2010 promises to be an incredible year. I am now officially employed by my own company. I can come and go as I please — as long as the work gets done… that’s an awesome situation to be in, however it is simultaneously terrifying.
The buck stops with me. There is no leave, no ‘office hours’, no room for failure. The project can’t get shut down by ‘higher-ups’ and there are no bosses to blame, no archaic “that’s-the-way-we’ve always-done-it”s to get in the way. If something isn’t 100% perfect it’s my problem and my job to fix it. The important business decisions are made by myself and the other directors. There’s a certain arrogance that is required to walk into a situation like this and even though I’m generally quite arrogant (ask my friends), I am truly humbled by it.
All these changes naturally found me updating my About Me page and I was reminded of something that I was asked by my Zen Master (yes, I had a Zen Master) a few years ago. “Who are you?”. I went through the process of listing off a bunch of traits and characteristics, eventually resorted to rattling off qualifications… The whole while he sat quietly, saying nothing. When I eventually stopped talking he again asked “Who are you?”.
“Jonathan Endersby” I replied, hoping that perhaps he had forgotten my name. “Correct!” he said happily.
At the time I didn’t get it… but over the years it has become a profoundly clear truth. Traits and characteristics are just our (very human) way of trying to identify the similarities between ourselves and other people. We do this purely for the benefit of others… We reduce ourselves to labels so that they can make assumptions about us. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a medical doctor it’s far easier to say “I am a doctor” than to say “I am Gregory House”… especially if someone is bleeding to death and needs help.
The important thing is to make sure that you never let those characteristics define who you are… In other words: You are You… Characteristics are just words that describe you… You must never confuse the two… If you think that the word “entrepreneurial” is a good way to describe yourself, that’s great… but be careful never to let the label have an influence over who you are or what you do. When you let your labels start to have an impact on your thoughts or actions you’re on the first step to becoming generic, boring, useless even.
Why does this matter? I believe that introspection is a very important part of life. Knowing who you really are… What you stand for, what makes you tick etc… These are the things that we should be drawing on when we need to make tough decisions. Knowing who I really was helped me get to where I am now and will continue to help me make the tough decisions I need to make in the future.
So, here’s to 2010 and knowing who you are. May they both be the start of many great things!