Will this really work out?
What if you end up spending another year of your life living out the same year you’ve lived out 10 times already? Is there any expansion in that?
Does it really matter? Does God or the Universe even care that you feel stuck?
Is there a reason you’re repeating? Is your programming so deeply rooted that you don’t know how to function outside of your usual mode of operation? Do you need to be more vigilant with affirmations, meditation, reading, and reprogramming your subconscious? Or is there something you’re unwilling to give up?
Wait – if you are repeating the same year over and over, doesn’t it point to your identity? In a roundabout kind of way, aren’t you doing exactly what you were meant to be doing?
Why make a big deal about it? Should there be any significance around it?
Another year is going to pass anyway. So, wouldn’t it make sense to spend that time in community, learning from others, and sharing all your challenges with them? Maybe they can see something you can’t.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes, there are things you can’t see for yourself that are clear to others.
Maybe you’ve been making all the progress you’re supposed to be making already. Maybe things really do take time. And maybe you don’t have the perspective needed to see how you’ve been growing in the last 10 years.
It’s normal to become frustrated with the process. Things don’t always go how you plan them.
But the tipping point may not be that far away. Maybe you’ve been inching closer to it with each passing day, even though you can’t see it right now.
What if the critics were wrong? What if the devil’s advocates were also wrong? What if even the so-called “prophets” were wrong? What if you were about to achieve your dream and you didn’t even know it?
If you’re trying to find success away from your identity, stop.
So many of us are trying to do things we were never set up to do in the first place, because we think it’s what people want. We think it’s where we’re going to find success.
But what it amounts to is forcing a square peg in a round hole.
You can’t play peek a boo with yourself and expect to be rewarded for it. Breakthrough only happens where self-expression and activity are fully aligned. Your identity holds the keys to your breakthrough.
If you’re an aspiring guitarist who doesn’t like social media, then social media is not the path to the outcomes you desire.
Look at what you’re already doing. What do you enjoy? Where do you like to spend your time?
If you like video games, guess what? There’s a niche for video game style music. You could market yourself as a video game guitarist and play Comic-Cons all over the world. You wouldn’t need to build a fan base because the fan base is already there. Strategy? Your only strategy would be to love the living hell out of what you do and to be a good hang.
Where self-expression and activity aren’t fully aligned, there’s always forcing, and in a game of chicken, the Universe always wins.
How will you know when self-expression and identity are fully aligned? When you’re excited and scared at the same time. Anything less is not an endeavor worthy of your attention. Anything less is at a lower vibration compared to the person you’ve expanded to become. You’ve got to go a step beyond. If it isn’t expansion, it’s a cop-out, an imposter masquerading as opportunity, a counterfeit.
Don’t try to cater to the masses. Instead, go inside and discover what’s there. Notice what you love doing and match up your activity with that.
We’ve been trying to do the same things with greater intensity and rigidity this past year, and it’s still not working. It’s exactly what’s been happening politically. This year let’s follow a different path. Let’s do new things in a new way.
My friend echoed and cemented the thoughts that had already been swirling around in my mind.
One of the things I’ve been starting to see in my yearlong leadership program is to not get your identity wrapped up in your work.
Experts often say, “don’t fall in love with an idea.” But this is what they really mean:
When your identity is tied into your projects or ventures, you have a tougher time giving it up when it’s not working. Loss aversion sets in, and you start to believe that you have more to lose giving something up than you can possibly gain from it.
That’s a dangerous way of thinking. Because deadweight is deadweight, and like a boat anchor, it can only weigh you down. Letting go of troublesome clients, purging business units that are only taking up time, and giving up “means to an end” projects is word to the wise. What you free up in terms of mental and emotional space alone makes the temporary loss of revenue far less of a concern.
When is the right time to move onto the next thing? Not even author Seth Godin can say, though he addresses the issue from multiple angles in The Dip.
But some part of you already knows. It gnaws at you and keeps gnawing at you. It’s almost as if the universe is granting you an opening to say, “here’s your opportunity to get out – take it.”
If you get your identity wrapped up in your work, you’ll find yourself in love with an idea who doesn’t love you back.
The idea you had is somewhere back there, in the past. Meanwhile, you’re right here, in the present. In a difference space and time than when and where the idea was originally created. You were a different person then. And that gap can be too huge to overcome. Repairing a foundation is difficult and expensive. It’s always best to build on a solid foundation, even if it takes longer.
We need to be able to give something up when it’s not working.
