The World’s Largest Seashell Collection – We Are Not Our Jobs

Circa 1985, I was invited to a party where I didn’t know many people. I introduce myself to a man. I went to my go-to small-talk question:

“What is it that you do?” I asked.

“I have the world’s largest seashell collection,” he said.

I was imagining a large warehouse, I started to gullibly do the math.

“Well, where do you keep it all?”

“On beaches everywhere!” He replied.

I laughed along and the lesson never left me.

We aren’t just what we do, our jobs.

Wow! I said, and where do you keep it, he said beaches everywhere.

Ever since my encounter with the man at the party, my new go-to questions are more like:

What area of life that you are most interested in, excited about? What are your passions and hobbies? And I continued to search for ways to find my own identity outside my job/career including the 2 years I spent in Gambia West Africa as a volunteer following a business bankruptcy and divorce.

Global News  – “Both countries confronted historic and harrowing employment statistics Friday, with two million people out of work in Canada last month for a jobless rate of 13 percent. There were 20.5 million Americans who reported the same fate, bringing U.S. unemployment to a breathtaking 14.7 percent.”

Covid-19 Mental Health Curve

USA Today: ‘Deaths of despair’: Coronavirus pandemic could push suicide, drug deaths as high as 150k, study says. Coronavirus: Pandemic boosts suicide, alcohol, drug death predictions

The looming mental health curve is climbing and under-reported. It is like an undetected tsunami that follows an earthquake. Calls to suicide helplines are up significantly and I believe that our mental health infrastructure in North America is unprepared for the increasing need for their services.

CBC News – “While necessary and important, the public health measures currently mandated by the government may lead many of us to feelings of isolation and powerlessness, both of which are known to be associated with depression, anxiety, and even suicide. The emotional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society could be catastrophic for a mental health system which is already chronically under-resourced, and it is the vulnerable who will suffer most if the system does not hold.”

CTV News “One survey released last week found that Canada’s self-reported depression rate has more than doubled during the pandemic, while the percentage of Canadians reporting high levels of anxiety has quadrupled.”

My Own Struggles With Anxiety And Depression

I certainly have had my own struggles with anxiety throughout years and depression when I have been unemployed. Recently I found myself struggling once again after being forced into early retirement at age 62.  With the support from my wife and children my tailspin this time was brief. I decided to unretire and start business Empathy North with my son Nick Ward. We are purpose-driven while we help solo-preneuers and small businesses grow their brand and increase sales through authentic content storytelling.

Recognizing that my emotional struggles are never far off, and I need to maintain maintenance activities that encompass your whole self of mind, body, and soul.

One of our core business processes at Empathy North is the establishment of well being protocols with our customers and ourselves. We offer, promote, and include breathwork meditation as a standard strategic business tool.

Our “Just Breathe” daily work has been instrumental in keeping us energised and calm as we go-in all and launch Empathy North in the middle of Cov-19 Global Pandemic.

Depression After A Job Loss: Statistics And How To

Healthline – “For many people, losing a job not only means the loss of income and benefits, but also the loss of one’s identity.”

“Along with Covid-19 health-related fears and a recession can exacerbate unemployment as more and more people experience downward mobility and income volatility. Job loss for people in the United States and Canada — countries where many people’s work and self-worth are interchangeable — can be an extremely traumatic experience, often leading many to despair and depression. “Timothy J Legg PHD

Dr. Benjamin F. Miller – The likely toll in the US from these “death of despair” was the loss of an additional 75,000 lives, the study found. Death estimates ranged from 27,644 if the economy recovers quickly to 154,037 if recovery is slow.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There are ways to build mental and emotional resilience and people are discovering innovative ways to stay mentally strong.

Without My Job, I Don’t Know Who I Am

“This is known as “work-role centrality.” It means that work is central to your sense of who you are. People with high “work role centrality” who lose their jobs suffer more. They are more likely to be depressed and anxious and more likely to feel that there is less purpose in their lives. Their identity and purpose seemed to disappear when they lost their job.”

Factors Predicting Worse Mental Health 

Work Role Centrality – Evaluating one’s work role to be a more central aspect of identity

Social Undermining – Criticism and negative judgments by one’s spouse, family members, friends & colleagues

Financial Strain – Perceptions of not being able to meet one’s immediate financial obligations

Stress Appraisal – Seeing the unemployment experience as highly stressful and negative

Factors Predicting Better Mental Health

Positive Core Self-Evaluation – one’s sense of oneself as worthy or unworthy, competent, or incompetent, having failed, or having succeeded.

Time Structure – Having routines and projects to structure one’s time

Re-employment Expectancy – Having more positive expectations of finding re-employment.


As a result of “Social Distancing,” many of us have expanded our online networks and are attending Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts, etc video conference calls. Many of my own social networks friends and family members are individuals who are solo-preneurs and small business owners who are suffering from job and business loss.

We will not always know when our friends and families go from, I am okay, or I am fine, to a crisis situation. You often hear from friends and family say, I had no idea that they were in trouble before it’s too late. Below are some listening tips I borrowed from Allen Martin on LinkedIn

If we feel or see something, reach out to each other and probe more below the surface.

 While on your video calls listen for the subtle pauses:

– the change in energy and vibrations

– the little glances

– the body language shifts

– the silences

Listening For The Silence – Song by P.O.D.

I swear I can hear it so clear

Even though it’s loud inside my head

So I’m silent, silent

My fear is you don’t hear what I hear…



United States


Chris Ward
Chris Ward
Chris is a Global Citizen and brings empathy, passion, service, and vision for nearly 40-years of global IT leadership to the table. Chris recently un-retired in 2019 from Siemens/Atos and launched a new career as a Serial Entrepreneur. His latest ventures are; Founding Partner at Advantage10 which is a global business education company providing service to entrepreneurs and innovators. Advantage10 simplifies business by applying systems thinking to projects and showing how business can be a place of motivation and healing. Chris is co-owner of, makers of a superfood product. He serves as a Board Advisor on two India-based Digital companies. He divides his “un-tirement time between Jamaica and Canada. He Serves as Volunteer Digital Record Department for the National Baha'i Community of Jamaica And Cayman Islands. “The earth is but one country & mankind are its citizens”. - Bahá’u’lláh

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  1. This matched today’s Friendship Bench discussion on asking for help so well, Chris. Thanks for prompting me to read a bit more by posting your author URL in the LI discussion.

    On the opening question “what do you do?” it is said to be disliked by quite a few people coming to this country with the thoughts “is this some competition?”, “I am more than my profession”, “are you fishing for what I can do for you?”, not to mention the many who for whatever reason arrive here but are not (yet) certified to do what they were trained to do and thus already struggle with their self worth because they have had to do something less interesting/prestigious/well paid just to put bread on the table.
    So thank you for this story and for pointing out the issue.

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