looking forward to sharing his knowledge with you. His name is Jonathan Fields, and I met him in my very first year of going out on my own as an entrepreneur.
Funny story about Jonathan. If you ever have heard me talk about the first time I ever launched a course and made a whopping two hundred and sixty-seven dollars, well, he was actually a big part of that story, but I've never said that. And so now that he's on the show, when I introduce him, I'm going to see if he remembers that. I'm 99 percent sure he does not remember this story, but I'm going to refresh his memory. And it relates back to my very first botched launch of a digital course.
Now, Jonathan has done so many amazing things in his career, including writing books, hosting a very popular podcast called the Good Life Project, and he's the founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors, a company that helps people and organizations discover the work that truly drives them. But today, specifically, I'm excited to chat with him about a concept that Jonathan actually created himself called sparketypes.
Now, the cool part about this concept, this idea, which helps us all to discover our unique imprint for doing work that lights us up, is that it draws upon years of research and more than twenty-five million data points. Twenty-five million. You can't argue with that. And by the end of today's episode, you'll have a clearer picture of what your sparketype is. And don't worry. He has a really cool assessment that you can take to figure it out and how you can use this information in your life to avoid uninspired work and burnout and start experiencing more meaningful work, excitement, and joy in your life. I know that you're going to love this episode and be able to implement it right away, so I won't make you wait any longer. Let's welcome Jonathan.
Jonathan, thanks so much for coming on the show. I'm so, so honored you're here.
JONATHAN: I am so excited to be hanging out with you. It is such a pleasure to be able to just share ideas and stories and also just to spend time with you and your community.
AMY: Oh, my goodness. So, I talked about this in the intro, and I won't get into all the details, and I think you and I have talked about this before. But I've told you the story about when I created my first digital course and while I was creating it, you said to me, “But you're not an expert in that area.” Do you remember this?
JONATHAN: I actually don't remember that. It was a long time ago.
AMY: It was a long time ago. I mean, it had to have been thirteen years ago.
JONATHAN: Something like that, yeah.
AMY: But, Jonathan, you don't even know it, but you are in a story that I tell all my first-time course creators and literally have created lessons around it, because I was creating a digital course on how to launch a book, using social media. And so I was in one of your workshops in New York, where you were talking about book launching—like, that many years ago—and so I'm like—
AMY: —you know, I know social media so well; I'm going to teach people how to launch a book, with social media. But I had never launched a book in my life. And so while I was creating the course, you with your such sweetness—you were so kind about it—but you're like, “The challenge I see is that you've never done this.” And I'm like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.” Launched it. Total failure. I made two hundred and sixty-seven dollars after expenses, but it created all this content for me to teach my students how to make sure they create a course where they've gotten results first. So, you have helped thousands and thousands of people, and you didn't even know it.
JONATHAN: Oh, wow. I had no idea that one conversation so many years back had that impact. That's pretty funny. And that was a long time ago.
AMY: It was a long—
JONATHAN: Wow. We’ve known each other for a long time, actually.
AMY: We really have, which is really sweet. The minute I met you, you acted as though you were my good friend. And I think you do that with most people you come in contact with, but it's something special about you. And I love—if anyone told me thirteen years later I'd be where I am, you're where you're at, and we literally will still be friends, I would have had the biggest smile on my face ever. So thank you again for coming on the show.
AMY: Okay. So, we're going to talk—I want to just get right into it—I want to talk about burnout because I told everybody in the intro who you are, what you're about, what you do, but the topic that literally will pique most people's interest right now with where we are in the world is this topic of burnout. And it's always a concept that's been on my show since I've had the podcast. It comes up a lot. But man, we've been talking about it a lot more lately. So can you talk about why the level of burnout is so high right now?
JONATHAN: Yeah. This is. I mean, the conversation around it is at a fever pitch right now, and for good reason, right? Because so many of us have been experiencing it. And even if you're doing something that you genuinely love and it fills you up, it's tough for a bunch of different reasons. But I also think that the conversation is a little bit misdirected, and I'll explain why.
So, there are a lot of different contributors to burnout, like sometimes it's just brute number of hours. What a lot of people are pointing to, to the burnout that people have been feeling sort of like in this season of life, is the complete annihilation of any boundaries between work and life. And sometimes that's actually not a terrible thing. You know, the concept of work-life blend has been around for a while. You just sort of seamlessly weave from one to the other. But then you throw in a complete groundlessness of, like, nobody knows what the state of the world is. I mean, literally our world view, everything that we assume to be true and real and solid, has been shattered, and we're left to sort of like reassemble the pieces in some sort of new almost approximation of normal, which never seems to quite assemble into one puzzle.
And along the way, we've been disrupted. So many people have been removed from an office setting, people removed from teams. Everything is virtual now. You're working in an environment where there's no clear beginning and end to anything right now, and you're feeling like you need to actually really show up and work hard because maybe your job is on the line. And just because you're not physically present with other people right now doesn't mean that you're not needed.
And also, there's a lot of fear around the fact that not being physically present around other people may make me kind of invisible, and then maybe people forget about me, or maybe opportunities to advance in my career or organization are not going to be as readily available to me. So people are just constantly working, and they're working in ways that they didn't used to before, and they're not properly set up with scaffolding and structure and technology and space that's comfortable to create, and, like, all sorts of different things that will let people around them, often your family, know, “Hey,” like, “This is what's going on.”