“Ready, fire, aim” might seem like wisdom for the ages in a fast-moving world. There’s something to be said for first mover’s advantage, but is there any long-term benefit to it? Only if others don’t come along and do what we’re doing better than we can. And that always happens in hot markets.
Move with speed when you know what you’re doing. Move slowly when there are too many unknowns left unaddressed. And accept that there will always be blind spots, no matter how well you cover for them. We can’t know everything. But we can start with a foundation that facilitates success.
I recently got to interview The Police’s former manager, Miles Copeland, and that conversation is going to stick with me for a long time to come.
One of my biggest takeaways from that interview is simply this:
Trying to get people to listen to your music is an uphill battle. First, you’ve got to grab their attention!
Think of Lady Gaga and all her early day antics.
Her talent isn’t in question. Lady Gaga is classically trained. She’s a great pianist and singer. She probably has other talents I don’t even know about.
The point is that by treating every occasion like Halloween, she got our attention. We’re all drawn to the bizarre, even if some of us don’t stick around to watch the whole train wreck.
And I’m not saying Gaga is a train wreck. I’m saying that only a portion of the people who come to check out the freakshow are going to stick around. Not everyone will be your fan. But some will, and those people will become your advocates long-term.
So, we need to be thinking about what we can do to grab people’s attention.
Slipknot has the masks, Marilyn Manson has a knack for the grotesque, KISS has the makeup…
And while these are more extreme examples than anything, what they have in common is that they’re successful by practically anyone’s standards. They got our attention, then delivered music that matched their esthetic.
You don’t necessarily need to go to the same lengths to get noticed. But chances are you will need to do something. Because you need to get feet in the door. Once you’ve gotten people to listen to your music, the battle is as good as won. Getting to that point is the hard part.
So, go back to your identity. Your brand. What are you about? Why do you do what you do? And within that context, how can you grab people’s attention? What would it look like to be the extreme version of yourself?
What were you meant to do? What is your purpose or mission? What is your identity?
These are much harder questions to answer when you don’t feel as though anything you’ve done to this point has met your expectations.
Success is yours to define, to be sure. But even then, it’s going to come down to whether you feel you’ve measured up to the vision you’ve created for yourself.
You can keep moving the goalpost, but all that does is reinforce your adult-sized dream – full of constraints and limitations.
It is healthy to accept that you might not become an NBA star when you’re 5’9’’, 40 lbs. overweight and 39 years old? Absolutely.
But should you admit defeat in the face of what you already know to be possible? What if a bit of elbow grease and persistence could bring your goal within reach?
Wouldn’t moving the goalpost, then, be a soft admission of defeat?
We’re always trying to balance everything out – impact, fulfillment, gratification, finances, material things, and more.
But I wonder whether we do this because it’s authentic to who we are, or because we think we’ll appear nobler, more honorable creatures for having something other than our own advancement in mind.
Is it possible we spend far too much time caring about how we’re going to come across to others?
If you want money and material things, wouldn’t it be best to admit this to yourself?
It’s not as though you’re not going to realize how ultimately empty that pursuit is. But you can’t shortchange that experience because it could be a valuable one. It might ultimately lead to your spiritual ascension.
We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness. But to know what that even means, we might first need to experience wealth.
This goes for everything else, be it relationships, travel, entertainment, or otherwise. Because on some level nothing will ever satisfy. And that’s fine.
The point is, can you admit to yourself what you are truly about? Are you willing to be vigilant about establishing clarity of purpose?
Further, why do we feel balance is so important? Nobody would call Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Oprah Winfrey “balanced.” They’ve achieved what they’ve achieved because they were out of balance.
Maybe trying to balance everything out is the wrong approach. Maybe it makes you a Jack or Jill of all trades and master of none.
We can’t have all the answers, no matter how long we’ve been chasing a version of reality we want for ourselves. We can’t take for granted that we know our mission or purpose. If anything, it’s only becoming incrementally clearer by the day. And that’s if we’re even paying attention to it in the first place.
It’s easy to arrive at a sense of purpose about yourself. But a successful business always adds values to others. It’s easy to create a mission for your community. But you will not have a community if others aren’t involved.
Reducing everything down to a mission statement and reciting it daily is not enough. In time, it will become little more than a mantra.
Perhaps we can gain a greater sense of clarity around these questions if we were to meet our immediate needs. Because if we had more flexibility and freedom, we’d have time and energy to contemplate the impact and difference we want to make in the world.
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