What Are You Building?

Scroll down ↓

There’s a question I’ll sometimes ask people shortly after meeting them. Some get totally freaked out. Others light up. Either way, you’ll often learn more about them by their reaction than the content of their answer…


It’s also a question I ask myself relentlessly. Even more so with the start of every new year. And with me getting further into life, it’s begun to really get under my skin. What is it?

What are you building?

Four simple words. So much emotion tied up in what it stirs, or doesn’t stir.

What is the work I’m doing every day all adding up to? Do I even know? And do I NEED to know?

These questions often don’t get answered in a meaningful way until you get a bit further into life. When you’ve got more “data” in the machine. And you start to become more aware of your own impermanence.

Steve Jobs, in his 2005 Stanford commencement shared:

…death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Acknowledging the move from invincibility to impermanence is incredibly empowering. Because it inspires contemplation and an increased sense of urgency and action.

What are you building?

It’s a great question to visit. Especially as we turn the page on a new year.

And it’s something I go deep into in this week’s episode of Good Life Project® with my dear friend, trusted advisor and author of the great new book, Body of Work, Pam Slim. We cover a lot of ground in this conversation. Pam is one of the most-genuine, warm and smart people I know. So grab a cup of something and kick off your new year with this heartfelt and inspiring conversation. I’ve embedded it below (no excuses, lol!)…

Pam’s new book, Body of Work, is also a powerful companion to this conversation, offering a roadmap, smart questions, resources, prompts and strategies designed to help you build a more deliberate, purposeful path in the world. To build your own body of work. Maybe you’ve already begun. If not, why not today?

Check it out. And in the comments below, here’s my challenge…

How would YOU answer the question:

What are you building?

Wishing you a year of abundant love, health, joy, awe, impact and meaning.

With gratitude,



Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

57 responses

57 responses to “What Are You Building?”

  1. I’m building a body of musical work. After years as a business coach, I decided to go back to what got me excited about life in the first place – creating and performing music. So this year my focus is on creating and releasing album #3 – in a genre I love but always thought I was too unqualified to pursue.

    Age and maturity have a way of showing you how foolishly one holds onto beliefs of not being ready or qualified. In truth, no one is ever fully qualified for anything. Most of us are qualified “just enough” for whatever we’re undertaking. That’s the real gift of living, and I’m ready to accept that now.

  2. Jess Lahey says:

    Two boys. A book. A marriage. A new fox-proof chicken coop.

  3. Elsa Mora says:

    Happy New Year, Jonathan!

    This year my husband and I are taking the first steps towards building our dream. We want to buy a property in the middle of nature with some land around so we can build a special place for creative people.
    I am looking forward to following your blog this year. I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago and it became an instant favorite. You are such a unique person.
    Sending you and your family our love!

  4. carmen says:

    I’m going to answer now before watching the video….and then see if my answer changes after watching it.

    In the past, these past few (actually 5) years, I’ve tried to navigate change by trying to incite the best in other people. My industry is bringing out the worst in people right now. Greed and fear have taken over, and I thought I could help. It’s the wrong approach. Too polarizing, and it takes away from my life using that approach.

    Now… I just want to build a better me, accepting who I am today, and accepting whatever changes that brings.

    Ok..the video. Bye!

  5. Great question! I am building a beautiful life. The more I consider the goals and dreams I have, in business and beyond, the more I see the role my sincere happiness and deep satisfaction play in everything else being achieved. Relationships come alive, circumstances line up, and my best work is shared when I care first and foremost about how I feel moment to moment. It feels selfish at first, but it is the most giving thing possible, because when you are truly happy, you have so much more to give others. Yes, I am building a beautiful life. *grin*

  6. Barbara says:

    I am building my oeurve: a combination of poetry, journals and writings. I am building my community by providing space for others to go past their “aporia” and begin with what is within them. I am building my connections, collaborating and building team synergies through the best in each of us.

  7. Venkatesh Narayanan says:

    Thanks Jonathan for the question.

    “what are you building?”
    How relevant in today’s world. I am trying to figure this out for the past few months. I am taking few baby steps like “writing a book”, “giving a tech seminar series”. But still hopeful of finding that big purpose and mission in this year 2014. I am determined to do big and started on this.

    Great to see this article on the new year 1st day.
    Happy New Year 2014.

  8. Fraser says:

    I’m building an audience and a framework of ideas by cycling round the world. I’m using the experience to crystallize the ideas which will be shared in my first book (due out in Feb). I intend to leverage the audience and ideas to raise enough money to build a school with Room to Read.

    I’m ultimately building a school.

    • merry says:

      Nice Fraser.
      I am extending my “Pot Lucks with Purpose”, a format for teaching sustainability strategies and techniques then enjoying friends, making new friends while eating and drinking.