I saw this wonderful post that Adam Grant put up recently, where one of his kids made three paper signs. And it was yellow, red, green, and with a little thing like, you know, “Daddy's in here,” like, red was, “Daddy's in here. He's on a presentation. Do not come in under any circumstances unless it's an extreme emergency,” and like, they would stick that up on the door. And then they would have a yellow one for like, it’s like, “Daddy’s working, but, you know, try to stay out unless you really need him.” And the other one was like, “Fine to knock and come in.” And then, his older kid was teaching the younger kids how to use the signs to respect the fact that he's now working out of this home office. And I think we're all struggling to figure all of these things out.
But, so, a lot of people are pointing to that. I'm going to share a phrase that I've actually been thinking about but never shared before. I call this phenomenon work-life bleed—
JONATHAN: —because everything is not blending into each other anymore harmoniously. It's bleeding into each other unharmoniously, and effectively we're bleeding out. So it's causing a lot of pain and disruption. So that's what's happening on the surface.
But I'm going to invite us to think about something deeper, a different thing that's happening, not “instead of” but “in addition to” this phenomenon, and that's this. Burnout is not new. Burnout has been around for a long, long time. It's been talked about. It's been a problem in all of our—like, in a lot of people's lives and industry, trying to figure out how to solve it. What's happening now has just made it a lot worse, and it's brought the problem to a surface because of the scale, the number of people that are now being affected by it. But to look at only the current circumstance as the root cause of it would be to ignore the fact that it's actually been a huge problem literally for decades now.
So what happens if we actually look at that underlying, more of, like, the root cause? And here's my theory around that. So many people spend so many of their waking hours investing themselves fiercely and spending a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, and a lot of cognitive thought doing something that is anywhere from mildly to horribly misaligned with the fundamental impulse that they have for effort, for work. And when you do that, you can work really hard, but you're working in a way that is not a true expression of the thing that you feel that you're here to do. That misalignment over time starts to grate on you. It starts to sort of like wear you out.
It's like two different-sized gears and a little bit of sand in the middle, grinding against each other. And they'll still work in the beginning, and you can push them really hard. But over time, the nubs get all chewed up, and the oil gets ground away, and then all of a sudden, everything starts to grind. And to keep them moving, you have to push harder and harder and harder, and it hurts more and more and more, and it causes damage. And eventually, the gears just grind to a stop, and they become locked in place. And that's what's been happening, in my mind, to so many people for so many years, and that burnout is, effectively, it's the grinding and slowing and the chipping away of our own internal purpose, meaning expression gears, until we hit a point where eventually they grind to a stop and then we feel stuck and we have no idea what's actually happening, let alone how to get out of that state.
So, my lens on this is that, yes, there's all the things that are happening with the current circumstance that are worsening and exacerbating it and making people experience this at scale. There's the work-life bleed side of it. But there's also the deeper issue, which is a profound misalignment of the work that we are doing and the work that we feel that we're here to do.
AMY: Okay. We need to get into that misalignment, but I have a question before that. How do you know if you're burned out or just—like, some people, it's common for people to say, “I feel so anxious right now,” or “I feel, like, a low level of depression,” or these things that are very much tied to mental health that we hear people feel more comfortable now talk about online. But how do you know it's just a little bit of anxiety versus I'm burned out?
JONATHAN: Yeah. You know, I think anxiety—burnout is a feeling of just profound depletion. And I think that's a different sensation than anxiety, when you're agitated and nervous about the future. And anxiety is more. It is either a fear about what the future might or might not bring, and that's often bundled with some level of compulsion, which can sometimes raise to the level of OCD, which is rooted in that end or an inability to let go of things that have happened in the past that you aren't happy with or that you feel in some way responsible for, that didn't go the way that you had hoped they would go. So you're either projecting yourself into a future that's uncomfortable or projecting yourself back into a past that's uncomfortable and you have an inability to let go of that state and simply live in the present. They feel differently.
Burnout, to me, at least in the way that I see it and describe it, is more this sense of profound depletion. Like, just, you feel like everything, every cell inside of you, is just tired, is just, like, you can't focus. It's effectively, imagine if you spent a week sleeping only three hours a night. To me, that is sort of like probably a similar feeling. Not that I've done that, but a similar feeling.
But you bring up a really interesting and, I think, important question, which is okay, but that feeling also can be really similar to the feeling of depression, whether it's clinical depression or just a deep sense of melancholy. And when we're feeling that, in my mind, I often think that we are potentially the least good people to figure out what's really happening. We can tap into it. But I think it's also really important to reach out for help, reach out to people who are intimate partners in your life, reach out to friends, reach out to family, and get professional help. You know, go find somebody who is truly qualified to sit down with you and say, “Hey, tell me what's going on,” who has the skills and the training to help you, whether that's a therapist or whether that's somebody who's, like, a minister of faith or somebody, whatever that person is for you, whatever that community is for you. You know, I think it's really important for us to not close ourselves off, because that tends to be the compulsion when we're not feeling good. We step away from other human beings, not realizing that that actually makes everything worse.
AMY: Oh, so very true.
Okay. So, let's go back to this concept you were talking about with this misalignment. Do you feel that a lot of the times when you get to that place of burnout, that that is a sign that you are misaligned, the work you are doing is not giving you meaning?
JONATHAN: Yeah. Well, I think by the time you get to a place of burnout, it, for sure, it's a sign or at least, like, a flashing red beacon that says you might want to think about this. But it's also a pretty trailing indicator. I think there are a lot of feelings that tend to happen before that, like just a sense of persistent discontent, a sense of waking up in the morning and feeling like, “You know what? I just don't have a really strong sense of meaning in my life.” Now, that can come from a lot of different places. But given the fact that most of us will spend the vast majority of our waking hours for the rest of our lives doing this thing called work, that's a huge part of where we get meaning, or it's a huge missed opportunity in not getting any meaning at all.
