New Lessons Learned #3: Simple Solution to the Question “Who Am I?”

At some point everyone will pause and ask themselves: “Who Am I?”

There are many ways to answer this question. No answer is correct, at the end of the day we all have our lives, and whatever gets you through the day is the correct answer. I’m merely sharing an approach that has saved me a lot of frustration, and will hopefully serve you too.

“Imagine that a group of curious bees lands on the outside of a church window. Each bee gazes upon the interior through a different stained glass pane. To one bee, the church’s interior is all red. To another it is all yellow, and so on. If bees could talk they might argue over the color of the interior. Each bee would stick to his version, not capable of understanding that the other bees were looking through different pieces of stained glass.”

-Adams, Scott. God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment (pg. 91)

Select the color of your glass pane

You can take the right of passage approach, and decide who you are that way. There is a common theme of people going on a vision quest, undertaking a long journey, or putting themselves through trials to figure out who they are. Some people quit their job, pack up and move somewhere new. Some may start a business or start a demanding training regiment.

You can take the mindset approach, look in the mirror and tell yourself who you are, to the point where you do believe it. This is by far the most popular approach, however, the least effective – because people stop there. If you don’t act on those ideas, you’re just waiting to be who you are. I prefer an even simpler method:

“You are what you do”

This is the simplest approach I have found, and works well to prevent cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance happens when your lens cannot accurately predict an outcome. For example, I have not trained pull-ups in a while. To go out and think I can do the same repetitions or weight would not be an accurate prediction. I would go to the pull-up bar, do significantly less, and stand there scratching my head thinking “What happened?”.

The “You are what you do” approach eliminates that.

If you don’t do something regularly, it’s unlikely you’ll be any good at it. A lot of guys walk around thinking they can get any girl, or win a fight. That’s cognitive dissonance inspired by romance/action movies. Be careful of the idea that an average person can rise to the occasion and perform an incredible feat, with no study or training.

Not until you do an activity will you know how good you are. And even then, the rationalizations will start popping up, to justify the bad performance. “I’m just having an off day” “Something is wrong with the equipment/weather/rules” Your brain will perform all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify why the outcome did not match the prediction.

I was guilty of this while mountain biking with my friend. There were several areas which he navigated with ease, however, due to lack of skill I had to get off and walk. Immediately, my brain started throwing out excuses: “The breaks don’t work well on this bike” “The bike doesn’t fit me properly” It was Bullshit, and I knew it. The real answer was: I did not have the skill required to ride those paths. I didn’t mountain bike regularly like he did.

“You are what you do”

To know who you are observe what you do. We all follow a routine most days, which changes only slightly on weekends. Observe what you do every day, and you’ll have a very clear picture of what you are, and what your capabilities are.

If that doesn’t match who you want to be, make adjustments, or accept this IS who you want to be.

On a positive note, if you do something everyday, it’s hard NOT to get good. You’ll make small improvements almost unconsciously, until one day, the cumulative result will be an above average skill level.

“You are what you do”

Until Next Time, and

All the Best.