      • Sarah says:

        Love this Merry! I am creating a cooking community and I love you potlucks with purpose concept! Sounds like a Wonderful thing to build .

  9. I’m building a Midlife Insurrection — a community where women who have devoted a couple of decades to the hopes and dreams of others can begin to direct some of that marvelous wisdom and energy to themselves. I also feed men – a LOT of them.

  10. susan says:

    at just 69, I am building the best 70 year old artist, parent, grandparent, wife, friend, person I can be. In between, it’s still the ‘simple’ stuff, that challenge me. this morning: how to best talk to a querying renter, in a way that serves us both, and doesn’t involve me to the degree that I wake early figuring out she can most easily move in! pema chodrun remains one of the greatest inspirations for the ‘daily stuff’.

  11. Rob says:

    Art, cozy home, nest egg and reference material … Lots of it!

  12. Kim says:

    Love this question!

    I’m building my own business! (I’m building my life the way I want it to be, not anyone else’s rules or guidelines.) I’m building a sustainable lifestyle and helping others live more sustainably too. This pursuit gets me excited for life and I am so grateful for this gift.

    Merry we should talk!

    Happy New Year Jonathan and friends 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Great Answer! I totally agree, I am creating a life that is defined by my terms. One that makes me feel excited, empowered and happy everyday! Happy New year Kim!

  13. Carmen says:

    My answer is the same as above.

    There comes a point where you realize the best you see in others is different than the best you see for yourself. No better or worse. Just different.

    That difference is the starting point to build on.

    Thank you Jonathan and Pam. Happy New Year!

  14. I feel I am building my skills as an artist and a photographer. Being new to art, I want to continue to grow so that if I have more time in retirement and can call on my skills to improve and excel.

  15. Denise says:

    Great question to which I don’t truly have an answer to, just yet. I’m soon to be retired and will begin to view the world in a different way, because I must. I’m hoping to build a life where I am able to think of “me” first as oppose to everyone else. I need to learn to take care of me and love myself first.

  16. Owen Marcus says:

    Great question.

    As you infer, it takes depths to answer the question. My first answer would have been a life. My next answer would have been a better life. Then my third answer would have been a better life for others. Now it’s the tools others can use to build their better life.

    Your question presupposes what is your legacy? Coming from a place less of what you want to be known for, more from a place of value are you going to impart for gift of being given a life?

  17. Sarah says:

    I am building a community of health conscious cooks. People who have high standards when it comes to their food. People who are ready to take their health into their own hands. In 2014, I hope to create a bigger impact with this and a stronger community.

    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  18. I’m building a legacy that will last for generations, through God’s grace, and a body of work that future generations can build on in their own way, using their diverse gifts and talents.

    Thank you for the insightful direction Jonathan, I think I have a new blog post writing itself as we speak.

  19. Kim says:

    I am building a free life – free of clutter, free to explore.

    My mother died in 2001 and my father passed away this year, so there is no need to hold on to this large house I bought to care for my parents. I am in the process of clearing out all their stuff and my stuff and getting the house ready for sale. Then, I will be taking off to explore the lower 48 in my Airstream trailer. I have the truck and trailer – now I just have to get rid of the unnecessary stuff and the house.

  20. Cindy says:

    I am building a business that focuses on each person without trying to fit them into a system or treating them like a number.

    I am building a life that is honest based on my truth versus expectations or my past behaviors, wants or needs.

    It is an ongoing process. 🙂

    Thank you for this post.

  21. Kay Ross says:

    Beautiful conversation, thanks Jonathan and Pam! I’ve discovered that the thread that connects my three passions of marketing, performing and healing is storytelling. So in recent months I’ve been called to start creating a range of products and services under the overarching theme of “The Playground of Possibilities” (because LIFE is a playground of possibilities!) – a place for people to explore and transform their thoughts, beliefs and stories about themselves and the world, to tap into the abundance of the Universe, and to play with like-minded, like-hearted playmates.

  22. Joe says:

    WOW…what a question!

    This is gonna sound lame, but I never thought about Building anything! However…It has occurred to me given my experiences, given the friendships, business relationships, people I know with similar interest, I need to start writing a blog of my own that captures how not to fall into the trap of not having a desire to NOT build anything. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but it will be interesting today when I start writing.

  23. I love the energy of “building.” It’s so easy to fall into the routine of “maintaining” once things are going well in your life. Building doesn’t have to mean striving or even creating something new. I feel it can also be more like nourishing, growing, words that remind me that life is alive, has movement always.. Relationships are, too, alive and responsive to nouishment… So I am continuing to build, nourish, my most important relationships.. Thanks for asking and Happy New Year!

