Your Body of Work (and Mine)…


Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Today I turn 28 years old.

Many times on my birthday, I reflect about my life, my meaning, and my goals for the next few years.

I’ve done a little of that today, but not as much as I have in the past. (For example, you can read these 26 life lessons I wrote exactly 2 years ago.)

I have thought about a few simple things – a few goals, if you will – by the time I hit 30:

  • I want to only work on projects I deeply love and care about – that combine to positively impact millions of people’s lives.
  • I want to have a million in positive monetary worth (and no debt). That’s right, nothing wrong with saying that. It’s the *why* you want it that matters. I want it for flexibility and the opportunity to work on amazing projects when I see them enter my family’s life.
  • I want to spend the majority of my post-afternoon-ish day with Courtney, Milli, Charlie, and any future additions to the family.
  • I want to remain healthy and active (for me: under 15% body fat, 95% whole foods diet, under 200 pounds).

You know, the same things we all think about on our birthdays. 🙂

And speaking of working on projects I deeply love… I’ve loved Man Vs. Debt for 4 years now. Sure, sometimes it’s been a love-hate relationship, but I’ve deeply enjoyed building this community. It’s changed and continues to change my life.

In fact, sometimes I feel I’m too in love with it. 

I’ve wrapped so much of my identity up into this site, that every single word I write – and every single post that gets published – reflects intensely on me.

That’s a double-edged sword.

On the positive side, it means I only publish content that I think is the best of the best of what’s on my mind. This makes me feel good. It’s a bit more impressive. I know the far majority of posts will help at least some people. 🙂

But on the downside, it means that my ability to help people is based purely on my motivation to write. And the pressure to write – and write every post so it’s amazingly complete and epic – is intense.

So in turn, I don’t write very much. And when I do, I only write what’s on my mind in that particular moment in time (instead of what I believe will truly help people).

And thus, I severely limit the impact this community can have on the world.

I limit the potential of how I can help people through this medium I’ve devoted nearly half a decade to.

And I limit the potential of how I can help people through new mediums, projects, and arenas.

At my very core, I want this site to help a whole crap-ton of people overcome debt, ditch the clutter, and do more work they love. It’s really not that complex of a vision.

But the current system I use to write, publish, and help people is a bit broken. It’s completely reliant on my in-the-moment motivation, my current place in life, and my immediately-in-front-of-my-face experiences.


Jonathan Fields once told me his journey was to build a “body of work” he could be proud of.

That phrase really sank home.

Life is a journey to build a “body of work” you are proud of.

So what if you’ve been an accountant for the last 30 years. That’s just part of your body of work. What’s next?

So what if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years. That’s just part of your body of work (an important part… but a part nonetheless).

So what if you’ve been a ______________ for the last _____ years…

Man Vs. Debt has been – and continues to be – a life-changing part of my body of work.

However, I’ve realized that if I continue to let every word that posts to the blog define me as a person, I’m going to continue to limit the potential impact this community can really have.

That’s why, for my birthday, I’m giving myself a present.

I’m going to allow myself to let go – as an experiment.

For the next two weeks, we’re going to switch things up. We’re going to post much more frequently on a wide variety of smaller topics.

Anywhere from 3 times a week to 5 times a week. Myself, Joan, and maybe even Courtney will be chipping in.

We’ve brainstormed dozens and dozens of topics – and the whole team is excited to try out the experiment.

I’ll write a couple times, Joan will write a couple (she’s great), and we’ll share more stories, links, and news from the community itself. (Want to share your story on the blog – or post about something specific? Now’s a good time to reach out!)

I’m going to allow myself to let go of my perfectionism, my intense control, and letting the blog define me as a person – for at least the next two weeks. 😉

Don’t worry, while the posts may not be 4,000 words – they will continue to have the same vision, values, spunk, and attitude that you enjoy. 🙂

I’m excited to hear your feedback after the next couple of weeks. Don’t hesitate to voice your opinion! You matter to us.



My question for you is… what does your “body of work” look like?

Are you letting any one aspect of your work – no matter how amazing it is – define you as a person?