So, I think a lot of the feelings we’re questioning, we just feel like, “Is what I'm doing ma—” Like, if you find yourself asking the question, does what I'm doing actually matter to anybody? Does it matter to me? Does it matter to anyone else? Does anyone care? Do I care? Like, does this actually—is it triggering something in me that says, this is really deeply meaningful? And nobody, by the way, from the outside end can answer that question for you, because meaning is a completely subjective state. It's a completely subjective experience. Somebody can't tell you this is meaningful or not. It may be to them. And people often try to convince you, but you're the only one who knows if something's really meaningful to you.
So, I think if you're feeling that lack of meaning or a lack of purpose, you're feeling like everything that you're doing is a slog, and that time seems to slow in a bad way, where you get to work, and ten minutes later, you look up thinking it's been an hour or hoping it's been an hour, and it's really only ten minutes, these are all signs of misalignment in my mind.
AMY: Ooh, this is good stuff, because, you know, you're talking right now to a lot of entrepreneurs, people that are either in nine-to-five jobs and have side hassles that they want to create into a full-time thing, or they've left their traditional job to start their online business. And so many of them left because they want to make a change. They want to do good in this world. They want to impact lives. So the work they're doing, maybe they're not ultra-successful just yet—some of them are. Some of them aren't yet-but they know the work can do good, but they still are feeling like they wake up in the morning, and they feel dread, and they feel heavy, and they feel as though, is anyone listening? So could that be a sign that maybe they're not moving in the right direction to find that meaning?
JONATHAN: Yes and no. I love this question because you and I are both entrepreneurs, founders a couple of times over. So we've lived in that space, and we continue to live in that space, with sustained uncertainty. And everything I've done has been bootstrapped. Like, I haven't built a business where I've gone and raised venture capital. So everything in the beginning, it's based on me and a small, ragtag team of human beings, who, for some reason, raised their hand to join and create something cool. But in those early days as an entrepreneur, we may well feel all of this. And it's sort of like the entrepreneur’s dilemma. We leave something else in the quest for freedom, agency, control, and impact.
But in the early days of founding something, it's brutally hard. We don’t have a whole lot of freedom, we don't have a whole lot of agency, and we don't have a whole lot of impact. What we have is really, really hard work, with high stakes and extremely high levels of uncertainty. And that can be brutalizing.
That, by the way, doesn't mean what you're doing is wrong. It doesn't mean you're on the wrong path. Just because things aren't coming easily doesn't mean you made a wrong call. What it means is you've raised your hand to start something, and the fact that you're starting something that you believe genuinely matters inherently means the stakes will be high, and you're doing something where you don't know if it's going to work. High stakes, high levels, uncertainty, low levels of resource, and you having to show up and live in that space persistently can be a somewhat brutalizing experience in the early days, especially when you have to do all of the different things.
I mean, I opened a yoga studio in New York City. I signed the lease the day before 9/11 and opened it eight weeks later. That alone—
JONATHAN: —was laden with so much profound, profound emotion. And at the same time, I was one of two people. Like, we opened this space, and the vision was to create this big, gorgeous community with thousands of students and dozens of teachers and multiple floors in a building, which we eventually did do. But in the beginning, that wasn't my reality. So I would show up, and one day I'm teaching a class, and one day I'm sitting behind a desk. One day I'm cleaning the bathroom. One day I’m washing the floors. One day I'm running spreadsheets. One day I’m the I.T. guy, trying to figure out why the computer isn't working.
And by the way, I’m bad at almost all of those things, and I don't have the impulse for being good at them. But that's what you do. And I think—so, I think you bring up such an important point in that in the early days, whether it's a side hustle or whether it's a thing that you actually stepped out of a mainstream job and got 100 percent into to do, go in expecting it's going to be hard. Go in expecting it's going to take a lot out of you. And also understand that is the fundamental nature of what you have just said yes to. It doesn't mean it's wrong. If it's really hard, especially in the early days, and it's taking a lot out of you, it means that is the nature of the beast that you have just signed up to participate in.
AMY: Ooh, that's powerful. I think somebody, many people, listening right now, they needed to hear that. And it instantly brings me to my next question, which is—or a quick story of my own experience, where when I left Tony Robbins, I started a business where I did one-on-one, I say coaching and consulting, but at the end of the day, I was doing social media for small businesses. And then I would consult with these small businesses and how to do their social media better. I hated it. I did wake up in the morning and think, “Does this even matter? I do not like doing one on one. It’s not what I think I’m meant to do. I have no idea what I should do.” But I created a business that literally made me feel completely burned out two years in. So, some people listening right now could be in that situation where they're an entrepreneur, but the direction they've been going is not what feels meaningful to them.
And so I want you to talk about this concept you've created of these sparketypes, because I do believe this is going to speak to those people that think, “Wait a second. I don't even know if I'm going in the right direction.”
JONATHAN: Mm, yeah. And that experience you described is so common. I've done the exact same thing.
JONATHAN: I think so many of us have. We go out because we want to create our own thing, and realize, wait a minute, we have just recreated an almost identical dynamic, except now the only one to blame for the way we feel is us.
JONATHAN: And trust me. People don't have sympathy for that.
AMY: Not at all.
