One dumb thing I used to believe in

I used to believe that when adults said, “You can do anything,” they didn’t really mean it. I used to believe you had a certain person to achieve things, to go places, to be someone.

I thought the sweet spots of life – those lush, sunny places where your personality, gifting, experience, and vision intersect – were for those born into the right family, social class, moment in time, race… or a combination of predetermined factors that some almighty hand of fate picked to succeed by random chance.

I used to look at the less fortunate and tell myself they would never amount to anything because they were never given the opportunity to. I used to tell myself I would never make it beyond a certain limit because of all these factors.

Making history and going where others have not gone before? That’s for the future generation or those blessed with access to all the latest technology and facilities. Or so I believed.

What I now know to be true, more than ever:

Life is what you make it. Success is what you make it. I can be anything… but why would I want to? Success only feels good if it is success to me – not as the world sees it. I have the power to take responsibility for my life. Culture, race, income, or status quo are only limiting if I let them be. I have the power to define my own limits.

This post is inspired by Danielle LaPorte’s The Burning Question series.


One-hat living

One-hat living is about authenticity.

It’s about having the guts to be transparent and honest enough with yourself that you can be transparent and honest with other people.

It means the way people see you at work, home, or play is the same.

It means being painfully honest about what makes you you. What makes you tick, what makes you feel alive, what makes you forget that time is passing.

It means finding the courage to say “No” to the things that don’t. To stop faking it. To stop telling yourself you “have to” live up to expectations.

One-hat living is scary. But it’s immensely fulfilling.

It means you don’t have to freak out when your circles of people overlap for fear that people will find out about another side of you.

It means people can trust you and vouch for you because they know that what they see is what they get. They know what you stand for and believe in and what you will not compromise on.

It means what drives and inspires you at work, home, or play is the same.

It means your work, play, and personal life are related to each other, contribute to each other, and nurture each other.

It means your values and goals are clearly aligned and you can pour all your energy and passion into one single, epic purpose.

How amazing would living like that be?

Now, you might be thinking, “You don’t get it – that’s not possible for my situation!”

Trust me, I get it. I’ve worked part-time and full-time jobs that did not make me want to jump out of bed in the mornings. I’ve done it for the money, as a stepping stone to move on to something better, to put a nice line in my résumé, as part of a contractual bond in return for a scholarship. I’ve pretended to be someone else to the people in my life because I thought that was what they wanted. I’ve felt like I was stifling and suppressing who I was. I’ve told myself and others “That’s life” and wrongly believed “That’s just the way things are”.

One-hat living is rewarding, but it’s also highly difficult.

It’s hard to truly, authentically be yourself in everything you do when you’re limited by finances, opportunities, obligations, or contracts. Some things are just out of our control.

But by no means should we accept those situations as a permanent way of living. They are not.

If anything, they’re meant to get you to a place of such discomfort and unease with living outside your calling that you start seeking ways to get out of that place. You start digging deep and asking yourself what really matters to you. You begin putting ideas and plans into motion to get yourself into a place where you live more from your heart. You seek out the right people who can help get you there.

One-hat living is not some unreachable ideal. Neither is it something you either do or don’t.

You don’t get there overnight. It’s a process.

A journey that will allow you to appreciate things more when you finally find yourself in a place where you can excitedly jump out of bed in the morning and wear the same hat all through the day.

A journey you can start today.

Working against our values only weakens us, professionally and artistically. When we are absolutely clear on our personal values, we are able to make choices based on principles. Decision-making is simple (or at least simpler). Strong judgment brings deeper meaning to our labor and elevates the artistry of work, giving us access to our best abilities. –Matthew E. May