Who are you?
“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries.
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.”
T. S. Eliot, The Rock (1934)
It’s easy with a blog to project too much of your anxiety, frustration, thinking and ego, without considering the impact on your audience. Alternatively, to think that the sine qua non is to push a (sales) message for all it’s worth.
Getting the balance right is incredibly hard.
I have always worked on the premise that to be truly inspiring, I have to be inspired.
Blogging has been a remarkable journey. In the early days it felt strange to write into the ether and then find, by magic, people responded. I do wish, though, that I had come to blogging earlier. I am certain that, had I done so, my writing would be more advanced, and it may have made up for some areas of my life that previously went unfulfilled.
I don’t regret my time as a lawyer (1992-2010), but it has taken me a long time – longer than I expected – to understand who I am.
Blogging, social media and having time to think has made me realise that my passion for law was outmanoeuvred by the business of law. I don’t think I ever fell out of love with law, I just think that the weight of fee earning expectation took away any love for the work. When I tell people that I went in to law to serve, they look askance: “Are you mad?” But having come out of a sales environment, I didn’t expect to be reminded every minute how much I needed to bill! How about service excellence or building a following of happy clients?
At some stage I intend to turn up the dial on promoting my work, but, right now, I am busily working on my craft and finding pleasure in being creative. I still recall as a young boy in South Africa working with an accomplished sculptor who taught me to make a tortoise out of clay. It was the first time I recall being fully self-expressed. This led on to me winning a significant art competition. But somehow I lost all that verve on the bandwagon that was to become my career. At one stage I toyed with CAD design but the industry was all wrong.
My belief is that everyone is an artist. Reading Seth Godin’s work has made me understand what that means (see Linchpin). It comes about when we are alive, breathing fire and facing down our demons. The problem is that too many of us expunge the real person for want of security, the accretion of wealth and playing to the gallery. Very few people have the guts to follow their calling.
Of course, the plight of the artist, as epitomised by Vincent Van Gogh, is prima facie a road of feast or famine. I can understand how this mythology is hard to confront. Who wants to give up the present for an even more uncertain future? But if you could wave a magic wand and change anything in your life would you? In other words if nothing stood in your way from being an artist, would you be willing to make the leap of faith? My suspicion is that too few people would be prepared to break today’s pattern of behaviour.
And that is where the advent of disruptive technology like digital media makes the leap so much easier. It doesn’t matter if you are an artisan baker, a maker of shoes or a provider of professional services, each platform gives you a way of connecting and building a tribe. You only have to look at the stupendous growth of You Tube and Facebook to realise that the smart entrepreneurs are no longer waiting to be discovered or to bug the hell out of people with unsolicited advertising, but have hacked their way to success.
My original inspiration for digital remains the Five Stratospheric Rules of Success taken from the wonderful book The Go-Giver (Burg and Mann). The Rules are a metaphor for the White Art of social media as opposed to contrived SEO, back-links and lots of slippery offers of success.
The idea of Brand You came to me without reference to any books or writings bearing that name. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how many people had already proceeded down this path. In reality, I could have left off Brand You and quoted the few lines from Rollo May’s extraordinary book Man’s Search for Himself (see p.165):
“To become what we truly are.”
I recognise that I have still have a long way to go before those words are crystallised into a form where others might gain practical insight but I feel more inspired than ever to reach out and connect, share my passion for renewal, learning and, hopefully, help others become fully self-expressed.
I hope it won’t sound too egotistical, but I feel that I am on mission. Not to convert but to shine a light on the lionising of wealth creation in and of itself, the modelling of hollow careers and the need to think much more carefully about life.
Brand You is not a wash and brush up exercise. Nor is it necessary to create a mask that you dare not slip. I have witnessed for too many years the employee who faked it so often that they morphed into a narcissistic, angry individual who felt betrayed by their lack of will power to change. Not pretty.
I appreciate that no one wants to be lectured to – God forbid – but I think my experience leads me to believe that we have to stay curious if we want to find our calling. I am a staunch advocate of the portfolio career, not necessarily from the perspective that everyone will have the inclination to retrain every 7-10 years, rather that we will want to experience other facets or our personality in work. In a way this is no different to the plethora of TV programmes that have sprung up like a broken pipe, taping into the innermost passion that we all have.
Stepping out of this alter ego is the biggest challenge that we face. Having worked across a number of industries for the best part of 30 years, I have only met a handful of people who were living the dream.
We are capable of so much more. First base is to accept that and make a pact to change one step at a time. No time is right for change – radical or otherwise – but you only come this way once. Do you really want to live with the possibility that your genius was killed off before it had a chance to run amok.
For me, there is no turning back. Even if I have to change my income model from time to time, I will not cede my personality, spirit and passion to the Resistance.
You may not be ready to leap but it’s about time you put all that talk into action.
Find your passion, and live it.