Identity and Career

Rare is the man or woman who can walk with graceful indifference to their career. I once had a music teacher advise me to learn all the theory I could, and then forget it.

Be the best you can be in your craft and then let it go. Really.

Identity and career are two parts of life that should never meet. If they do, it can be lethal, and very difficult to separate. A career can take over and leave true identity on life support. I speak from experience. It takes a long time to regain, or replace, what you lose.

I’ve found these dangers in the mixing of identity and career:

  • Quiet resignation. This occurs when we get older or have been at something for a while. The lie we tell ourselves is “we’re in too deep, and it could be worse.”
  • The high. It feels good in the moment, so we desire the thrill. We enjoy being seduced by flattery and accomplishment. Nothing quite like being the one to watch.
  • The ghost of our father. This one is so subtle. We watched a man, or a woman, toss away life for not much in the end. That script then becomes our own.
  • The payback. Somewhere we got wounded and the chip appeared. This is the closet sociopath coming out to wreck the place.
  • The false obligation. We pull out all the noble reasons for staying. “I have a mortgage, I have my kid’s college education.” It’s as if we think we’ll be excused for our fear in the end.

The choice is mine, the choice is yours. We have to remember that career is a great dance when the identity is kept separate. The challenge is found in living in a culture that values the opposite.

The Intact Soul

The intact soul is what most everyone says they want. For definition purposes, the soul I am referring to is best described as your essence/core person. When my dad passed away 9 years ago, it was his essence/core person I missed. It was him. I think you can feel me now.

The intact soul is under assault. The assault comes from multiple angles:

  • The employer who tells you, in varied ways, to check your soul at the door for the purposes of conforming and duplication
  • The church who tells you, God, is watching and out to get you
  • The educators who stifle your creativity
  • The body politic who corrupts and thinks you don’t know what’s going on
  • The culture that passes the fake for the authentic

To have an intact soul, you must be vigilant and protective. The vigilant part is made up of long-term thinking. Having a long-term view is the equivalent of understanding that we grow up over time-a lifetime. Like all development, it doesn’t happen immediately, it isn’t like a search on Google. It is a mosaic full of pain, joy, frustration, and satisfaction. The idea of protection is rooted around not letting those examples above to have sway in your life. I’ve had multiple times in my life where I had to tell an employer, loved one, or social media channel that enough was enough. It requires courage, maybe more than you think you have. In the end, your soul demands you stand up and fight.

Here are some strategies I’ve exercised to have an intact soul:

Practice contentment-my life has been a story of times of plenty and times of want. Like anyone else, I prefer plenty over want. The lessons of ebb and flow are powerful. I now appreciate all things because all things contribute to my intact soul. It wasn’t always this way. I can remember my corporate America days as a time of grasping for control and being motivated by fear. I naively thought I could control the stock option grants and the business cycle. I naively thought I would lose everything if I lost my grand role. Both control and fear appear to deceive.

Be fearless-this one is big, considering what I’ve written and the reality of fear in our time. Take any traumatic event and you’ll see what fear can do. I’ve advised clients and those close to me to identify their greatest fears and begin working on becoming fearless. Becoming fearless is the process of looking “that thing” in the eye, over and over. Just keep at it, and eventually you’ll see “that thing” for what it really is. By the way, no one is perfect here. Practice and attention strengthen our ability to stand up and fight. The funny thing about fighting is not the winning or losing, it’s about letting your fear know you won’t fold.

Pursue success in life-I don’t need to list all the ways we’re messaged to be successful. There’s the messaging around career success, the messaging around relationship success, the messaging around material (the stuff) success, and the list goes on. Ironically, there is some messaging around success in life, but it is often much softer in decibel than the others. The great tragedy is; we will need success in life when we realize we’re not invincible. If we don’t get this one right, regret and disappointment await.

If you’ve stayed with me long enough, you might think what I’m proposing is daunting. It’s not daunting, but it is hard work. When I look back over my life, I can feel the minor and major notes. The beauty is both led me to an intact soul.

Reach out to me to learn more about how I can help further.

 

 

What Are You Counting On?

