“Your Identity Doesn’t Get Found. It Emerges.”

Take a moment to think about the title quote. Do you search for yourself, or feel happy and content with who you are right now?

Today I began reading The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. I stumbled across the book on an entrepreneurial blog and just found the time to open it this afternoon. Halfway through the second chapter I froze. An epiphany? I thought.

Your identity doesn’t get found. It emerges.

For a very long time I was caught up in discovering who I really am. The search for myself largely dominated my thoughts and negatively impacted my schoolwork. I was constantly overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to uncover my true-self and begin pursuing my dreams as soon as possible. That is, until today.

Epiphany

My eyes fell upon the period marking the end of two of the most influential sentences I’ve ever read. I paused, Was it possible that seven words arranged into two concise sentences could solve a problem that had plagued me for nearly six months? I carefully read over each phrase, a slight grin sneaking across my face. I had found relief.

How I managed to make it so long without truly understanding such a simple concept I’ll never know. It’s certainly not a foreign idea. We’re all inherently aware of it, but our individual perceptions can differ to some degree. Personally, I believed myself, at only twenty, to be blessed with the understanding that one’s passions and values are the key to living a happy and successful life. Specifically, the “never work a day in your life,” life.

We’re all raised with the notion that the happiest people on earth live to work, while the rest work to live. From day one of kindergarten we’re encouraged to dream big and never sell ourselves short of any goal, no matter the magnitude. With age we learn that life isn’t quite the open book it once appeared. Nevertheless, we go to school year after year, day after day, with the hope of finding that one true passion that can drive us for the rest of our life.

But how many of us actually find that thing that we love so much as to devote sixty years to it? In my opinion, drawing from my brief observation of this world, too few.

Comfort in Acceptance

Now you know why I was so obsessed with finding my “true-self.” I thought I recognized the immense value in discovering yourself early enough to make something special of it. I convinced myself that the real me was in there, buried deep beneath some obscure layers of self-realization.  To uncover it was the first step in my path toward personal fulfillment and ultimately success. But, that’s not right.

At twenty years old it’s impossible to identify a lifelong passion. Hell, it may not even exist yet. What Hoffman and Casnocha stress in chapter two of their guidebook is the role of actions and experience in shaping ones dreams. “Your aspirations shape what you do. But your aspirations are themselves shaped by your actions and experience.” Although you may know exactly where you want to be in twenty years, each and every event that transpires in that time will reshape your dreams, aspirations, and possibly even passions.

At any one moment there’s no way to completely or accurately predict where life will take you. I so quickly became obsessed with controlling my future that I lost respect for the art of life and simply letting it happen. I don’t plan on handing over the reigns, but if there is a perfect mix between controlling life and it controlling you, I patiently await the day when I confidently know I’ve attained it.

A Weight Lifted

For now, I don’t think it’d hurt to narrow the scope of my thinking, if only slightly. I no doubt have reached a level of maturity most of my peers aim to postpone. Maybe I need new friends, or maybe I truly have been blessed with a different, but better way of thinking. Every day I learn something new about myself. I never close a door, because who’s to say my passion won’t come knocking tomorrow?

So I keep an open mind and encourage you to do the same. Identify your current aspirations and shoot for them. All the while maintaining the knowledge that they will most definitely change, but that’s not such a bad thing.

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