In Defense of Clark Kent


In order to succeed with our careers, we don’t necessarily have to be full-time Superman. It is also possible to reach an equilibrium by being both Clark Kent with our jobs, and Superman with our passions. This post explains how. This post is in defense of Clark Kent.

Wha… What?!… Let me explain:

Superman and Clark Kent

For those who do not know, Clark Kent is the alter-ego character of Superman, the fictional superhero. The true identity of the superhero is, indeed, Superman. But, in order to disguise himself and blend in society, Superman is acting as Clark Kent, who works as a journalist in the fictional “Daily Planet” newspaper.

This epic scene from Kill Bill: Vol. 2 explains it much better (the first minute):

Now, I am going to use this as an analogy as an interesting insight with regards to professional deliberations, which I know many of us are facing, in different stages of our careers.

Your “Shared Zone” can split

I recently wrote about the importance of finding your “Shared Zone“, using the Hedgehog Concept (or, Ikigai). However, you do not always have to make all three circles overlap into one shared zone. To be honest, trying to do so may simply be beyond reach for many people. Does this mean that those people cannot balance a mix of their passions, competitive advantages, and economic drives? Of course not! They can absolutely do that. They just have to split their “Shared Zone”:

Imagine you take the “Passion” circle, and but it above the other two (“Competitive Advantage”, and “Economic Drive”), as an upper layer. Now, in one layer you can merge your competitive advantages with your economic drives, and in a separate, upper layer – place your passions. Now, looking from above, you can see a shared zone of all three.

In this case, you can find yourself doing something that you are good at, and that provides you with the financial compensation that you’re willing to accept. And, these two circles are not directly merged with your “Passion” circle.

So, what about your passion? Well, now that you have a “security net” of doing something that you’re good at with a good-enough economic drive, you should have the mental capacity and the capability to exercise your passions in a different part of your life, and by that, complete the “Shared Zone” with two layers, instead of one, just like in the drawing above.

This allows you to reach an equilibrium, where you do not necessarily expect to fulfill yourself in your job passion-wise, since you get that fulfillment somewhere else. Also, this takes off the pressure from turning your passion into a viable business really fast, and be good enough at it so that the market will compensate you for that right away (aka “I must make money from what I love NOW, otherwise I would have to forget my hobbies and go look for a full time job“) – which is, needless to say, very hard. Now, you can buy the time, energy and patience to develop with both layers (your passion circle in one, and your competitive advantage and economic drive circles in another), until, maybe, they naturally start merging into one dimension in the future.

Not only that, such separation allows you do be much more valuable at work. Being mentally stable allows you to grow the confidence, calmness and peace of mind to grow naturally, without the need for “false idols and trophies” to feel like you’re going somewhere (aka “I must get a promotion by next year, otherwise, I will feel I am wasting time here“). And that, is one big signal to your boss and supervisors, that you are stable and trust-worthy. Since I really do believe that we are all business units in today’s on-demand economy, according this point of view, you signal to your customers (boss & supervisors) that you are a trusted supplier to “buy work from.” So, they are more tempted to “buy more work” from you!

How does that work? Well, this is where the Clark-Kent-Superman analogy comes into play:

In Defense of Clark Kent

Play along with me here…

Clark Kent is a respectable journalist in his newspaper. He is good at his job, and it pays the bills. He could also make professional progress, get promoted, who knows – maybe even become Chief News Editor one day. But, is that what really defines him in his career? is this his “life’s work”? Not by itself it isn’t… He is really all about being Superman. So, he has this agreement with the office that twice a week, afternoon hours, he “puts his underwear above his pants”, disappears for a few hours, and goes to rescue some people from a burning tower, save a kitty that got trapped on a tree, or catch that run-away thief.

Being Superman is the work he is truly passionate about. But, if he were to look for his “Shared Zone” in one layer, trying to “pursue his passion” as a full-time profession – he would have found out that by doing all this Superman work, he would end up poor and unhappy. So, in a way, Superman is dependent on Clark Kent to survive and thrive!

The takeaway from this post

  1. Of course, we should always aspire to find our “Shared Zone.
  2. However, for many people, doing so in “one layer” could be impossible, or, impossible as of right now.
  3. This does not mean we should give up the “Shared Zone” idea, we just have to split it into two layers: Passion circle in one, and Competitive Advantage and Economic Drive circles in another.
  4. The Superman-Clark-Kent analogy is a good way to understand it.
  5. We all have our own version of Superman and Clark Kent in our lives.
  6. Splitting the “Shared Zone”, when needed, is a smart strategy that is good for employees, helping them be stable for the long-term.
  7. It is also good for employers, since this injects confidence and security into their leadership and coordination of expectations with their staff.
  8. But if you ask me, it does not matter. We are all business units in today’s on demand economy anyhow, so , it is relevant to everyone.
  9. Therefore, the big reason to know how to split your “Shared Zone”, when needed, is because it is simply a good business strategy to survive and thrive in the market!
  10. Therefore, Clark Kent should get much more respect. Without him, Superman would have need been able to survive and do the epic work that he does. Respect the Clark Kent in your career, so that you could also become a better Superman!
About the Author
Assaf is passionate about promoting business in and with Israel, helping and mentoring entrepreneurs, advising young professionals with career planning and self-fulfillment, and more. Assaf acts as a brand ambassador of Israel as 'Start-Up Nation', speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. Assaf also works as a business development and marketing consultant to Israeli start-ups and others.
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