I think it was the 655 bus that took us from our halls of residence to the city centre, and that’s where I was headed.
In my first few weeks of university I’d joined a bunch of fellow students on a night out. The trouble was — this wasn’t my crowd. As I sat on the top deck of the bus listening to their banter and football songs, I thought: this isn’t me.
That was twenty years ago, but — in social and business situations — I’ve had many similar experiences since. Most of us have: stuck in jobs that are not us, experiencing workplace cultures that are at odds with who we are and what we stand for.
At last year’s Do Lectures — an experience which was very much me — I watched a talk by Edward Espe Brown who shared his experiences as a zen priest. He told us what he learned from 30,000 hours of sitting still is that he is ‘good at being me’; he explained he’s good at ‘heading towards Edward’.
His words resonated as I scribbled a question in my notebook:
‘Are you headed towards Ian?’
That simple question has become a valuable decision making tool to filter what I do and where I put my attention. Asking ‘does this take me towards me?’ helps me decide whether to pursue an opportunity or add a new string to my bow.
It can act as your own personal compass: stray too far away from north and the needle will swing wildly. Use it to navigate your choices: whether to take that job, to work with that client or embark on that collaboration.
Do stay open-minded about new opportunities, venture out of your networks to mix with new people, to try new ideas out. But make those choices consistent with who you are and where you’re headed.
…and don’t get on that bus if it doesn’t take you towards you.