"I have a passion for live Jazz music", "I am a really sociable and caring person", "I am always there for my friends", "I am a hard working, motivated and passionate student".
Really? Are you?
How many of us fail to make due time for the collection of passions we use to form our identity? How many of us have a whole number of passions and interests but our days, weeks, months and even years don't demonstrate this? In my case, I am incredibly passionate about art; I have fantasised on occasion about opening my own gallery, yet I haven't picked up a sketchpad, completed a painting or created a sculpture more or less since completing my art GCSE some four years ago now. So how accurate, then, am I in saying I am incredibly passionate about art? How much does my life actually demonstrate this passion?
I do believe I am genuinely passionate about art. I believe I am not living a life truly reflective of my identity, however. In life, there is a danger of not being ourselves; not living our life and not making the time for that collection of passions we use to form our identity. The thing is, it is only too easy not to realise this is happening. There is a very interesting narrative that Tatiana DeMaria, an independent musician, discusses on the Ground Up Show. She discovered this narrative after reflecting on the value of writing down one or two sentences on what she did every day for a month. This helped her to illuminate where her time actually goes and how much time she spends not living a life reflective of her true identity.
We often find ourselves saying things like "well, I am doing all of this stuff, how come I am not getting where I want to go, or what I want from life?" The question we need to ask ourselves rather is are we really hyper-focused on what matters? And at that, what matters to you? One of the frameworks which helps to illuminate this is the life of a musical artist. Their primary focus is typically to be the artist; to write the lyrics, produce the melodies and create the music, but it is incredibly easy to see how they could spend most of their days not doing so.
Taking the commercial aspect of this is where things become interesting. Say the musician makes £10 million a year. Their team may consist of themselves, their manager, their operations manager and a marketing/PR representative. The manager may make fifteen percent of what the musician does, say 1.5 million a year. The salary under that may be the day-to-day operations coordinator, who makes £50,000 a year. Finally you have your PR/marketing consultant on £5,000 pound per month. In this situation, taking a look at the way your time is spent, you need to ask yourself which of those roles do you want? What is it that you want to do and who is it that you want to be? As a musician, your passion may be in the creation of the music; the artistic expression and channelling your inspiration; that is what brings you the most joy and you have little care for the rest of it.
In light of this purpose, when looking at the hours spent in your day, ask yourself are you doing all of the business and back-end instead of the music? Are you spending all of your time on jobs in networking or doing all of the PR that doesn't concern the writing or the expression? Are you actually doing the £10 million a year job at all? Or rather the £1.5 million a year job, the £50,000 a year job or the £5,000 a month job?
When it comes down to our time, we often think that we are spending periods of our life truly dedicated to our pursuits. Our degrees are the easiest example of one of those many pursuits. We are at a stage in our lives where, unlike the musician, we are not afforded a whole team around us. Hence, we often find ourselves fulfilling all of the above roles. What we often overlook is that most of our actions fail to follow through with who we are or what we set out to do. We often either spend a significant amount of our time not being the type of person who would achieve the goals we set ourselves or, more dangerously, we neglect any consideration of living a life reflective of our identity. Hence, the answers to our question of "how come I am not getting where I want to go, or what I want from life?" is present in most of our days; the answer is reflective of the lifestyle we have chosen, or have had chosen for us. Next time we open up our calendars and look at all of the tasks we have to do, it may prove worthy asking ourselves "who am I being?", "who was I this past year and what outcome did I generate based on that?"
I asked myself this question at the start of the academic year. I spent most of first year identifying as a high achiever, but living the life of a student more deserving of a Third than anything else. I came into this year having learnt from my mistakes, but still operating on what I thought was a 2:1 level. I knew I wanted a First from University so I started to reflect on what the life of a First-Class student actually looked like. I started trying to live this life, beginning with a "First-weekend" as I called it and progressing from there. Everything from my exercise patterns, meal prep, sleeping and social habits were considered to ensure I was optimising my day for work. This would allow me to be able to put in the time required for that First.
I swiftly realised I did not want to live a "First-life". Had that life been reflective of my personality, I would have been a person with skewed priorities, no passions and not much to my name other than my course. As that was flagrantly not my identity, to sustain such a lifestyle would have been to be living a life more for my unit director and my prospective employer than myself; there was way too much graft and way too little passion.
I have always identified as the person who was never the smartest in the room, but who would substitute raw intellect for work rate as to be amongst those high achievers; I was a grafter. Again, I use the word 'was'. I still very much identify as a grafter, but I have realised that I want passion to lead me to my successes not sheer graft. "Passion without a handbrake gets you nowhere". Sheer graft is misplaced passion. I had concluded I would take aim and release the handbrake in a measured and sustainable way once I had identified an internal, not external, calling; reflecting on what was pushing me (from within) rather than what was pulling me (externally). That way, I would be led towards developing a life reflective of my personality, and finding my identity in the process.
At university there are pulls to be every type of person. We are exposed to limitless opportunities to compare ourselves to masters in the field of every other job going. That can leave us feeling overstretched and pulled in all directions. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with First-Class students, athletes, entrepreneurs, models and social climbers; all noise; all meaningless; all not you. We don't need to be everyone else. We don't need to be anyone else. We don't need to be ourselves for that matter until we know who that is we want to be, and before we have set up a life for the person we filled ourselves in with in the absence of a clear identity. If we set out solely to be the music artist, we should feel nothing but contentment in saying no to all other vacancies. If you want the £10 million pound a year job, say yes to that and only that. Take nothing more and nothing less from your life, because it is what you deserve. Similarly, if we have set out to be a jack of all trades, say yes to every passion and don't allow yourself to be mastered by one; limited by the graft demanded by your course for example.
The next time you say "yes" to any new thing, be it social, leisure, fitness or work related, ask yourself not what am I saying "yes" to, but rather is this saying "no" to the person who I actually want to be? Every "yes" comes with a handful of invisible "no's"; we cannot afford to let them stack up and deny ourselves the chance to live our true identity.
As generic as it may sound, true brilliance will only come from being yourself; no one can do that better than you can; many people can be the person you are trying to be better than you can. You don't owe anyone else any other version of you; you owe it to yourself to be yourself. It is something the world deserves as much as you deserve. It should be something we are all aware of as we search for our identity. That search is taking aim with an open mind as we ask ourselves "who am I being?"; taking aim and waiting to release that handbrake. When we do, it should be directed at a push rather than a pull; an internal passion, one which is unapologetically expressive of yourself, because "the world craves you and your gift".
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