  24. At this stage in life, so close to leaving the union factory work I’ve been doing for 8+ years, at the age of 64, I’m focusing on how to get back to my creative self.

    Losing the financial benefits is the scary part, but I can’t do both. I want to spend my days making beautiful objects again. Factory work is a love/hate relationship for me (love my co-workers. hate the boring assembly tediousness).

    I really got something from what Pam was saying and I’ll try to get a hold of her book.

    Thanks for the video Jonathan, and all the best for 2014.

  25. Geoffrey says:

    Great question, and timely!

    I’ve been a professor of law, marketing manager, education consultant, writer. At the end of last year I had the opportunity to put into about 12,000 words a condensed version of the theory and practice of learning, teaching and education that my wife and I have been working on for 25 years or so.

    And now I get to walk away (mostly) and work out what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been looking back quite intently at my body of work. But what am I building? To repeat, a great question.

    Writer? Definitely. But short ebooks on listening and learning, and also short thoughts that I call “thts.” They’re semi-coherent sculptures in words. And I’m staying open for what is waiting to invite itself in.

    May you all have a wonderful new year!!

  26. I am building a foundation for young people, but before this I have a start up business and patents to sell so I can create the money for the foundation. I am also building a network for direction on just how to do this.

    I love the first of the new year, birthday and ideas to have an imaginary fresh start…:) New days,Mondays, Mornings.

    I am connected to you and Danielle LaPorte and ever grateful for your helping me build bigger everyday…Love and respect…Happy New!

  27. John B says:

    I am sitting before a huge metaphorical bin of Legos and I want to build for the sheer enjoyment of it, to see what I can do. I am building a way to embrace and integrate the many aspects of myself to create a career shift. A career shift which will allow me to continue to heal, inspire, evolve, and prosper for my family and others.

    • Carmen says:

      Brilliant, John. You have perfectly articulated the emotional and mental space I am in.

  28. Aine Dee says:

    I am building the concrete, internal and external processes, programs, structure and forms, and absolute intimacy and aware responsibility to change the wealth myth from it’s currently disconnected, unholy ways to something that continues to co-create wholeness for self and others – wealth that is right, healthy and holy to each of us and for all of us.

    I am building it within myself, my work, and my living first, designing programs around my experience, moving from the individual, personal, financial capacity into the communal, collective capacity. Three internal sequentially developmental and externally impactful programs that I have lived, then three communal programs that leverage the internal and external competence and maturity of individuals in synergy to create business collaborations and social and cultural forms supported by a collective economy.

    My life is my canvas and laboratory and this is truly The Next Great Adventure. It is built, it is being built (and I can’t wait to live it first), and it is a joy to build! I am finally loving the years it has taken to live and recognize what I’ve been building all along instead of worrying that I am too old to build anything of consequence!

  29. Vanessa says:

    I am building my photography business, the connection I find to the people in my community and those who visit via my camera is wonderful and fulfilling. I am building memories and keepsakes for families. I get to creativity stop time for an instant and then pass it along to my client.
    I am building history, I building art.

  30. Natalia says:

    What a great question and a beautiful interview with Pamela.

    I’m building a community for women to help them own their inner wisdom. As I look back, much of my work to date and going forward is focused on making women feel at home in their bodies, their soul and themselves. Women holding hands in a circle, creating and sharing together is incredibly inspiring to me. Happy to New Year to everyone in this group.

    • Chiara Wood says:

      Greetings Natalia
      I sense that Our Revolution is shared on many levels.
      How wonderful to know this. We’ll meet one day.
      I’m thrilled to support your mission.
      Be Well

  31. Kandace says:

    Before I can answer that question, I want to offer other comments. What a wonderful interview with Pam Slim, and I found Jonathan’s concern about people “taking sides” to be deeply troubling. What the planet needs is for folks to be spiritually and emotionally mature…to be able to engage in discernment…to release the shame associated with prior actions (perhaps of our ancestors) and realize that we can have a more evolved way of living and working. No, it’s not right to put smallpox on blankets to kill off a people and take their land (particularly given the claims of leaving one nation for religious freedom). No, it is not right to kill civilians with drones. No, there is no need for “suicide seeds” or CAFO’s. It’s also time to fine-tune our language. We need to understand that a *publicly traded* corporation is legally required to put profits above everything else. This is inherently problematic. As we live our best lives, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and avoid taking sides. “He who sees all Beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, hates none. To the illumined soul, the Self is all. For him who sees everywhere oneness, how can there be delusion or grief?” – The Isha Upanishad

  32. Lindsey says:

    I love this. Invincibility to impermanence: perfect. I’m not totally sure what I am building, to be honest (am ashamed to write that after reading your post). A body of writing work. A happy home and many joyful memories and moments of wonder with my family. A career in executive search. A solid marriage. Continued strong friendships. Maybe that’s enough?

