What If You Peaked?
Liberation From Over Self Identification.
“What if we already peaked?” I half-jokingly asked a friend several months ago. Said friend, an individual with an unbelievable resumé that includes some of the top brands in the world, chuckled and said, “I’ve wondered that too.” A pause. “I guess that’s liberating, huh? Nothing to try and BE.” I dryly mused. “I think so too,” they responded. They added, “It’s hard. But who’s really trying to have their legacy be ‘make a lot of money just to stay on top of email.’ Seems like a waste of time.” “Yeah. Ugh…”
I sat with this question after that conversation. A long time. I have found it liberating to sit with. It’s something I have been silently musing on for years.
Most of us believe we are special. We want validation for that specialness. In the world of recovery we call it, “terminal uniqueness.” The idea that MY experience is SO special and here’s why I AM so different than everyone else. What you learn in recovery however is… you’re just like everybody else.
We often don’t realize how our need for specialness becomes a through line for our behavior. If we have had a taste of fame or success in our career, we will spend time angling to recapture it and eclipse it. We have something to prove. If we have not tasted sustained success, we will strive to get it so that the world “finally sees” what we knew all along — we are special.
This phenomenon is easiest to spot in how it displays in others. That mirror then allows us to examine it in ourselves. I’ll give you an example. My career has been centered mostly in working around celebrities, tech big wigs and entertainment executives. Worlds rife with ego plays and special-ness. Even spirituality gets monetized and diluted in this world. Folks angle for awards to validate their specialness. From GRAMMYs to “40 under 40” lists to invites to key parties. Everybody wants to be special and remind you of that. It’s a proxy for “I’m being seen. Finally.”
In the case of fame, I have observed that it often waxes and wanes. One moment you may be in press and playing in front of thousands. Another second, you might be forgotten when you’re off cycle for touring or releasing records. One moment you might be on the “Top Executive in the World” list and the next year you’re forgotten because your company didn’t pay for an ad in that magazine (or whatever).
I have seen how people struggle during this period — the times when there is no specialness. I have struggled with this in my career. When I left Twitter for Nielsen, I was handsomely paid and had a great title. It was a step up experience wise, for sure. My platform and visibility had changed, however. Less sexy brand. Less sexy job. Some colleagues stayed close. Others, whom I thought were friends, ignored me now that I couldn’t get them verified. You learn who is a friend… and who is transactional. You sit with disappointment. It happens.
The thing is — when you over identify with your specialness, you are seeking external validation for an internal problem. When your self worth and your ego are tied up in what you do over who you are, you are destined for consistent unhappiness. What you do will change. What you do will go through long droughts and many failures. If your self worth is tied to what you do, you’re going to go through a suck fest emotionally.
Why am I saying this?
Partly because I am so tired of the world of influencer business dude ego-centric success books. I am tired of it. I am tired of their pyramid scheme marketing and promises that if you do “these 10 things in 3 months” your business will 10x and you’ll FINALLY find peace and happiness. Everyone will see you! Friend, you can read all the books in the world, drink all the Bulletproof coffee and subscribe to every success hustler’s newsletter and still be miserable.
Because success is great, but it’s not a solution to a spiritual problem.
I recently left a senior position at a well-known brand making… a lot… in order to try a different route. Am I partially insane? I mean, maybe? Do I regret leaving that job? Not for a second. Do I know what I’m doing? Yes and no. Do I justify my self worth on what people think of where I work and how much I make? No. Not anymore. What other people think of me is none of my business. (That is a mantra I repeat over and over.)
If I’ve peaked, then I’m free to do whatever I want and be whatever I want. I can take risks. I can try releasing music again. Maybe it goes well or maybe it doesn’t. I can try a wild career move and feel like a kid on the first day of school again. I can ask for help ruthlessly and without abandon, because I know I need it and have no pride about it. I can make mistakes and learn. I can watch others make mistakes and learn what I don’t want to do.
I can be me. Deep breath. And you know what? It’s hard, but it’s good.
If you are struggling because you are trying to BE something or recapture who you were or need people to SEE you… friend, go inside. See. Yourself. Listen, I’m sitting in front of a wall in my office with inspirational quotes and a Post-it note that says, “Mamba Mentality” on it. Trust me, I get the desire to go crush. I love to win. I am not saying, don’t work hard and be successful.
What I am saying however is that YOU…
You awesome person…
You are special whether or not anyone else ever sees you.
Believe in that.
Don’t wait for a success peddler to confirm your specialness in a book. Don’t wait for the fancy award. Don’t postpone your self worth. Believe it for yourself. You were created. Therefore you are worthy. You defeated the odds to break through the bounds of space and time to be right here, right now. That is fucking miraculous.
A big job. An award. A fancy title. A fancy car. Being in magazines. All that ish doesn’t make you special. Stop constantly posting the throwbacks. You don’t need to list every former job in your social bio. You don’t need to compare yourself to that “more successful” colleague who you think is secretly your rival. See yourself. Validate yourself.
Ask yourself — What if I peaked? Then sit with it.
What if I just get to exist in the world as who I am today. Can I be OK with that person? Who am I without the pressure to BE someone.
I promise you that liberation is on the other side of this. I am promise that happiness is too.
I know it first hand.