Sometimes TRANSFORMING is as simple as giving yourself over to your true identity, your true self.
A TRUE CONFESSION:
In my pre-pivot years, I was quite different from how I am now. I was scrappy, ultra-competitive, and very quick to argue. I wasn’t mean-spirited, but I was feisty. Really, though, what I was was ANGRY. It seems obvious now, but only in hindsight: I was angry because I was living the wrong life. I was off-purpose and miserable. At the time, though, it was just who I was—an attorney. I had adopted that identity. After years of schooling and preparation and years of hard work, I’d become a lawyer, not in the sense of being called to the bar but in terms of identity. I hadn’t just become a lawyer the day I got my license to practice or finished law school; I’d become a lawyer over years of gradually adopting that identity. I’d gone into the pivot phone booth a teacher and come out a lawyer. What’s worse, as a lawyer I was in the perfect position to deny, justify, or just plain ignore my growing anger. After all, it was a passionate job that came with a lot of fights. Every case had an enemy. There were always opponents to do battle with. We even had a battlefield—the courtroom—where it was acceptable to go to war. I lived a life where it was easy, even encouraged, to exercise (and exorcise) one’s anger every day.
If you had asked if I was angry, though, I would have thought you were crazy. It was part of the job, part of the identity of a Manhattan lawyer. Hard-driving, hard-working, fast-talking, take-no-prisoners, take-charge, make-it-happen. It wasn’t anger; it was just life. Yet I was angry, and it was slowly killing me. I just couldn’t see it. And until I did, I couldn’t change. My identity as a lawyer was preventing me from seeing deeper and finding my true self.
It’s not enough to discover your true self and purpose. You also need to understand what limitations your current identity and self-image are placing on you. I couldn’t move ahead being an angry lawyer and a consciousness-raising teacher simultaneously. Could I still be a lawyer? Certainly—and I continued to be for some time as I worked on my pivot. But I couldn’t be an angry one. I couldn’t move ahead while I was shackled by the anger I’d attached to that identity.
What roles do you currently identify with? How are they holding you back? Do you hold the identity of “single parent” and perhaps feel that change is not possible? Do you hold the identity of “employee” and as a result see yourself as someone who isn’t capable of running a business? Whatever you identify with can work for you or against you. Your job is to know the difference.
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I wonder, do you think a scrappy start is essential to having the level of drive and success you have, Adam?
Plenty of modestly successful people don’t have an exceptional drive, maybe because they didn’t have a scrappy start.
Is a scrappy start the prerequisite for the elite level of top achievers?
I sure hope so – it validates my own scrappy start, and gives me something high to aim for.