Finding my Why
What do I want to be when I grow up? At 41 years old, I still can't answer this question. But I am getting close.
What do I want to be when I grow up?
A Doctor, A Teacher, A Policeman… Here is a question we are all asked from a very early age, and even now at 41 I’ve never had an answer to this question. I’ve just ended up where I am, as I have meandered from one job to the next, without much deliberate consideration as to where I am heading.
Recently, kids at my daughter’s school were asked this question. Sure there were some “Teachers”, and a “Footballer” or two, but what took me by surprise were the “YouTubers”, “E-Gamers”, and “Influencers”. These were never a thing when I was starting out my career, let alone, in kindergarten. The thing is, there is a high likelihood, that the careers these kids take on in the next 15 years or so, don’t actually exist yet. When I was in kindergarten (1986), most of the jobs I interact with these days did not exist back then.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been around computers, from our Commodore64 to our first PC, I’ve been fascinated by how they work. Both from a software as well as a hardware perspective. I remember opening up the PC and being in awe of the electronics, and components. They looked like little cities to me. So when it came time to “grow” up, and decide what I was going to do after school, naturally I went to university to study electrical engineering. I too wanted to design these tiny cities…
About 2 years later, I realised this passion for electronics wasn’t enough to get me through. And not 15 mins after entering my “Advanced Maths and Physics” exam, I walked out vowing to find something I not only was passionate about but something I had an aptitude for… Software. Now almost 20 years later, I find myself pondering the age-old question again…
So, What Do I want to be when I grow up?
The answer to this right now is quite simply, “I don’t know”. Digging deeper, I realise, that at this stage in life: Wife; Kids; Dog; and Mortgage; I no longer have the luxury of being able to drop it all and start out in a new career. Taking time out to discover myself isn’t an option.
After the tough few years, we’ve all had, I found myself quite burnt out at the end of 2021 (I may post more about this another time), and searching for more. I’ve found myself more and more dissatisfied with my current career trajectory.
Recently, a mentor of mine introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ikigai]). The idea behind Ikigai is to look at the various aspects of one’s life and identify that golden intersection in the middle. Looking at:
- What am I good at
- What do I love doing
- What can I get paid for
- What does the world need
When you look at the Venn diagram of these areas, you can start to categorise the various intersections:
- What you Love and What you are good at is your Passion
- What you are Good at and can get paid for is your Profession
- What you can get paid for and what the world needs is your vocation
- what you Love and what the world needs is your mission
But if we look at the very centre, the intersection of all of the above we can find what is defined as Ikigai.
This all sounds well and good, and somewhat easy in theory. But, in practice, I found that when sitting down to write out the various lists, it is harder than you realise. The hard part is to focus on only one area in isolation whilst ignoring the others i.e. Listing what I think the world needs, regardless of my skills, desires, and passions. One tip I have come across to help here is to focus on each list separately. Write each one on a separate paper, and complete each list on a separate day. Doing each in isolation like this can help, but it’s still hard to ignore the other lists.
To be honest, I found this a very difficult task. And was never able to truly identify that elusive “Ikigai”.
Finding my Why
Perhaps a different approach then? Since discovering Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”, I’ve been a firm believer in this approach. So much so, that I have made a habit of always articulating the “why” whenever I’m explaining anything. If I can’t clearly articulate the why of my idea; a procedure; a pattern; or a request etc. then do I truly understand it?
Perhaps then, this could be another approach. So I downloaded the “Find your why” audiobook, and before long was introduced to the mission statement format:
“To [blank], so that [blank]”
And this is where it started to come together for me. I have often said that the part I enjoy most about my job these days is helping others grow and evolve professionally, and sharing my experience so others benefit. Adding to this, my passion for pushing both my body and my mental capacity to their limits (My UTA100 journey).
Then one day, out on a run, I had my a-ha moment, and I got excited.
“To enable others to realise their maximum potential, so that [blank]”
Ok, so I didn’t get the full sentence, but this is a great start. The feeling of finally recognising my purpose, my why was a weight off my shoulders. It was like I had finally had the map to the 1000-piece puzzle that I was struggling with for the last 5 years or more. Not only could I now finally see how the many different aspects of my life all glued together, but the path forward was now abundantly clear. It is hard to articulate, but at this stage in my life I still have a lot I want to achieve, and it all seemed so incongruent. That is until I found my purpose. I can now weave a common thread through it all, to the point where everything I want to achieve ties nicely together.
Although this may seem like a simple statement, I spent considerable time considering and finalising the wording: enable vs help; realise vs reach vs exceed; etc. There are subtleties with each permeation, and this is the one I am most intuned with. I want to work with others to help them realise their mental barriers are there to be smashed. Physically, we can go way farther/harder than our brains tell us we can. I know, I’ve been there.
With that, I’m really looking forward to 2023 and enabling as many people as possible to realise their maximum. At this early stage, I’m working on a three-pronged plan:
- Regular blog posting
- Video/streaming content
- One-on-One mentoring
Stay tuned, I’m really looking forward to 2023.