How many times in your life have you asked yourself the question “who am I?” One morning last week, I was sitting with my friends and business partners Pete and Harry discussing how many of us develop a vision at a young age of what our mentors look like. We see a person as the best at what they do and this becomes our macro vision of what ultimate success looks like. Whether a hunter, a fisherman, a businessman, writer, or a speaker, it’s really all the same. While it is typically healthy to have a mentor it also can develop a distorted vision, hence an unrealistic or low self-image as we learn to compare ourselves to that imaginary mentor or macro vision. It is imaginary because within ourselves we see far more of the warts and pimples than what we can ever see in this mentor we place up on a pedestal. Having a macro view or a goal of where we want to be in life and or in business increases our chances for accomplishment, however while in the day-to-day micro moments of our lives we should learn to self-reflect realistically and not to create irrelevant imaginary comparisons. Simply put, we need to know where we really stand within ourselves because too often we have already achieved far more than we are able to see.
Later that day while sitting in a tree stand in a section of hardwoods, I thought deeper into the question of “who am I?” I remembered a time in my pre-adolescent years when I learned to first hunt. I then thought about when I first learned to speak in front of an audience at about the same age, and when I began to write. I remember clear as day picking my mentors, or more like my idols I suppose as I look at it now. It is not important which people I chose, but rather that I chose people whom in my mind I doubt I ever could ever have equaled or surpassed in perceived success levels. The odd thing is that I have now met several of these figures whom I looked to as the ultimate achievers at their craft and each time I have been surprised to realize that they are just as messed up in the head as I am, perhaps sometimes even more.
As the afternoon moves on and I am surrounded by the sounds and sights of birds, squirrels, and the leaves as they fall to the ground. It is amazing to have these thoughts, to ask these questions while sitting alone in the woods. Whether you are waiting for the perfect light to photograph a sunset, waiting for the wind to die down in order to finish a climb up a mountain, or just sitting and waiting for deer to start to moving, nature has a way of inspiring breakthrough thoughts. We cannot always get our minds cleared out, but nature sets the stage perfectly and it adds purity and clarity that is tough to get when indoors or in the swing of everyday life. Nature substantially ups our chances of having fear-free thoughts that are REAL.
As my sit in the woods gets closer to dusk, I begin to recall a recent conversation I had with a brilliant young woman who works in one of our companies who has what I will call the “4.0 curse”. She never received a B in her life in school and she has viewed getting a B as a sign of unacceptable weakness, a total failure. As a student this forced her to diligently study and to achieve, however it quietly began to create a longer term “who am I” crisis for her. If she does not feel that she is an absolute 4.0 at anything she is doing directly or indirectly in her career then she feels inadequate and incapable of outwardly expressing herself at a meeting. This lady is far more intelligent in her grasp of her industry than 99% of the people in it, yet she does not see it this way as she has the “4.0 curse”.
While not all of us (certainly not myself) can relate to the 4.0 curse in life (more like the 3.3333 curse!), most of us can relate to feeling a macro inadequacy. I believe that these macro inadequacies come from an event or a series of events in our lives that shape much of our self-image and much of our future. It serves us well to have trusted friends and/or co-workers around us to help us better gauge who we are as people and what their macro vision of us looks like. For those of us that try in life, we may be surprised to hear that we are better than our self-image and that it might be time to reexamine and even tweak the macro vision or goal as we may have already surpassed it without knowing it.
As the sun began to set, the deer were not moving so I even went deeper into this “who am I” question and I thought of all of the people I have taught to hunt, to buy and sell real estate, to build a business on the internet, or advised on a relationship issue. I recounted the thousands of thank you emails or handwritten notes or little gifts I had received, yet when I looked deeply into myself I realized that I do not fully see myself as this true macro professional. I, like all human beings, have fallen victim many times in my life to not having a healthy enough self-image. With a wall full of the fruits of many of my hunts, real estate documents and other tombstones (plaques you receive for the closing of deals), an office full of awesome employees, pictures with amazing family and friends, and most importantly the eternal and irreplaceable memories I have experienced, I know that I have already achieved a great deal in this lifetime. I bet many of you have as well, and you do not even realize it.
By all means we need macro goals or visions of where we aspire to be in our lives, but not at the expense of living present or in the moment. Instead, we should learn to set and alter these macro goals or visions as we evolve in an effort to enhance the quality of life in the micro moments. Ask yourself the question–“who am I?”, find the true answer, and stop underestimating yourself.
Photo by Lena Lee Photography