Is your self-honesty brutal enough?
A publication I write for, Illumination, suggested that I write an article introducing myself. I struggled for days with what to say.
Should I make it a resume? Talk about the schools I’ve graduated from, the jobs I’ve held? Hit me on LinkedIn if you are interested in that stuff; I don’t see the need to write it twice.
Maybe I should talk about my life growing up, how my family is everything to me, or the cats I’ve had?
(A gratuitous photo of my cat is inserted later, so stick around and read.)
I could talk about the key experiences of my life and how they made me who I am.
I could share my inner hurts, the little traumas we all accumulate over the decades, forgotten by everyone else but me.
Instead, I decided on a brutally honest self-assessment of my motivations.
I want to be be important
Wanting to be important sounds arrogant. Saying it sounds like belittling all those ‘unimportant’ souls. Who am I to dare? Only narcissists want to be important.
The drive to be important has pushed me down the achievement route. I’ve gone to prestigious schools, I’ve had tittles and promotions. It turns out that getting a Ph.D., being a VP in my company, or making Colonel in the Air Force hasn’t made me important, at least not in the ways I envisioned.
Two things have help me with this need.
I like to be in charge
Leading people scratches the itch. I like being in charge, though it took me a while to figure out why. The trappings of status and power like a big office, a parking spot, and the ability to tell people what to do are nice, but aren’t what satisfies in the long term.
The satisfaction, the feeling of importance, comes from the fact that other people depend on me. My boss needs me to get things done, and my people need me to give them the guidance and tools necessary for their jobs. More important, sometimes my folks need need my help.
Note that I am not saying that I’m a fantastic leader. I’ve had some great successes, some miserable failures, and a lot of experiences in the middle.
I like to be heard
A close second to leading is having a voice. I like being the expert, the authority. Whatever job I’ve had, I’ve been the guy that would delve into the rule and regulations. Part of this is so that I can do what is right. Often, though, this also allows me to give advice that my leaders value because they know that I put the time and effort in.
I have always been drawn to teaching. Instruction lets me be the expert. The most satisfying moments that I have had so far is when a student says that I helped change their perspective. “I hadn’t looked at it that way,” is the highest compliment that I can get. I know I’ve been heard.
This is also why I’ve started writing on Medium. I’ve written a handful of things in the past, but now I have an outlet to spew ideas at the world. If a few of them stick, I’ve been successful.
I want to be entertained
I crave stimulation. I can’t stand to be bored. I hate tedium. I could do a repetitive job if I needed to feed my family, but I am thankful I’ve never had to. I like every day to be different.
I read articles on the internet constantly. When I’m in the mood, I consume novels voraciously. When I drive on car trips, I listen to the same novels on audio. If I’m running by myself, I may listen while I run.
My need to be entertained at will has driven me to level 3328 on Candy Crush without spending a dime on boosts. I can binge on TV. I can play Civilization on my iPad or on my computer for an entire weekend.
I’m actually fortunate that I have strong competing needs, otherwise I would fuse with the couch.
I want to live forever
I’m afraid of dying. I’ll do anything to avoid it. The evidence is that I won’t achieve physical immortality, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed. I scour the literature on aging, looking for hope.
Is a Dasatinib/Quercetin/Metformin cocktail in my future?
There are a few positives. I take nutritional supplements and vitamins every day. I also run or walk a lot to stay in shape. I work to keep my weight down and keep my mind active.
Working on fitness now should help me with chronic inflammation when I’m older. My mom is 93 and we have to make her use her walker. I’m convinced she is in good shape because she spent an active life. I’m only 50 years old, but when I am 70 it might be too late to start.
My wife, being smarter than I, once pointed out to me that we achieve immortality through our children. I always wanted a family and I cherish my family, but she had to be the one to tell me the why.
Putting it all together
Fortunately, these motivations can work together. I get in shape and achieve things. Teaching lets me feel important. Writing lets me be heard and achieve a measure of immortality. I can binge on Ozark with my wife and watch Nailed It! with both her and my daughter.
My takeaway is that we should be brutally honest about ourselves. If we aren’t honest with ourselves, we will not pursue the correct dreams.
This introduction is not all of me, but I hope I’ve given you enough to pique your interest.