JONATHAN: Right. They’re like, “You did this to yourself, you realize, right?”
JONATHAN: I’m like, “Yeah, I kind of do.” But I think one of the things that's really important is this idea of alignment. So before you make a disruptive move, whether it is to start your own business or to go to a new job or to create something on the side or something freelance, we tend to think, first, what is the job? What is the title? What is the business? What is the product? What is the service that we want to step into or imagine into existence? Not bad things to think about. The problem is, that's all trying to make decisions based on your external circumstances without any reference to your own inner preferences, so that the likelihood that who you are aligning with those things is kind of left to chance unless you actually, first, look inside and do the work to actually ask yourself, “Okay. So, what actually fills me up? What empties me out?” I think values work is really good no matter what you're doing. I become really hyper focused on this notion of what is the fundamental impulse that I have for effort, for work, where when I do that thing, it gives me the feeling of meaningfulness. It drops me into flow. It lets me feel excited and energized. I feel fully expressed in every level, and I feel a sense of purpose, both immediate, like, I know what I'm working towards, and more broadly, like, a sense of purpose in life. Like, I'm actually doing the thing I feel like I'm here to do.
And I started to wonder—because if we can identify that impulse, if we can learn that about ourselves, then when we look out into the world and we decide what to say yes or no to, what to create or not to create, who to be in service of or not, we say it from a much deeper place of alignment because we're asking the question, is this thing aligned with this deepest impulse? Will it allow me to express it as fluidly and as purely and as often as I can? If the answer is yes, the likelihood of you stepping into that and then feeling utterly alive, what I call sparked, goes up dramatically. And when things get really hard, that sense of alignment is one of the things that actually gets you through those windows, because they always will. There will always be moments where you're kind of brought to your knees or close to it, even if you're on a path to success longer term.
So I started getting really curious about these impulses. I was like, well, I have a sense for what mine is, but I wonder if everybody else has the same kind of impulse. And I wonder if you could actually identify some universal set of impulses for effort that existed across all different people, regardless of jobs. Like, this is the deeper stuff. This is underneath the titles and the roles and industries and the products and services and companies. This is the thing that gets us up in the morning and makes us work really hard for no other reason than the feeling that it gives us, even if we end up really well compensated for it.
So I started to look at literally every job, every title, that was out there and start to deconstruct it and ask what's underneath that? What's underneath that? What's underneath that? until it distilled down to a remarkably small set of impulses. Ten of them. I kind of hate the fact that it's ten because you and I are both marketers, we're both entrepreneurs, and it feels so slick to me. I'm like—
AMY: I knew you’d say that.
JONATHAN: —oh, he came up with ten things. I’m like—
AMY: How convenient.
JONATHAN: —ah, why can't it be fourteen or nine or something like that? But that's where we are. You know, the scientist in me holds open the possibility that with further research, that number will evolve. But that's where I am right now. And I'm kind of hoping it evolves. But I haven't been able to figure out anything else.
So once I identified these impulses, then I start to look at each one and realize this is actually kind of cool. Every single impulse has its own quirky tendencies and behaviors and preferences that tend to wrap around it and form these archetypes. And then I started to call them sparketypes, which is really just a fun way of saying they're the archetypes for work that sparks you. They start sharing them around and asking all sorts of people about them, and does it resonate, does it not, what's landing and what's not, and testing with sort of like more and more people. And then it got to a point where I said, “You know, I want to really understanding these at scale. Is this real or is this not?”
So we spent most of 2018 building an assessment designed to serve two purposes. One, to gather a ton of data and figure out what's really going on here. And two, to see if we could create a tool that would help people discover what their sparketype is. And we released that, the sparketype assessment, out of beta at the end of that year and into the world. And since then, more than five hundred thousand people have completed it, with thousands more people are completing it every week. We're sitting on over twenty-five million data points that have taught me so much.
Okay. So, these are real, at scale, across the world, and we've learned there's so much more nuance and deep understanding of the impulses and the behaviors and the tendencies and how they show up in different people. And I've also learned, you know, that we're all some blend of a bunch of different impulses, but there tend to be really strong ones on both ends of the spectrum, one being the ones that express themselves really strongly, and those are the ones that make us come alive. And on the other side, they're the ones where when we're forced to do that work or we have to do that work, they tend to really empty us out, and even if you're good at it, even if you're skilled at it.
So I call the ones at the strong end of the spectrum your primary sparketype. Think of it as your strongest impulse for work that makes you come alive. And then right behind that is your shadow sparketype, and you can think about that as sort of like your next strongest impulse. But we've seen that there's a more nuanced relationship, and that is that most people do the work of their shadow sparketype in order to be able to do the work of their primary at a higher level. So it's sort of like it lives in the shadow of the primary.
But when you do that work, it helps you do the work of that strongest impulse much better than all the way on the other end of the spectrum is what I call the anti-sparketype. This is the work where, you know, oftentimes as an entrepreneur or somebody who’s building something on the side, you have to do it because it's just a required part of creating something. But it's the work that is the heaviest lift for you, takes the most out of you, requires the greatest amount of recovery, and the greatest amount of external motivation or support. And when you do it, even if you get really good at it—and I've gotten good at my particular anti-sparketype because I've had to as an entrepreneur, because I've had to do it a whole bunch—it makes it easier, it makes it better, but it never really entire makes it all the way better. You know, this is the thing where if you have to live in that space, if that becomes your dominant work, your primary work, it can be incredibly gutting.