What are you counting on? A simple and straightforward question. It reveals more about you and I than meets the mind.

The things we’re counting on reveal our identity.

Maybe you’re counting on someone to make you happy. Maybe your counting on that quarterly bonus. Regardless, these things shape our identity¬†without notice. A subtle defining that happens slowly over time. Identity should be formed by the immovable or at a minimum something we’re willing to stake the risk on.

Here’s a brief list of what I’m counting on:

  1. God’s understanding
  2. My wife’s commitment
  3. My children’s love
  4. Friendship of a few
  5. Solitude

As you can see from my list, there are some things that could fail me. I don’t mind because I’m willing to take the risk. And oh, the heart-break that could ensue just the same. This is living.

Don’t count on what is fleeting and temporal. Marketing often bugs us to the contrary, but that’s just selling something we really don’t need.

Untangling the Identity

Considering my post from yesterday, I thought it appropriate to put this one out again.

 

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Identity is one of the best barometers of who a person really is. It defines us even if we deny or look the other way. When the world in which we live starts defining us, the tangles begin.

Key in my story is the untangling of my identity.

Much of the tangles in my identity came from performance and a craving for affirmation. I’ll spare you and this page of all of what and where it came from. I want to use this time to talk about untangling identity and its next door neighbor, the real you/me.

In many ways we, grow tangles. They’re very much like weeds. The seed germinates, the stalk appears and the leaves sprout. Instead of wrapping around a big tree, it goes to our heart. It seduces and flatters. Before you know it you have a problem.

What if the world you run in celebrates the tangles?

It’s such a subtle play. The most dangerous situations are often this way. The decisions seem right, no one questions (or you stay away from anyone who would question) and you find yourself a co-conspirator in your own demise. You’re successful by some measures. You don’t disrupt much of anything. You are a model for many.

I began getting untangled when I was crushed underneath many of my decisions from years ago. Decisions I made with no one holding a gun to my head. Just me and my stuff. When the untangling began, I felt horrible and ashamed. However, over time I could see glimpses of what an untangled life could be. In many ways, something needed to be pruned in and out of me. It was a process of throwing stuff into the fire, engaging in serious self-discipline, recognizing the difference between what I can control versus what I can’t, and allowing God to have full access to my heart. Thankfully, I never lost my soul in the process.

The following ideas are key:

  • I have to be me in all areas of life, not versions of myself in different arenas
  • Don’t be so hard on myself
  • Recognize that it’s not ok for me to get my breakthroughs, and watch others struggle. Offer help
  • Think about legacy every day
  • Stay away from anyone or anything that desires to own me

Today my identity is pretty clean. Many years have gone into the process. Certainly, there will always be a need to be on guard and always recognize, and do something about, my areas of weakness. It is an ongoing battleIt’s a little difficult sometimes for me to see how beauty can come out of my past tangles. Fortunately, I don’t need to see in full right now. Think of the Polaroid snapshot here, it develops over time.

Forced to Be Authentic

What if we awoke to a world where you had no choice but to be authentic?  A flood causing  your authenticity, or the lack thereof, to be easily detected by those coming in contact with you.  This would have scared me to death 10 years ago.  Thankfully, not the case now.

I'm struck by how much time can be spent getting back our identity from a world that seems bent on taking and counterfeiting it.  Even more tragic are those who never get it back or care to attempt the feat. It's as if there's a daunting figure who scares you into giving up dreaming, giving up taking a chance, giving up the willingness to be laughed at.  And then you're convinced to take the position pill of safety and conformity.

The following concert clip is from Peter Gabriel.  I don't know if he ever confirmed it, but I've read that the song is about a major shift in our ability to see the authenticity in other people.  And instead of me trying to explain in a half way, take a peak at the clip or read the lyrics below the video:

 

When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings
Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There's no point in direction we cannot
even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters
On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters
The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You're a thousand minds, within a flash
Don't be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there's only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they'll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

There is no doubt, the only way you're going to have a life worth remembering is getting to (or back to) a place of being "real."  For whatever hell you encounter in doing it, worth the effort is an apt response to that crossroads.  My prayer and energy goes out to you.