Are You a Person of Substance?

Sadly, most of us don’t have anything to say, never take a stand, and don’t really know who we are. What’s your answer when asked “What’s new with you?” or “What are you into?” The problem with not being about anything is that it can lead to unknowingly trying to fill the void, and often filling it with unwanted habits. Or just being a boring, uninteresting person, all together.

Partied out- what now?
Photo Credit:

A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking about what interests me- my hobbies, what I care about, how I want to spend my time. We take for granted that we’re into a whole bunch of stuff, but when it comes time to list those things off, we find the list is shorter than we think. Now that I’m not really interested in spending all of my free time looking for a party, what the hell am I supposed to do? What do you do on a weekend, if you’re not going to the bar, a birthday party, or a happy hour?

Do you go shopping? Do you clean the house? Surf the internet? Play video games? Read blogs (allowed, if you’re reading this one)?

There’s got to be more, we just need to figure it out.

The Dreaded ‘About Me’

I know that I have a hard time answering when someone asks what I’m into, or what I’m passionate about. I mean- I’m a big sports fan and I like to workout, but even I find those to be incredibly lame answers to “What are you passionate about?”. I wondered if I was the only one with this problem, so I went Facebook stalking my friends About pages to see if they have a better idea of who they are.

Long story short, I’m not alone. Here’s what I found after looking at over 100 About pages:

  • Only 20 friends wrote anything at all in the About You section
    • Over 80%, based on my sample, have nothing to say about themselves
  • Of the 20, six put a quote in the space to summarize who they are, despite the dedicated space for Favorite Quotes
  • Two used a quote, plus a short personal statement (ie. “spontaneous” or “dog lover”)
  • Two wrote a brief, factual synopsis of themselves (where they grew up, went to college, live now, etc.). There are also dedicated spaces for all of that stuff.
  • Four were fairly revealing and at least alluded to, if not described things that interest them.
  • Two used the space for a funny one-liner
  • Two revealed things like “I love my family” or similar generic statements
  • One went all out!
  • And I, perhaps lamest of all, used the space for my blog URL (It’s a really good blog though, right?)

Note: Understanding that there are many reasons people do or do not include social media bios, I think they serve as a signal, if not absolute proof that many of us lack substantive things to say about ourselves.

What does it mean?

I can hear it now: “I’m about stuff, I just don’t have time to fill in my stupid Facebook profile.” That’s fair, except the only reason I conducted the Facebook experiment to begin with is that I’ve seen and lived the situation in real life.

My conclusion is that most of us just don’t have anything to say. I think that collectively, we don’t really know what we care about, what we like- What we’re really about. Makes it tough to write an About Me bio. And, as I said earlier, this seemingly obvious question, “What are you into?”, is harder to answer than you’d think.

The problem is that not being into anything can lead to a bunch of negative outcomes- complacency, boredom, addiction, and more, just to fill the void that you may not even realize you have. That’s not to mention, just being someone who isn’t interesting.

We don’t want that.

How do we figure it out?

If you can’t identify a few things that you’re really interested in, then it’s time to start experimenting. I don’t mean to sound self-helpy, but do you want to go the rest of your life with reality TV enthusiast as your most accurate identifier? Assuming the answer is ‘no’, then we need to find new stuff.

I don’t have the answers, but here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

1. What do I really care about?

Try to avoid the super-obvious answers, like “I love my family”. I love my family too, but it isn’t helping fill my Friday nights.

2. What do I like doing?

If you have trouble with this one, make a list of your strengths. Most people like doing things that they’re naturally inclined to be successful at, or as Eric Barker calls them, “Signature strengths“. If your friends always compliment you on something in particular, that’s a good place to start.

Signature strengths are the things you are uniquely good at and using them brings us joy. Exercising signature strengths is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

Think about the best possible version of yourself and move toward that.”

Eric Barker

3. What type of people do I want to know?

This one can help you answer number 1, if you’re having trouble. If you want to know outgoing professional-types, try volunteering on a political campaign. If you’d like to know more active people, try a running or biking club, join a triathlon team, or a bootcamp class. You get the point. is a really great place to search for groups.

When you do figure it out, be proud- You’re in select company

Congratulations, you’re about something…anything! You no longer have to state your name, rank (job), and serial number the next time someone asks ‘What do you do?’. Now, you’re someone who people actually want to talk to.

“What do you do?’ I am a director of operations. I am a regional manager. I am the senior vice president of who gives a shit.”   –Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists

I recently made a commitment to stop using the boring default response, “I’m so busy…blah, blah, blah.”, when I’m asked “How’s it going?” You get it, I get it, we’re all busy. But busy with what? When you have an answer to that, be proud and tell people about it. I know I will.

Ryan is the co-founder of  He works a lot and loves it, but is searching for more meaning outside of his career.  He authors the Starting Now blog and loves to connect on Twitter.



  1. I agree with your post to a certain extent. In other words thanks for the challenge you’re putting out there to motivate us to make our lives more interesting. On the other hand, the reason I’m reluctant to publish everything about myself on social media websites is entirely for privacy issues. I don’t like to have all of my information available in the public domain. I do have an online presence, but I like to limit it. In addition, I often like to keep at least some information to myself in order to have conversation starters and to be able to catch up with friends in person! I find it extremely awkward when someone tells me something about their life and I already know where it is going because I saw it on their page. I think that leaving things out of your about page does not necessarily have to equal “boring person.” Just some thoughts!

    1. Hi Juan, thanks for the comment. I’ll be honest, in that I may have overstated the importance of the online bio. I really just used it to illustrate a belief of mine that without dedicated thought, it isn’t a given that we all have interests. Since writing this post, I’ve given even more thought to my own interests and still have a tough time articulating them. A work in progress, I suppose.

  2. Hey just stumbled upon your blog today and glad I did. Following you now

  3. Loving your family, I think, shows that you do have substance. I guess I am referring to the Art of Living by the Greek stoic Epictetus, which I was reading recently. I don’t really get why having substance would help fill your social schedule, except that you might mean that you have something to share.

  4. Upon further thought, isn’t a person of substance someone who has values and lives accordingly? He or she is more “solid” then someone who goes along with anything and with whatever is trendy.
    I was just looking up what a person of substance means to other people (for something I’m writing) when I found your blog.

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