So knowing these things about yourself, these three parts of your sparketype profile, is incredibly empowering when you're trying to make a decision about what to say yes to, what to say no to, what tasks or projects or business ventures to take on or jobs or roles or things like that. And it lets you stand in a place of so much more agency because you're starting from the inside out rather than from the outside in. So that's the background of where this whole body of work has emerged out of, and it continues to emerge, and I keep deepening into it, and we're doing sort of like next-level research, tease out different things now.
AMY: Okay. So, I know people are like, “I want to know my sparketype.” I know this is coming, so I want to talk about these further, I want to ask you a few questions about mine, and I want to know what yours are. I feel like you and I are going to have the same—I have no idea—but are going to have the same anti. That's the one I feel like you and I might have the same, but we’ll see. But should we tell them where to take the assessment now, or should we wait? Should we get into it a little more?
JONATHAN: No, that’s fine.
JONATHAN: I mean, that you can find the assessment online at sparketype.com, which is just s-p-a-r-k-e-t-y-p-e.com. And like a good entrepreneur, I also own the misspelling of that word, without the e in the middle, so…
AMY: Okay. I love that.
JONATHAN: No matter what, you'll find it there. It's available to anyone. It's free. It was important for me to keep this accessible so anyone can sort of discover this basic information about themselves.
AMY: Okay. So, I want you all to take it, and I want you in my Instagram DMs and tell me the—I want you to tell me the primary shadow and anti. I want all of you in my Instagram DMs. I am so excited to hear what your assessment says.
But, okay. So, tell me, first of all, tell me yours, Jonathan. I'm very curious.
JONATHAN: Okay. So, here's my profile. So my primary sparketype is what I call the maker. So the fundamental impulse of the maker is to make ideas manifest. It's all about the process of creation. I literally—I walk around, and I'm thinking to myself, “I can make that. I can make that. I can make that.” And it has been that way since I was a kid. I don't care about a whole lot of other ways that I could work or invest myself, but give me the opportunity to create something from nothing, and I am all in. So, as a little kid, I would make bicycles and treehouses. When I got a little bit older, I learned how to paint, and I started painting jean jackets, album covers on jean jackets. That was my—
AMY: Stop it.
JONATHAN: —original walking-around money in high school, when album covers—
AMY: That is so cool!
JONATHAN: —were among the best part on the planet.
AMY: Have you posted any pictures of that? That needs to be on social media.
JONATHAN: Oh, my god. I wish I had—
JONATHAN: —any pictures of the album covers I painted. There have been times where I've been scrounging to try to find old storage stuff to see if I saved any.
AMY: Oh, I’m so mad.
JONATHAN: And I don't have any of them, but it would have been amazing because there were some good jackets, actually.
So, that morphed into in college. I had a love of music, so I blended that with entrepreneurship, and I was a DJ, and then I started a sound and lighting and deejaying company. So I built the company, and then all this physical equipment and sets, and then that was actually the first company that I sold. There's been just a continuing stream of things that have built businesses, brands, books, media experiences. I love the process of something from nothing, or even something much bigger and more defined from something that started smaller. To me, that lights me up. It gets me up in the morning. And it's also something that tends to show up in people very early in life, not because the impulse is in any way sort of like formed earlier in life, but because the opportunity to actually show it is given to kids at the earliest age. So, you know, we're given paints and we’re given crayons or we’re given blocks and we’re given erector sets and we’re given all these different things, and basically what we're telling kids, “Make stuff,” from the earliest days. So it's introduced and rewarded really early, so the impulse tends to show up really early also, where some other ones really don't.
So my shadow sparketype is what I call the scientist. And the impulse for the scientist is to figure things out. You're all about burning questions, puzzles, and problems. So tell somebody who is a non-scientist, “I’ve got a really hard problem. And I would love for you to be the one to just go deep and figure this out. It’s going to be thorny and wicked and complex,” most people want nothing to do with that. They're like—
JONATHAN: —“Tap me in when you pretty much have it figured out, and then I'll figure out what my role is after that.” The scientist is like, “Oh, yeah. I am all in on this. Just let me at it. The thornier the better,” because it's all about problem solving. It’s like you’re the puzzle master. When you don’t have a burning question in front of you, you feel like there’s just nothing to do that’s interesting to you. So for me, that's my shadow, which means I'm good at it. I like doing it. It fills me up, but it's largely in service of my maker primary.
So an example of that is I will be building something. Let's say I’m building a website. I happen to do a lot of my own design work. And I hit a problem where I'm like, okay. So, I can't stay in that generative state of creation because now there's a solution. There's some quirky thing where it's tripping me up, whether it's code or whether it's a platform. So I go into scientist mode, and I go into puzzle-master mode until I have only the thing that I need figured out that will allow me to step back into maker mode. And as soon as I do—
JONATHAN: —then I'm back in the process of generation. Whereas if scientist was my primary, I would just be like, “Ooh, this is cool. But there's so much more that I could go deeper into here,” and I would go deeper into more problems and more nuance and more complexity. The fact that I couldn’t care less about that kind of validates that that’s actually my shadow and not my primary. I only do it to be able to be better at the process of creation.
Now, on the exact opposite side, for me, my anti-sparketype is what I call the essentialist.
AMY: Oh, it's different than mine. Okay.
JONATHAN: I had a feeling it might be because—
AMY: It's very different, actually.
JONATHAN: Yeah. The essentialist is all about creating order from chaos. It's about systems and process, utility, clarity. It's funny because I look at you, and I'm like, “You're amazing at that.” And I actually was almost wondering if that was one of your primary or shadow because—
AMY: It’s my primary. It’s my primary, you’re right.
