From Guru to Just-Some-Guy
Everyone wants to be happy, and for me this was no exception. Despite being successful, I realized I wasn’t truly happy. It took me a while, but I realized my ego was my biggest enemy.
I’m special… Or so I was told. Based on answers I put on paper when I was young, I was given the label of “gifted.” That, along with my passion for technology and learning, meant I quickly became more knowledgeable than my peers when it came to computers.
I’ll spare a long story and summarize that in my youth I mistook knowing more to being better than. I had what many would consider a god complex, although I was still a generous person (I racked up hundreds of hours of community service, and would try to help anyone who asked).
As a teen, I saw my potential to be that of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I quickly sought out a mentor and started living by the mantra “Work hard, and fake-it-till-you-make-it.” Thanks to an insane amount of luck, and some hard work, I managed to have a financially successful youth. This only served to fuel my ego.
As I graduated high school, and transitioned into college, I realized that the amount of friends that I kept after the transition could be counted on 2 fingers. Thankfully, I had just enough humility to ask ‘What if it was my fault?’ It wasn’t an easy audit, but I realized that my desire to one-up people, fabricate details to make stories more exciting, and general egotism was affecting my personal relationships. Before my first day at college, I vowed to get my ego in check.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I find myself a speaker at the Tools of Change for Publishing conference in Frankfurt. I’m not sure of the exact wording I used, but I was touting myself as a metadata guru. I had knowledge, and experience, and put together a good presentation, but something didn’t feel right. I felt like I was still faking it, and not yet making it.
I’m happy to say that 15 years after making a pledge to deflate my ego, I’ve managed to make great progress — although I still have work to do. There is a strange thing that happens when you let go of your ego — you are given a chance to redefine who you are. As someone who enjoys helping and educating, I figured it would be a natural fit to become a ‘Guru’. A few years back, being a Guru was a selling point in the startup world. For those unfamiliar, a Guru is a spiritual leader. The business and tech world adapted it as a word meaning more than just an expert — you knew something religiously.
In attempts to truly become a Guru, I took on a bunch of speaking arrangements, webinars, and even started Zen Of Technology. While the main goal was always to teach and create quality educational content, there was always my secondary personal goal of achieving the actual status of Guru.
The jury is out if I ever actually achieved the status of Guru. I cannot find any press articles that specifically call my a Guru — but I’m not sure it matters — because I’m not, I’m just some guy. And I’m happier because of that.
A few years ago, having achieved good progress with my initial quest to quell my ego, I embarked on a second, more difficult, quest.
I couldn’t enjoy a competitive game unless I was winning — until I let go of my ego and learned to love the act of playing the game. I couldn’t enjoy a hobby unless it gave me status or something to brag about — until I let go of my ego and allowed myself to simply have fun.
While I must admit that my ego and ‘fake-it-until-you-make-it’ attitude has gotten me to where I am, it may have held me back just as much as it has helped me. A little over a year ago I walked away from my Zen of Technology project and decided to be ‘just some guy.’ I updated my LinkedIn to be as humble as possible. I updated profiles on social media. I actively did my best to downplay things I’ve done, promote others, and accept that I don’t have every answer. It has been amazingly liberating, and I’ve never been happier.
I’ve learned that there is nothing negative about being ‘just some guy.’ In fact, I shy away from negativity altogether. What I mean by being ‘just some guy’ is that I recognize that I don’t operate in a bubble — and that everything I accomplish happens because there are tons of people who have supported me and continue to support me. That luck plays a huge factor, and hard work is often the second factor. And ultimately that everything you’ve done is in the past, and the only thing that matters is what you will do in the future. No amount of prior success or good deeds will make me a good person in the future — only future good deeds will allow me to continue to be a good and happy person.
While my journey is far from over, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve also learned to enjoy the little things in life. I can enjoy a short vacation, I can leave my work at work, and I can enjoy family time for what it is. I’m also much more calm. My ambient stress levels are very low. I also enjoy social gatherings much more. Instead of worrying about impressing everyone in the room, I can simply enjoy — I listen more, talk less, and laugh a whole lot. I’m not sure I would have lived my life differently if I had a second chance, but this latest journey is a great one, for which I’m enjoying the stroll as much as I’ll enjoy the destination.