Tell me who you are
Last week I wrote about how you can develop and wield a Power Reputation. This is more than just a reputation which, in the blandest sense is nothing more or less than what others think of you. A Power Reputation is a deliberately crafted psychic superpower, a weapon that works against your enemies even when you’re not trying, and boosts the performance of your allies.
I said that your Power Reputation must be built with three things in mind. I’ll repeat them here for the sake of convenience.
- Your Power Reputation must be authentic; it doesn’t matter what you wish people thought about you. What matters is what is true about you. Build your Power Reputation on a falsehood and you’re already on the path to failure. But find an authentic insight into who you really are and you’re on your way to success. Power comes from truth.
- Your Power Reputation must be something extreme; we’re talking here about the most, the best, the biggest. There’s no point building a reputation on being a jack of all trades. Mediocrity is cheap. Better to be extraordinary at something narrow than OK at something broad. In other words, what matters most isn’t how many people need you, but how badly each one does. Make the edges clear. Own your limitations.
- Know how your Power Reputation makes you strong, and how it makes you weak; Rihanna has a Power Reputation – she’s sexy and dangerous. This makes her strong in some ways and weak in others. She could launch a range of kinky underwear (she may already have one for all I know) but her reputation would make her vulnerable if she wanted to open a daycare centre. She plays to her Power Reputation so she gets the upside and avoids the downside. All reputations have upsides and downsides. Know yours.
Today I’d like to add some nuance to point one above; on the question of authenticity. Let’s begin by examining what can happen if people get the idea of authenticity wrong.
Have you ever met that special kind of irritant who says things like “I’m just me, I won’t change for anyone” or “I say it like it is. If you can’t handle it then that’s your problem.” Have you met these cretins? Yes, I fear you have. And I feel for you. These people are intolerable not only because they’re usually just nasty people but because they seem to think that there is virtue in being so objectionable. This is because they believe, or at least presently would argue, that there is such a thing as being absolutely, entirely honest about who you are.
They are wrong for two reasons:
- The person you are isn’t a fixed, settled question. You are a complex creature interacting in complex ways with other complex things. You are you, but never exactly the same you twice.
- The person you present to the world is not only a passing, ephemeral version of you, but this person is also a result of choice. The you that you are at any given moment is in part your own invention.
In summary, there is no “real” you. Not in the sense of some unchanging, self-sustaining, essence of you. We could get lost in the weeds of what we mean by “you” and exactly how we define “real” but that’s for another blog (one which I have no intention of writing). Suffice it to say that if someone is being an arsehole in the name of authenticity then you can authentically tell them where to shove it without fear that you’re getting in the way of their truth.
With this in mind, let’s look again at rule one of your Power Reputation – that it must be authentic. This rule holds. You can’t build a Power Reputation on a falsehood. But what constitutes authenticity is a lot more elastic than some believe. Realising this is key to success in life generally, but especially when it comes to your Power Reputation.
You can look at yourself as a huge number of variables. Your life, when examined like items on a spreadsheet, may well be reducible to a vast array of facts. But complexity doesn’t allow for this kind of reductionist thinking. As a complex creature, you are many things. You can say many things about yourself that may, on the face of it, seem contradictory but are still true. This will shift over time, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly. For example, how you feel about yourself can alter your sense of who you really are.How you feel about yourself can alter your sense of who you really areClick To Tweet
On days when I feel good about myself the canonical Aran is a creative, driven, high-minded individual on a quest to make the world a better place. When I feel good about myself this is my truth. On days when I feel bad about myself I have a different “truth” which I will not share here. The point is that I decide what my canonical truth is; what my story means. The facts don’t change. I change.
Now reflect on your own life. You can take the basic facts of who you are and present them in many different ways. And you can decide how important they each are. How important is your identity as a friend or a lover? How important is your sense of your place in society vs your intellectual purity? What events from your past are representative of the person you believe you are today? And what do those events mean? Has failure in your past meant you are a failure or has your choice to fight on despite setbacks made you a gritty, tough individual? It would be trivial to take the facts of any life and paint several vastly different but equally true pictures.
A powerful visualisation for this question is to consider your life on a line from your birth to the day you die. As you move along that line, how do you and your actions relate to the nature of the line itself? Broadly you can see it one of two ways:
- Your past, the line that is behind you, is pointing the way to your future.
- You, in the present moment, are creating your past.
So which is it? Do you stand at the head of a long line of causation, pushing you towards your fate? Or are you an active participant laying down the pages of your history one at a time?
I used to think that my past showed the way to my future. This was a disempowering belief. Now I choose to believe that my present creates my past. In other words, what I do today will tomorrow define my yesterday. What’s more, I get to decide, in hindsight, what it means. And I can change my mind whenever I choose. I claim that right. Do you?I choose to believe that my present creates my pastClick To Tweet
It’s possible that if you are struggling to think of the kind of Power Reputation you could build that would be authentically you, it may be that you are not claiming for yourself the right to decide what your past means. Further, you may not be aware of how strongly your present truth is built on assumptions and self-limiting beliefs.
Begin by realising that the “real you” that you think you know right now is a construct. It is based in fact. I am not here arguing that up is down and left is right. But you can work within the facts to tell the story you wish to tell. In this, we are not seeking the “most factual” version of you. If such a thing was even possible it would not be our aim. What matters is not how factual it is, but how useful. So focus on that. Build the you that is useful.
As you begin to reinvent yourself you will find that parts of that new you feel more right than others. Allow this to guide you but don’t be afraid to push against uneasy feelings. It may be that your flourishing requires you to get past a lot of uneasy feelings! This is a hard thing to do. It takes time, courage, self-belief and determination. But you can do it. If you choose to.
There is no moral victory in living within other people’s assumptions or inside your zone of comfort. There are no prizes for rattling the fewest cages. If you believe that we have one life on this Earth then it behooves you to live it deliberately. Power is not evil. Weakness is not a virtue. And nobody gets to say who you are but you.http://openforideas.org/blog/2017/05/31/tell-me-who-you-are/https://i2.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/whoareyou.jpg?fit=1024%2C576https://i2.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/whoareyou.jpg?resize=150%2C150Personal Creativityauthenticity,future,past,power,reputation,weakness,you