JONATHAN: Right. —because you are so good at that. And it's something that I would imagine, also, like, you're kind of like, oh, let me at it.
AMY: Oh, yeah.
JONATHAN: Like, this is—I just want to take this, deconstruct it, break it down, figure out the systems, the steps, the processes, which is one of the things that makes you such an extraordinary teacher is that it's also you've done the work not only to develop the skills of teaching, but you've also, you are such a master of really distilling things down to their essence and creating order and systemization and process so that when you turn around and then share it with other people, what you're sharing is so beautifully thought out.
So now that you've told that to me, I'm curious about this. So what I've learned over the years, you know, in the beginning it was like, okay. So it's about order from chaos, clarity, utility, systems, processes. What I've learned is there's a much more nuanced experience that a lot of essentialists have, which is that when they get something dialed in, where they're just like, yeah, this is it. It's not just about clarity. It's not just about order. It's not just about utility. It's art to them. It's beauty. There's an elegance. Like, you feel like this is elegant. I have just created art. Is that something you feel?
AMY: Perfect word. Okay. This is so embarrassing to say. But if you show me a beautifully well systematized Dropbox folder, that is beautiful to me. That is art. And I am not even exaggerating. So, yes. I feel calm. I feel accomplished. I feel in a really good flow when I organize information so that it's easy to find and easy to navigate so you can get it done quickly. And I am, like, what do you mean that is your anti?
JONATHAN: Oh, yeah, 100 percent.
AMY: From where I'm coming from, being at my primary, I'm like, how could that…? So talk to me a little bit about why that shows up as your anti. I literally am clueless.
JONATHAN: Yeah. So, I'm going to talk to you about that, but I'm also going to talk to you about the reaction that you just had to it.
JONATHAN: So it shows up as my anti, but literally, so I've gotten good at it, because, well, like when you're starting things, you have to get good at it because I don't have other people to do it. But it literally, it makes me want to just run away. I just—it's the last thing that I have to be dragged to do. And the minute that I have resourced in a way where I can have somebody else, where it's their thing to do it, I do it. There's no explanation for why we have these impulses. You know, I can't tell you whether it's genetic. I can't tell you whether it's environmental or behavioral or gained from something else. What I can tell you is that these things exist in all of us, and they're strong, and when you stifle them or when you set yourself up so that you're working against them, there's a huge amount of weight on you and a huge amount of friction that you tend to feel when you show up and do that kind of work.
But your reaction is actually really interesting, and I think it brings up a really interesting point. So you as the essentialist look at me and you're like, “Dude, are you kidding me? How can you not just devour that work? That is the coolest work on the planet.” So we have this thing that happens where when we think about our sparketype, our unique impulse, we can't conceive of other people not having that same impulse, because it's so central to who we are and what gets us up in the morning. It's the thing that makes us work so, so, so hard, you know, for no other reason than that feeling. We're just like, how could you not— how could you not have that same thing? Because we assume that it gives everybody else that same feeling that you get.
JONATHAN: But in fact, it doesn't. So it's sort of like that old thing, like, if you have a hammer, all the world is a nail. But here's something even more nuanced about the essentialist in particular. So essentialist work—I can't tell you why, but I can tell you we've seen this so much now—the work of the essentialist tends to be so strongly disliked by everyone who is not an essentialist that the minute they find somebody who is, all they want to do is give them everything that is that kind of work. So the essentialist can very often, especially if you're working in an organization or on a team, as soon as you're known as being the person who actually really enjoys doing this—and very often because of that impulse, you get really good at it just the way that you have—if you're working where a whole bunch of other people have that work to do and they don't want to do it, they will find you, and they will do everything they can to give you that work. So there can be really major boundary issues that happen with essentialists because it's the work that you like. It's the work that you're really good at. It gives you that feeling of expressed potential, like you’re coming alive and you're competent and skilled at it, so you feel good about that because there's a level of craft and mastery. But you can get overwhelmed really quickly by everybody else wanting you to do that work for them, and you have to really create strong boundaries to understand what to say yes or no to in that context.
AMY: Oh, this is such perfect advice. I have somebody on my team that's very similar to me. She's my right hand, and she, too—she hasn't taken it yet. I can't wait for her to take the assessment. And I want you all to take it too, because I want you to really dive into this—but she, I would assume, is the same as me. We'll see. But what happens is she is tasked with all the systems and processes and all of that. And then she gets to the point where she's getting so many questions to develop it, to create it, to tell people what to do with it, that she gets to the point that she's like, “You can go look yourself. You can go find the answer.” It got to the point that she's like, “Wait a second.” And it's boundaries, but it came out as frustration at first.
JONATHAN: Yeah. Really common story, especially on teams or in a company or organization where there are a whole bunch of teams, a whole bunch of different projects, and you become known as that person. And then people who you don't even know start Slacking you or messaging you, like, “Hey, can you help out with this?”
AMY: Yeah. It's a little bit unfair, for sure.
But, okay. So, tell me this, then. My shadow is sage. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
JONATHAN: This makes so much sense. So it was sort of like what I was saying before. So you spend all this work deconstructing things, ordering them, creating systems and process. You're like, I understand completely how to make this work in a linear way, in a way where it just makes sense. It just makes sense. It's step by step. It's beautiful. It's elegant. The sage, the fundamental impulse for the sage, is to awaken insight. It's all about illumination. You may learn something or you may create something, but for you, it really comes alive when you turn around and then share it in a compelling way where other people, then, have insight and understanding from what you share.
