Who Am I?
The million-dollar question. Everyday I ask myself. Everyday everyone asks themselves. Employers expect an answer. The 30-second elevator pitch looms for every new introduction. It’s best to settle this once and for all.
Well… not 100%. The truth is, we never actually see ourselves. All we ever get is a reflection from a mirror or a photo taken by a camera.
The best way to describe myself is, on a journey to becoming who I want to be. Journey is putting it gently, struggle is the word really. Struggle to do anything.
Why bother with the struggle?
It’s hard to explain. There’s getting a job to pay the bills and then there’s doing what you really want to do. Very few people in the world get the opportunity to focus on the latter. I would wager that even more people have the opportunity to go after what they want but they play it safe. I don’t want to live a life of regret.
Do you ever wake up and feel like you could be doing more?
It’s a nagging feeling. Maybe I want to do too much. Most people want a job where they can work 40 hours then spend weekends with their friends, get off for holidays and have 3 weeks of PTO for a year. That’s the job I used to have. This has to be the case because it describes most jobs in America. For the record, there is nothing wrong with this.
But I end up asking myself,
What does doing “more with my life” mean and why do I want it so bad?
“More with my life” has become synonymous with, “What is it that I really want?”
To me, business is the art of creating something the world needs. It’s the art of problem solving.
Delivering products that people want gives me an intimate understanding of the world.
Knowledge from experience is the tricky part. What I’m really talking about is the problem of idea vs. execution.
Ideas and Planning Take Time
There is too much information floating around in the world. Perfect information doesn’t exist. If you were to acquire it, it would already be too late. The world is changing as we know it. Everything we knew yesterday is now irrelevant.
If you spend all your time planning but never pull the trigger, that’s the same as never making a plan in the first place. So much time and effort going down the drain.
However, if I execute with a poorly thought out plan, that is almost as disastrous. I could have avoided a lot of mistakes if I just did my research. So where should the line be drawn between idea and execution? What is the line between fantasy and reality?
The truth is no one knows. Managers make decisions every day with incomplete information. Experience might help somewhat with steering the ship, but even the it’s more a list of what not to do rather than a list of what you should do in a particular situation. The truth is,
Unless someone is right next to you when sh*t is going down, they have no idea what you’re going through.
So what is it that I want to do? I want to build something that matters.
Matters to me or matters to other people?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of determining value solely through numbers. When it comes to impact, a lot of times products are viewed through revenue, views, likes. All the measurable attributes. If X company is profitable then surely they must be doing something that matters, because a lot of people want their services. Big Tobacco makes millions of dollars every year but are they doing something that matters?
By creating something that a lot of people spend money or time on, I must have created something that matters, right? A lot of people spend money on services such as Netflix, Amazon and on-demand food delivery. They’re profitable so they provide a service that people want.
People want to be… lazy. That’s one thing I’ve noticed.
What else do people want? People want a way to socialize (Facebook, Instagram, other social media), listen to music (Spotify), have fun experiences (festivals, concerts, parties, etc.). It seems like we have it all, so what exactly is missing?
I ask myself this question a lot. And then a thought came to me:
How much do people really think?
Between all the time we spend online, reading publications, avoiding pop-up ads, how often do we contemplate the our place in the universe?
Not enough, I would suppose.
The internet has brought us closer than ever. You can reach anyone in the world with a friend request or a tweet. But what is the quality of these conversations?
We have how many dating apps now? How does scanning our profiles and using natural language processing come anywhere close to understanding who we are? Job Boards have an ATS which analyzes strings and looks for matching patterns. How does that come anywhere near expressing my qualifications for a job?
Technology has made things convenient, but “better” is up for discussion. What I’m trying to say is.
We need to bring the focus back to quality, not quantity for each interaction.
What metrics will we use to measure that? 🤷 Only a human being can tell.
I like to think about how I’m one of seven billion+ people on the planet. Among seven billion people, I am a dot in a large sea. Who are each of the seven billion people? I can’t even begin to imagine their lives the way I can picture the life of my best friend. I cannot even begin to comprehend the intricacies of that many experiences. People are born and people die. So many experiences fade away at any given moment.
The truth is, our brains can’t handle this level of thinking. Their still in hunter-gatherer mode, where all they care about is not getting eaten by a lion.
Quality interactions mean respecting people’s individuality
Nobody wants to feel lost in the sea, that their life is less important than someone else’s.
A lot of people talk about “smart” and what that means. Being smart is realizing that everyone has unique experiences, and being able to separate someone else’s experience from your’s.
A white man is going to have a different life experience from a Latinx woman.
Just accept that. Don’t invalidate other people’s experiences. Why aren’t they true, because you didn’t experience them yourself? It is time to understand our limitations in understanding the world around us. Just accept there’s a possibility you’re not right all the time, that’s how you learn.
Only by listening can I truly understand.
I want to be a student my whole life. I still don’t know what I want to make yet, exactly, but I know opportunity is always around the corner. In our busy world huge groups of people get overlooked everyday. I just know there is a great product, a great breakthrough out there. From now until forever, I’ll keep listening.
Even if I have an idea about what I want to do, many times I find myself wondering if any of it is worth it.
There is a lot of pressure to succeed. Failure, should you even decide to launch, is eminent. Like 99% going to happen.
Why do humans struggle so hard for something with a less than 1% pay-off? Am I a fool for considering this? I don’t want to keep taking orders from other people the rest of my life so this is what I get in return. The question circles back to:
Why bother doing anything?
I have sort of an anti-answer to that one. Thoughts like these make me immediately veg-out and start doing nothing. Doing nothing feels okay for a while, and then a thought hits me:
I don’t actually have to do anything with my life.
I really don’t. Nobody is telling me to do anything. As far as society is concerned, as long as I pay my taxes and don’t live off of government welfare my whole life I’ll probably get a check mark ✔️next to“not horrible person”. But is this good enough? To be honest this does bring me some relief, knowing that there isn’t that much external pressure on my back to be something.
I guess that thought is a relief. But then I realize,
All of the pressure I feel, is really just pressure I put on myself.
The pressure to do something and be someone is still there.
The question is always, “How come you’re not there yet?” I always feel like my life hasn’t “taken off” the way I want it to, and I’m not the person that I want to be. I think to a certain extent it is my fault: If I don’t take responsibility for things how are they supposed to get better? I always end up putting pressure on myself for not being motivated, not producing enough. Motivation is a “me” problem. I want to do everything I can to fix it.
The truth is, improvements happen incrementally, not all at once.
As I write this article another day has gone by. But if I stop revisiting this question every day of my life that is definitely something.
What if at the end of the day I find myself wondering, was this all worth it? Am I any happier than I was in the beginning?
No struggle, no story. This is the film that doesn’t make the final cut. Let’s hope it has a happy ending.
I realize that a lot of who I am is defined through the lens of work. Maybe since I’m currently looking for a job this is the most prevalent thing on my mind. I would wager that a lot of ambitious people feel the same way.
I do have other interests, like my passion projects aka unprofitable business ventures 😆. I do have a group of friends I cherish, when I take the time to see them.
I just re-read what I wrote and it sounds like I’m trying to justify doing a lot of work for potentially no pay-off. I’m also rationalizing with myself about whether or not I’m actually doing any work at all, when the work of 9 to 5'ers is more visible. If I’m not successful then did I do anything? Learning not to feel completely useless.
Regardless, I still like my life overall 🌈
If you made it through this whole article and you’re still here, thank you so much for reading! Hope this was worth your time.
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