The Portfolio Life

6 min readJan 26, 2024


by Christina Wallace

The Portfolio Life is an anti-hustle, pro-rest approach to work-life balance from Christina Wallace. I found it relatable to the wide ranging skillsets that I have accumulated in my career and it encourages us to focus on our areas of strength.

Some excerpts from the book:

The rise of the Portfolio Life may have been born out of necessity, a creative response to sustained fractures in the economic model previous generations could reasonably rely on. But the silver lining to this burgeoning movement is the freedom it offers. It unshackles our identity from our profession (or worse, one specific job). It erases the myth of a singular career path and shines a light on the many options we have at any given moment. It derisks our income through diversification. And it provides the flexibility to protect our priorities and respond to life as it happens. As frustrated as I am by the circumstances that got us here, I am infinitely grateful to have the freedom to build this life.

A Multidisciplinary Life

I choose to build a life at the center of all three worlds, searching for and inventing collaborations between my various interests. Some are paid, while others are personal projects; some are professionally executed, and others are new skills I’m developing or hobbies that I’m happy to be a part of at an amateur level. Yet all of them reflect my sense of self.

As I suspected, I am not the only person with diverse personal and professional interests, and many people felt relief at finally having a way to express all of the different sides of themselves rather than feeling constrained to a simplistic, one-dimensional identity. Or, as author and futurist Amy Webb put it on Twitter, it’s a way to see the focus that multidisciplinary people bring to their careers.

We all have a collection of interests, skills, and relationships that are greater than the job title currently on our LinkedIn. But some of us have been advised to shrink them or hide them away for fear of not looking “serious” about our careers. I would argue that advice is out of date. Instead, embracing the full multidimensionality of your human Venn diagram will give you two incredible things: First, it will ensure you feel like yourself, in all of your weirdly-shaped-puzzle-piece glory. And second, it will equip you with a diverse network and skill set to lean on when your worlds intersect or when you may need to zig or zag between them to stay on your feet. There’s no contradiction in being a complex, multidimensional human. When it comes to your identity, think “and” not “or.”

In truth, there are many paths we can take at any given time, and even if some close off, new paths emerge at just about every juncture. Some may feel like they are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but more often than not you’ll find there are many on-ramps to creating the life you want to live.

A Fresh Perspective

A fresh perspective can come from entering a new discipline as much as it can come from youth. It’s less about age and more about seeing the world through a different lens and connecting the dots that no one else sees. “Associating, or the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields, is central to the innovator’s DNA,” they wrote in a 2009 article in Harvard Business Review. One entrepreneur they spoke with, Frans Johansson, called this the “Medici effect, pointing to the creative explosion that fuelled the Renaissance when the Medici family convened artists, poets, philosophers, architects, scientists, and more to connect and collaborate in fifteenth-century Florence.

“The more diverse our experience and knowledge,” the professors wrote, “the more connections the brain can make. Fresh inputs trigger new associations; for some, these lead to novel ideas. ‘Creativity is connecting things” Thus, The Portfolio Life highlights the plethora of paths you can pursue, but is also a boon to society, fuelling creativity and innovation by granting Portfolio Lifers a fresh perspective on the status quo.

A host of experiences

While I’m extolling the benefits of flexibility on an individual level, this is my chance to make a direct plea to employers and hiring managers who may be reading this book: It is far past time for you to embrace a broader definition of experience and hire based on capabilities more than credentials. Look past the gap in the résumé or what seems to be a series of unrelated roles without real momentum behind them, and evaluate lived experiences alongside paid ones.

Anyone with the Portfolio Life, Life will bring with them a host of skills, expertise, and judgment that cannot be captured by an automated hiring system, and it is incumbent upon you to uncover and assess those talents and experiences.

Leaning into your strengths

There’s some solid neuroscience research to back up the coach’s advice to lean into your lopsidedness. During infancy, the brain experiences an explosion of synapse formation between neurons. This intense period of brain development plays a key role in learning, memory formation, and adaptation early on. Around two to three years old, your synapses hit a peak level. But shortly after this growth spurt, the brain starts to remove synapses it no longer needs.

The process follows the “use it or lose it” principle: Active synapses are strengthened, while inactive ones are pruned. Early synaptic pruning is mostly influenced by our genes. Later on, it’s based on our experiences. Recent research indicates this process goes on much longer than initially thought until your mid-twenties rather than finishing in your teenage years.

But after this intense period of pruning, your unique network of synaptic connections does not significantly change. This means a person’s recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors generally do not shift without a notable life disruption. If you are detail-oriented, you will stay detail-oriented. If you are competitive, you will continue to be competitive. If you are a curious tinkerer, you will remain a curious tinkerer.

Rather than spend four or five decades of your career trying to improve upon the things you are not, neuroscience tells us that we will learn the most, grow the most, and improve the most in the areas of our brain where we already have the strongest synaptic connections — that is, we should identify where our talents lie and then seek out skills, knowledge, and experiences that build on those talents to do consistently excellent work.

High achievers tend to spot their weaknesses more easily than they do their strengths.’ Sometimes their strengths go unnoticed because they are things that seem easy to them, like Lanette and public speak-ing. However, most high-achieving folks rarely miss spotting their weaknesses because they generally put them in the category of things they should change. Here’s the thing: By all means, be open to general self improvement, but your long-term growth will be the most dramatic. when you invest in your strengths and build on existing synaptic connections.

I like to describe the result of this work as discovering and embracing your weirdly shaped puzzle piece. Once you have identified and revealed the contours of where you excel and what you have to offer, you will figure out really quickly if your puzzle piece is what someone else is looking for. Rather than trying to reshape yourself to fit in more places, embrace your jagged edges and ruthlessly select opportunities where you’ll thrive.* As Lanette’s coach put it, be memorably well-lopsided, not forgettably well-rounded.




A space to share my journey as a multidisciplinary designer.