So what's interesting is that for you, oftentimes, and I'm really curious about this now. So, like, if there is this frequent relationship where the work of the sage helps you be better at the work of the essentialist, for you, I wonder if when you teach, when you share, when you build courses, when you spend so much time teaching and mentoring, coaching, and doing all these different things, that actually not only is it the mechanism that allows you to build a business and generate revenue and all this other stuff, but I would be willing to guess that that process for you serves another purpose, too, which is that it is an incredible information-gathering purpose for you, then go back to that essentialism and be able to do it at a completely different and higher level as you iterate on what you're doing.
AMY: Oh, you one million percent nailed that, because my favorite thing to do is to go back into a digital course I've already created and I get to do the second iteration of it. I get to revamp and revise and renew based on the information I've gotten from teaching it to my students and the feedback and insight. I've seen how they've used it.
JONATHAN: Yeah. That makes total sense. I mean, when you start to see these relationships and you understand the roles that these different things are playing, it's like it can be so powerful because it just explains so much of the way that you are in the world.
AMY: It really does. And that's why I'm excited for everyone to take the assessment because it, one, it validates. Like, yes, that is exactly who I am. And it actually gave me a little bit more confidence to say, okay. Knowing who you are at your core is the most beautiful thing ever. So learning more about yourself and why you do the things you do helps you understand who you are. So that was one of the reasons I really loved this assessment. I have some questions about it before—we'll wrap this part up. My anti is performer.
JONATHAN: Got it.
AMY: So can you help me with that one a little bit?
JONATHAN: Oh, 100 percent.
AMY: Because now I feel like maybe I'm a fake or something.
JONATHAN: Let's go back to when I first met you, right?
JONATHAN: You were a behind-the-scenes person.
JONATHAN: You know, that was kind of your jam. You were that, like, in your prior job, in your prior life. Even when you stepped into what you've been doing for the last, what is it? a decade or so or longer now? like, a dozen years?
JONATHAN: You did it in a way where you hid a lot.
JONATHAN: You know, it wasn't until, I want to say, the last couple of years until you're like, “Okay, I'm stepping out of the shadow.”
AMY: Very much.
JONATHAN: So the impulse for the performer is not necessarily performing arts. Very often, it gets channeled that way. But the deeper impulse is to animate, energize, and enliven an interaction, experience, or moment. You breathe life into something so that it lands. It bypasses rational thought. Very often, it lands in an emotional, visceral, embodied way. Right? Now, that impulse can be really important. It, often, as a little kid, is tracked into performing arts because it seems like the only logical place for it to go. But the beautiful thing about that impulse is that it is incredibly valuable in all these different domains from, you know, a meeting in a boardroom to a presentation to teaching a course or a class to working behind a bar to business development or sales or parenting, all these different things.
So here's the thing, and let's see if we can figure this out with you, right? So that's your anti-sparketype. And I think part of the thing that validates that to a certain extent is that you spent so long trying to lead with the information and hoping and believing and feeling like the information alone and the clarity and the systems and processes I have created are so good, so effective, so valuable that they'll effectively speak for themselves, that they're going to do the work of all the convincing. You became a great marketer, also, and incredible copy and all these amazing things. And I would imagine that a part of that impulse was that you didn't want to play that role of being the person who is in some way focusing the spotlight, bringing energy to it, animating, and enlivening.
And what's so fascinating to me is that over the last few years, you've been really front and center in a personal way. You like the different social platforms, dancing, and showing yourself, and doing all these different things so you can build the skills. This is what I talked about earlier. The impulse may not be natural for you. It may be one of the harder things that you do. You can build the skills and do the reps over time. That makes it better. That makes you more confident and more comfortable doing it. But I would venture to guess that even as good as you've gotten at it, as much as you've done that, that there's something in you where it is still an experience that takes way more energy for you to step into that mode. And you probably have to recover way more than you ever would need to if you were just doing the work of the essentialist.
AMY: A million percent. I will never choose to go on stage, jump on social media, you know, share personal parts of my life, which I do all of that, that is never my first impulse. I would rather be in a slide deck, working on slides for a training that I have coming up, or writing my book or anything like that. So, yes, a million percent. I do it because I believe that it makes a difference and an impact, but it's never my first choice.
JONATHAN: Yeah. And that is such an important point that you just made is sometimes, especially as entrepreneurs doing our own thing, we do all the things, and we do them sometimes because we just have to—there's no one else to do it—or sometimes we do them because we realize that it's actually important to our ability to either be better at the bigger impulse or it may be important because of your value set. You know, you may have a value of really deeply delivering meaningful, impactful things to other people, and you realized, “Okay. For some reason, me doing this work, which may be the work of my anti-sparketype, it makes everything else, it helps everything else, and it helps, also, step more into my values, so I'm going to do it.” But at the same time, it's also good to know that that will very likely always take more out of you and require more recovery than a lot of other things so that you can (a) forgive yourself for feeling that way and say there's nothing wrong with you. You're not a slacker. You're not lazy. You're not just haven't done the work. But also (b) that you can say, “Okay. I need a minute after I do this to just pause and to recover and to refuel. Go for a walk or, you know, be with anyone.” So, it allows you to build scaffolding and practices and tools around that that will support your ability to go there if you feel like there is, in fact, a reason that you do need to do that work on a regular basis, but be as okay as you can in the process.
