Previously, I introduced myself by trying to be impactful. I shoved my engineering, legal, and finance background, my history at building various businesses, and some other useless details down the throat of my listener.
This was pompous.
My rationale: to portray that I was a smart guy people could trust. However, after hearing all that, the listener pretty much either:
(1) had the impression that I was still figuring out what I wanted to do;
(2) did not think I could allocate time to solve their problems; or
(3) felt threatened by all the things that I was trying to achieve, and then probably thought that I was just another “know-it-all.”
Today, I can’t say I disagree with them.
More, I think that instead of being clear in my introductory spiel, I was trying to will my words into encouragement to myself. I was trying to pander to the current state of social survival I thought was expected of a winner. In reality, life was hard. Work was constant. Battles were often.
And I was wrong.
I often wished I could say, “I’m a lawyer.”
Simple. Focused. Understandable.
But I knew that this was not me.
It took me a long time to figure out who I was, why I was involved in the work I was doing, where I wanted to go, and what I needed to do to get there.
I realized the following:
(a) First, I was focused on building an appearance of success to get people in the door. This approach is not unusual for small businesses or salespeople.
(b) Second, I had an appetite for risk-taking.
(c) Third, I was a stubborn guy. I always had a certain rebel spirit. I think this attitude is forged from my track and field days when I was fueled to prove others wrong. On the flip side, this also gets me stuck in the same mindset or pursuing the same thing for much longer than I should.
(d) Lastly, failures did not bother me and investing or starting something new was a regular part of my life. I was not looking for large exits, but rather a means of sustaining myself and my family.
At the same time, I was focused on identifying patterns of success! I was trying to gain experience in strategy and build up my ability to sniff out opportunities while being in tune with the current state of affairs.
But the more I tried, the more it appeared like manipulation.
I felt like I was trying to become a “superhero” of sorts at some future point in time by burning the present, and some relationships, to get there. I was after short term wins and didn’t understand the concept of patience.
I believe that everyone takes a different road to get to the calm confidence and happiness that comes with knowing who they are.
This was my road.
My journey was necessary to gain the skills and demeanor needed to generate “wealth” my way, one that was in sync with my personality. However, that road was so, so long. It’s a wonder that I didn’t quit whatever I was doing to just fit in.
I also judged myself and felt somewhat guilty for tasting everything I could, as quickly as I could (i.e., trying a lot of things and not settling on one thing).
During that process of self-discovery, my body, soul, and forward-path were all out of synchronization. It was like looking for a radio channel but only getting white noise.
Eventually, after a very long range of static, I found my channel.
I realized that I cared heavily about the opinion of others about me, and how I was judged by them. This gave others control over my life. I judged myself for not doing this or that. I was impatient and didn’t understand how much time I had available to me.
And I shouldn’t have. When all that went away, it was a weird feeling of empowerment. I never felt so much energy, I was excited and focused.
I discovered details about me which previously were blurry:
(1) I can motivate and convince people, but I did not need to use boasting language to do it. It is not about me, but about genuinely about helping others without letting others opinion affect my path;
(2) I love talking to people and challenging them to see different perspectives;
(3) I can sacrifice enormously in the pursuit of a goal and have no problem giving everything to get there. I am relentless, and a serious competitor;
(4) I am good at structuring business models and leveraging my skills to lead their commercialization (in most industries, no matter how technical or complex they are). I can untangle an unfamiliar subject into something that makes sense in my mind, and hold a conversation about it;
(5) I am very aware of my surroundings, physically, spatially, and mentally — I can see things that most are not able to. I can put together pieces of information from a puzzle to get a macro and micro picture. I can perform quick trials in my head to test out scenarios and conditions that I can use in negotiations and communication;
(6) I love when people around me are happy and feel special, and I love focusing on generating these experiences for others. Creating wealth in that way is intoxicatingly rewarding.
(7) I am an investor at heart. I invest time, money, energy, and my expertise in coaching people to become what they can be, build or cultivate unique businesses that solve real problems. I do this by being people-focused, honestly caring about them, and being acutely aware of being practical.
So, back to the real question:
What does James do today? How do I explain who I am?
I am a guy that believes that finding and expressing truth leads to being people-first. I share that philosophy with people I come in contact with. People-first leads to world-class interactions, and results.
This, in turn, leads to a first-class business, which is not necessarily a big business, but a sustainable, innovative one with a happy environment.
Today, I run my family’s investment company founded on those principles. I believe we are experiencing a people’s renaissance as they congregate around their interests in digital channels. Solving the problems they express in these channels drives the business models and products we create.
I wrote this article in the spirit of showing my truth for whoever is listening. Perhaps you are going through a similar journey, and my path might give you the comfort to keep going. I think this to be the most important matter in life: the discovery of who you are, what you are good at and love doing.
This is your time, our renaissance.
Revised Version 1 June 2019. First posted in X-Team Academy.