I’m truly interested to hear your thoughts on this one. 🙂




22 thoughts on “Your Body of Work (and Mine)…”

  1. I don’t think I let a body of work define me, but I did let certain labels define me a couple years back. I insisted that they be the perfect labels that defined who I was, and did not care to stray in any form from them.

    What I did to myself as a result of this caused the end of a marriage, and caused me to lose my true self.

    Since that time I just live, I don’t care to be so obsessive with living up to labels or self imposed guidelines I’ve set out for myself. I want to enjoy my life now, the people in it, and do things that come from the heart, and also that I’m passionate about!

    I would love to be featured on a post on ManvsDebt ( I’ve never never payed off a huge amount of debt), but this blog has definitely had an impact on the life I live now.

  2. Happy Birthday Baker!

    You have certainly impacted many lives in your short 28 years here (mine included). I’m excited to see what you have planned for your “letting go” experiment.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  3. Baker,

    As a newcomer to your awesome website, i’ll be the last to give you advice on how best to do things. You have been doing it successfully for years. As a writer, though, I will tell you that it takes more effort to put together a longer piece than it does a short one. A post should be important and relevant to your audience. Have something important to say and say it well. I look forward to seeing more frequent entries here!


  4. Adam it was so great to meet you in person during your Wyoming leg of “I’m fine…” and I hope you, Grant, and the boys have recovered from your epic journey!

    One thing I regret is not keeping a daily journal to capture my ever-evolving “body-of-work”…from our decision to jump off the corporate ladder to the little life lessons we try to give to the kids. We have left a lot of life lessons in the past by not throwing down the little steps which lead up to big leaps….

    I have regularly stumbled with trying to write “epic” topics in my spots of interest, but have found that just bogs me down, and I don’t write. Over the past month or so, I have just stopped trying to be perfect and gotten moving on projects, writing, etc. The benefit to my productivity has been remarkable…I hope it will be the same for you & the MvD team!

    Its what we are thinking that keeps us moving forward in any endeavor…remembering those thoughts and what led us to make them helps to look at the results and consequences for the next move.

    Take Care,

  5. Right on! I’m all for it. I’ve always enjoyed more of your general “life” posts or messages.

    We’re all here to learn, not win, so keep learning and sharing. 🙂

  6. Baker,

    I very much look forward to the few weeks.

    In my google reader, I have a list of ‘essential’ blogs I read daily:

    Seth Godin, Simple Dollar, Jonathan Fields, John Maxwell, Chris Guillebeau, and YOU!.

    I’m extremely excited to hear what you have to say. You have a great outlook and reading you makes me not feel so ‘young and by myself’ on this journey.

    I’m glad I’ll be able to read your ideas/inspirations more often.

    -Nate Hans

  7. Felicity St John

    Thank you for the post Adam! I sppreciated your self inisght, and learned a lot from this. Here’s to mixing it up and letting go. You already have an impressive body of work.

  8. G’day Mate,
    I just come across ur web site through another web site (nomeatathlete), wich i also just came across and im glad i did. For the last 6 months my main focus has been to become debt free for similar reasons u have and get back into running. i have been inspired by both u and matt to keep moving forward. Sounds like u had an awsome time here in Australia.
    keep up the great work mate.

  9. Mary Ann Clifford

    Happy Birthday, Baker! I enjoy reading your entries and I think Joan and Courtney will be great additions. Your words have helped me to keep on track and to try to set goals. Thanks!

  10. My body of work defines the person I am. Its either i’m on the internet and if i’m offline, my dream of becoming a movie star takes over me – i act at will.

    I’d be so happy to read what Courtney has to chip in.