  33. GoingHome says:

    I’m going for DEstruction rather than CONstruction.

    External markers and signposts of progress are beautiful and rewarding on one level, but are so transient and insubstantial.

    The sparkling silence underlying everything is calling and I’m going home.

    So the project is one of surrendering into Grace, with every obstacle removed taking me a step closer to home. The paradox of less being more than I could have ever dreamt of makes me laugh and cry 🙂

  34. Nica Waters says:

    Happy 2014, Jonathan and all.
    I’m building a happy family.
    I’m building a library of food videos to inspire others to tap into their own capabilities in the kitchen. It’s all about the attitude – and mine is that everyone can cook.
    Hope your year is fabulous.

  35. Bruna says:

    What are you building?
    A better world.

  36. Thanks for the wonderful question Jonathan. I’m adding it to my daily morning questions.

    I’m building my tribe. Through blogging, podcasting, and connecting people, my focus is growing the tribe around making change.

    Your work helps m rise to the challenge. You also remind me to infuse more meaning into the work I’m doing. Thank you.

    We’ll see what happens!

  37. I’m building a platform to promote play…

  38. Tom Chafin says:

    I’m putting together a cheap cabinet.

    First thing I think of is something I’m physically building… Despite the fact that I am trying to build a website that tries to help folks find their authentic work.

    So that is what I am building; a place where people can come to find work or create a career for themselves. Or more to the truth of the matter is I am building myself a platform that I can stay in “IDEA MODE” for long stretches… my authentic work. It is designed to help others but its base is my own selfishness. Built-in drive.

  39. gopinath says:

    I am exploring self introspection, better, in everything and learning with the student, a thirst to learn and availing the benefit of the teaching and becoming a student of the student, a loveliest journey. meanwhile, to be good friend, a good father, a good husband…a long journey joyful …..

  40. Joao Pires says:

    Well… I am building a really odd thing. I felt I should share this for it is something I am actually *building* (as asked), and who knows, where next best advice or helping hand may come from?! I appreciate every feedback I get.

    It is a “tethered aircraft”, as someone at MIT once called it. And its electrified rail underneath. If it works, it will save jet fuel (for sure) and money (maybe)

    A rather odd thing to build, and unfortunately unsponsored (yet). A couple universities and the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer shown mild interest.

    Last but not least, Happy New Year

    Joao Miguel Pires

  41. Gretl Dixon says:

    I am building memories by teaching individuals how to be successful in their own sense. Success looks different as every individual. Helping one understand what success is to them and the steps to achieving it helps to create memories.

  42. Chiara Wood says:

    I am building communities of support, empowerment and healing for Women by way of convening the ancient council of circles. I already do this, have been doing this for decades in smaller local ways. Now I wish to expand and link the hearts of each community to the other, nationally…globally (if I live long enough!) and by virtue of The virtual. What Steve Jobs claims in the quote JF, provided is true. I have lived long and understand well that the journey itself is reason enough for taking it. And although my work is timeless, the horizon is closer and my desire to serve, more ardent. RevU and Me!

  43. wow….as I was pondering the answer to this question what am I building, my two small daughters were playing on the floor next to me. It struck me that I am building a life of example for my children on how to do things on your own terms, with passion and integrity. My work has always felt like an extension of myself and I have been blessed to follow my heart’s calling since my teens. I want my girls to grow up knowing it’s possible to do what you love and love what you do.

  44. Pamela Slim says:

    Wow, what an amazing, interesting collection of builds for next year! I am so excited to see how this year unfolds for us all.

    Thank you so much Jonathan for spending time with me in this interview, and for sharing it with your wonderful community.

    Big hugs,


  45. Joanna says:

    I loved all the answers here, i think i read them all, and first of all love the question, so i shared this article on my facebook group. ( though i doubt i will get that many answers).

    What i’m building… I may be so close to it to really see…
    My hope is that I’m building a virtual home and a face to face practice where people can come and overcome all that keeps them from feeling peaceful, build a peace centered life and live inspired and passionate about strengthening their inner peace.

  46. pascale says:

    the question stumped me at first. then i looked up and realized my vision sheet above my computer had it all:

    the body of an athlete
    the mind of a scientist
    the soul of an artist
    the heart of a lover
    a world ready to trade-in self-centered suffering for compassion, kindness and joy

  47. mark h says:

    I challenge everyone to go back and watch his earlier video blogs and interviews, it is an awesome transformation, enjoying all the video. thanks