This, rather meretricious title, can go both ways. You either don’t have a vision of how you can serve the world in the best of ways (what we refer to as living the dream) or, you kinda have an idea of what that might be, but you’re unwilling to go that route. Either way, this title can make you feel inadequate. While, I’m all about thinking outside the boss, I do occasionally remind myself that all of us have a unique perspective and position.
No one person is ought to set standards. Only you can see your path through your eyes, only you are capable of experiencing your experiences with everything you are and everything you are becoming in this lifetime. Yet, often we feel that this is not enough, we withhold this magic of being ourselves from ourselves and from the world. The real question is – Can I live a fulfilling life without ever expressing who I really am? The only question worth asking without vulgarly undermining anyone.
My answer to that question would be no, but feel free to debate me. Two fallacious ideas I want to clarify here – the idea that someone can hire you and the idea that there is a dream you should be building.
Is the only solution to having a satisfying work life, developing some kind of an entity of your own or freelancing? Absolutely not. But, if you feel like you’re working for someone, that must feel debilitating. Should you just quit? Those videos of people working from all over the world, with nothing more than their laptop and some Wi-Fi, making tons of cash, must sound appealing. The promise of freedom. It’s just a matter of figuring out your niche, your special gift, finding a mentor maybe, and, you’re all set. The world is your oyster.
Maybe you feel trapped in your cubicle, with your employer, and, screaming for change. Maybe your job is ok but you still have some hidden anxiety lurking, occasionally reminding you that, in all honesty, that’s not where you’re supposed to be. In order to think that you need to set yourself free, you need to first think that you are not. That’s an illusion of consciousness.
You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. You can do whatever you want. Right here and right now, you are already free. You were born free and over the course of your life you’ve let people and circumstances enslave you. There are free people everywhere and there are slaves everywhere, and, for the most part, we’re a little bit of both. Fine tuning, figuring out our own vibe in regards to this and that.
I used to be a really crappy server, administrative assistant and building superintendent (not at the same time, obviously). Not that I didn’t have the skills to do the job right, I just had an underlying assumption that I’m better than that. Better than the work that was given to me, better than those establishments and human resources operating in them.
Grateful for being able to pay my bills, yes, but still, not my circus, not my monkeys. I thought I’m so above and beyond tasks I was supposed to complete, I didn’t even bother to infuse all of my being into my actions. Why would I give my whole self when it seemed that even a third will do? While this mostly worked for my employers, it never worked for me. For me, it was means to an end. And, yes, I felt like I work for someone else. I wasn’t free, yet I could’ve been.
One’s life is, for the most part, mundane. If I could travel back in time, I would be the best server you’ve ever met. Just seeing me would brighten your day. I would always remember all of your allergies and all of your favorites. I would be there just at the right time to ask if you need anything else and hand the bill. Fortunately, there is always a steady stream of second chances coming our way. Chances to show up for your stuff with all of your being. To have fun with it. Knowing that you’re neither better nor worse than anything or anyone. Isn’t that freedom? Freedom to be you wherever you are. That’s what it is.
Given that I’m a business owner now, one can say that I’m living my dream. But guess what, many things I do can be totally trivial and uninspiring. Income statements, legal obligations, negotiations with suppliers, inventory checks, the list goes on.
My future as an entrepreneur can look uncertain and scary. It can all be stressful and it’s so easy to go back to that “slave mindset”. You can always be a slave, sometimes it looks like you’re someone else’s, but don’t be fooled, you are always a slave of your own. Things are what we make of them. If I know anything, I know this. It’s a great amount of responsibility that comes with realizing your power and a great amount of comfort.
So then, should you work for someone else? Never. You are the one defining your relationships, you decide how you need others to treat you. This means, first and foremost, you have to be a person, and that’s the only thing worth figuring out. Wherever you go, to the grocery store, to work, to conferences and yoga classes, you will always be a person.
That underlining persona of all of your personas, knows who she is, where is she going and what she wants. You can work as a server or a security guard, but you don’t ever have to work for someone else. You can decide to start your own business and not ever be enslaved by your customers, clients and bankers. You don’t ever have to compromise your freedom.
What matters is the substance, always, not the ways in which this substance is structured in our socio-economic reality. Firstly, you’re a person, secondly, you decide how to check boxes for tax purposes.
The other important aspect here is that problematic phrase, build your dream. How many years have I spent, desperately pondering my feeling of purposeless. I thought, if I could just figure that out, everything will come into place. I thought, without that, nothing will ever feel good. And, it didn’t. What a poor dream catcher I was, expecting angels and divine lights to show me the path. You are a doctor. You are a lawyer. You are a tennis player.
Just pick one and decide what’s your dream job. What I was missing, and I don’t want you to miss, is that I was living my dream from day one. All of my experiences, delightful, cheerful, terrifying, humiliating, depressing, beatific, all of them were bringing a little bit of real me to the surface. I just didn’t know where to look. I was always free. No matter where I was. I was always living my dream, no matter how it manifested. Because I lived my life, because I’m me.
No one else is that. Because I lived my life, I know that I don’t have to be anything that fits a familiar job description. Maybe you can, maybe you are. I don’t know. Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, always serves as a great inspiration in this regard. Who is Brandon? Photographer, writer, social media manager, digital marketer, psychologist, humanitarian, entrepreneur, adventurer, artist. Brandon clearly asked himself who he is, before he figured out what to do. My life has shown me that I have many talents forming a rather incoherent personality. I love writing, yet I don’t want to be a writer. I’m in love with cycling, yet I would never go pro.
I love building communities, yet I wouldn’t want to carry a title – Alliance Building Manager. I immensely appreciate art, yet I’m nowhere near being an artist. The list is really long, but you get the point. This is how I decided to start my own enterprise, because it embodies everything I am and everything I want to be. It’s a colorful blend of all of my darlings, totally unique thing. This knowing of who I am was happening one day at a time, while I wasn’t even noticing.
Your dream, will not just hit you in the head. You are living it every day. It’s malleable. As long as you understand the person you are and where you’re going, everything else is of less importance. This doesn’t have to be specific at all. For example, I identify myself as someone who wants to be happy and free, someone who’s kind and loving, someone who myself and others can count on, someone who feels the joy of life everywhere.
Of course, I’m not all these things all the time, but at least I know who I am and what I want. Hence, if I know I want to be happy, I will deliberate my to-do lists against this that I know I ultimately want. Every single thing. Will this make me happy? Will this make me feel strong? Will this make me feel free? If not, I’m not doing it.
It’s a simple bottom-up approach. Instead of waiting for freedom, be free now, instead of waiting for your dream to reveal itself to you, reveal yourself to the dream. This is not a lofty concept, just a matter of practice. Just like going to the gym. Whether you’re hiring or you’re being hired, you are always the boss. How sweet is the voice of the free.