We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
– Kurt Vonnegut
I had an interview a few years ago with the great Irish philosopher Charles Handy. He talked a lot about the importance of reinventing yourself every few years, why it’s so difficult, and why most people don’t.
We tell ourselves stories about who we are, such as programmers, or lawyers, or exercise people, or activists, or vegans, or cyclists, or parents, or whatever. Over time, our actions and behaviors strengthen, become habitual, and harden to reinforce that identity. That identity is reassuring, but it’s also a constraint. We can begin to be defined by this self-imposed persona.
It’s all a story we tell ourselves about who we are. And we start to believe that story.
As a result, we can become blind to opportunity and closed to self-reinvention because we overvalue what we have invested in, and undervalue what our friends, family, and colleagues find most appealing and powerful about us.
In that interview, Charles Handy encouraged us to seek out friends and family, listen and trust their assessment of our strengths and to take time to ask what they think best defines us, and what they think might be strong opportunities for growth. You might be surprised when their version of who you are is quite different from your own version.
Chasing Dawn, our new book, is coming out in a couple weeks. I co-authored this with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. It’s about cycling across America with our teenage kids. Grab a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.
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