  11. You might find it strange for someone like me is a fan of yours and subscribe to your newsletter. You see I’m a fashion blogger for women over 40. (yes, I admit I write about a lot of “fluffy” stuff there for sure!) However, I live in 2 worlds and it’s actually working out quiet well. You see, my husband and I are debt free and are currently living and traveling in a motorhome. It’s been life changing for us to sell our home and cars to live this way but we are loving it! But, I digress… I know the conflict that you are feeling as you stop and ponder how to express yourself in a deep way, yet you need time to do other things that will allow you to connect with more people. I’ve been writing my blog for over 6 years and I found myself with the same problem. I suggest you try to do vloging for your shorter pieces. This idea will help you in several ways. You will rank higher (video is amazing for your SEO) People enjoy watching video and you can do them quickly once you get a formula on how to make them. Also do you have a VA? This is a must!!! There a lots of ways you can use your blog to help you on your ways to millions of dollars but you will need the time to get out to blogging conferences and learn more. You need a revenue stream to allow you to do this. A google ad banner could be a good way to bring in some money too. Good luck and Happy Birthday!

  12. Pingback: Baker’s virtual surprise birthday party

  13. I think I bought into the East Coast culture of asking people immediately what they do once I meet them. I hate it. It doesn’t define us, but it happens all the time.

    I’m so lucky to do something I love and feel good about: I work with preschoolers who have Autism. But I also let it define me…I need a balance!

    Can’t wait for the changes. Great idea!

  14. Happy Birthday!

    I think it’s a great idea to post more often, even if just for a set amount of time. Your enthusiasm for a subject is just as important and inspiring as your expertise. 🙂

  15. It is absolutely a double edged sword, the perfectionism and letting oneself be defined by a body of work. As an educator, artist and blogger – I find the ability to define myself both extremely limiting and extremely empowering. It’s this ability that keeps driving me forward towards my goals as well as the concept that holds me back and keeps me from creating the work and life I dream about. Striking the balance is a lifelong project.
    Especially in terms of creating art – it really IS your body of work that defines your artistic self. Therefore, when I go about finding my new artist statement and thinking about what I truly want my new body of work to be, I often find myself paralyzed by my past body of work and the uncertainty that my new direction can be as strong as the past statement(s) I executed so well, but I don’t want to define me. It’s the ‘why’ of being an artist, it’s a constant evolution – but picking that starting point can be so challenging when faced with artist critique and the traditions of the art world. Artists have challenged this, and come back around again. You truly just have to discover what you want to say, and how. And that is the hardest part.

  16. My question for you is… what does your “body of work” look like?

    Through childhood I was taught to live how I was expected, so as a child, I was a student, a brother and someone to be made into a person my family would be proud of (something I’ve given up trying to do). I unfortunately bucked the trend and instead of just being the child to be seen and not heard I was the child who was seen and heard, from that starting point I created my own individuality, but with every career move I became that person for a period of time, trying to fit in with the expectation that was required of a person in that job. Ultimately though this did not make me happy, so after a brief period of contentment, as being one of the herd the niggles and my own individuality came to the forefront. I tried to become one person identifying with just one component of my life, and that was my career. I am a driven individual, previously it was materialism, to surround myself with possessions, things, however one core rule was never buy what you can’t afford so mountains of debt were never run up. I scared myself on one occasion, with buying a new suit, new spectacles and my car insurance on my credit card and this with a a few meals out meant I had a credit card bill that would take 3 months pay to clear it off, that scared the life out of me (for the next few weeks I lived like a hermit and on soup as I cut back so it would be cleared!) I was driven to be mortgage clear, so worked solid, hard, stupid hours and did cause myself health issues because of it, silly really, but now I am reaping the rewards and my health is back so, luckily, it didn’t cause any long term health problems.

    Are you letting any one aspect of your work – no matter how amazing it is – define you as a person?

    I have recently qualified as a Personal Coach and Therapist, and got a publishing deal from two publishers for fiction and non fiction work. I still keep my hand in the property market (I have a local job as a realtor), I am a husband, dog owner, mortgage free home owner. It all defines me as a person, however rather than a one dimensional stereotype I am a full person who dips into different roles at different and appropriate times. I have a wide and full life with varied activities, I feel as I enter middle age (I’m 40 next year) I’ve achieved a lot, travelled the globe and in a loving and permanent relationship. I am content with life, and I feel with time, age and learning how to getting into the rhythm of your own heart beat and achieve contentment is when being just a role dissolves and you become a person.

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