AMY: Okay. So, that actually leads me to my next question around learning more about your sparketype, and that is if you learn about what your primary is—so by now people listening have actually probably taken it or they're going to take it—do you learn how that serves you and how it can maybe not serve you? Like, when you start to explain what these mean, what does it do for you just beyond, “This is why you're so good at that”?
JONATHAN: Yeah. So it does a couple things. One is it gives you really good insight into your decision-making process. So when you’re thinking about a next job, when you think about a company to start, when you think about a product to create or a service to create or a team to be on, things like that, it gives you just so much more perspective about why you might say yes or no to something, because you can ask yourself, will this give me an opportunity to express this really important impulse to me?
But there's a second thing that we've seen, which is really kind of interesting and more nuanced. We started to see this with the assessment. The early readers of my book, of the book Sparked, have reported this on a whole different level, which is you start to feel seen. You know, that what we're doing is, like you said, like you felt validated. Of course, nobody, no other person can validate another person, but it's a tool that helps reflect back to you a deeper truth about who you are, what matters to you, what fills you and empties you out. It's rarely a surprise to people, but so often, we've stepped away from it or stifled it or buried it or hidden it or ignored it. And having it reflected back at you, there's a feeling of being seen, not for the facade that we present to the world, but for who you really are, what your deeper sensibilities are. And that feeling right now, especially when we're in a world where there's a ton of isolation, where so many of us are actually hiding, you know, we're really, really, really public, and we're really, really, really hiding in public. You know, so to feel seen, beyond the facade, beyond the presentation, is a really powerful experience. And then to have language to be able to literally describe yourself to yourself in a way that lands as true and real and then have that same language to be able to share with other people and effectively say to them, “See me. Read this, and you'll see me. You'll know me in a different way,” has been such a powerful experience. And I said very likely more so with a book, because there's so much more depth in it. But we've heard stories about people who are sharing it in relationships. People are sharing it across families, having everybody do this literally because it gives them language to be able to know each other better and have conversations that are so much closer to the truth. And I just feel like we are in a moment in time, in our history, where we're struggling so much to feel seen and heard and understood and help that the fact that that is emerging out of this work is it's actually really meaningful to me.
AMY: Very, very.
Okay. So, let’s talk about this book really quick, because it's called Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work That Makes You Come Alive. And I know that so many listening right now are like, “Yes, yes, and yes.” And my students, they like to dig deeper. They like to go beyond the surface. And so they're going to want to dive into their primary and their shadow and their anti at a much deeper level, and that's what the book does. So give me a little insight about why should somebody pick up the book beyond the assessment?
JONATHAN: Yeah. So this just makes a great first step in. You know, anybody can take it. It gives you sort of like the fundamentals. These are your three things: your shadow, your primary, and your anti. And even in the brief amount of information you get from that, a lot of people are like, “Wow, this is making a big difference.” But then we start to get so many questions afterwards, like, where do I go next? What do I do with this? Is there a process to actually help me integrate this into my work? And then also, okay, so, now, I’ve gotten almost, like, enough information where I realize this is real and it matters to me, but tell me more. Tell me more. How do other people who share the same type show up in the world? What do they struggle with? What do they do with it? How do they channel this thing? Where do they get tripped up? What are the commonalities here? What are the weird quirks and tendencies and preferences that I have, and, also, how does this show up in other people? What is the data that you have around all of this? And is there a conventional and unconventional way to monetize this, whether in a traditional career or in something that I'm building myself? So there's just a whole different level of depth in a book that I'm able to actually distill than we can sort of like share in the more immediate summary results that you get after the assessment.
And also, it's a compilation of years now of me looking at this massive data set, talking to thousands of people about their personal experience, and identifying all of these common behavioral patterns that have been building up in my head. It's almost like I had to write this book because the pressure of what was building in my head had to get out some way. It's like the maker in me had to clear—I had to clear the RAM so that I could actually allocate it to go deeper into it and start different aspects of the project. So I ended up just pouring everything, literally everything, not just from this, but from the twenty years that have preceded this and led to this body of work into this book. So that's sort of like the difference between the assessment and the book.
AMY: Well, I am so excited for your book. Congratulations. This is like a labor of love, and I want all of my listeners to get their hands on it. So where could they go to actually get the book?
JONATHAN: Yeah. So the name of the book is just, it’s Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work That Comes Alive, and it is literally available at booksellers everywhere. Wherever you want to get it, local bookshops, indie bookshops, online, whatever makes you happy, you'll be able to find it.
AMY: Okay, perfect.
Jonathan, you are such a dear friend. I love that we can say we go back thirteen years, and to be able to chat with you today on such important work means the world to me. So thank you so very much for being here.
JONATHAN: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's really been so much fun. And I love the fact that you reminded me that we have such a long and awesome history together.
AMY: So, there you have it. I hope you loved this episode with Jonathan as much as I have, and go take the assessment. Better yet, take the assessment and get the book. I absolutely love that you can dive into each of your different archetypes at a deeper level through what he shares in the book. You're going to be so glad you got it. So those are the two things I want you to do: take the assessment and go get the book. And also, actually, I've got a third one for you. I'm dying to know what your primary and shadow and anti end up being. And I was so surprised that mine was performer for the anti. I really had to dive into that one a little bit deeper. So share with me your three. So, I’m just @amyporterfield on Instagram. Get into my DMs, tell me you took the assessment, share with me what your three were, and tell me if any of them surprised you. I’m curious if you were surprised like I was.
All right, my friend. I hope you have a wonderful day. I can't wait to talk to you again soon. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.