The easiest way to go from dreaming of following your passion or “going back to your art” is to simply make it a part of your identity.
In this episode, I share with you the easiest way to do this, the key reason you are not using this already even if you’ve known about this all along and how to work around that.
Listen to the episode below:
In his book Quitter, Jon Acuff talks about how we have become an ‘I am, but’ generation. It’s as if what we are doing professionally — the dreaded J word (yes, our jobs) are the only thing standing in our way to be what we want to become.
It’s the corner office with glass walls that lets us look at the fun going on in the world outside, but doesn’t let us go there.
We often say, “I’m X but I want to be Y.”
I’m an engineer, but I want to be a writer.
I’m a manager, but I really want to be a photographer.
I’m a CTO, but I want to get back to my music one day.
That last one is me, by the way.
I find that there is a lot of power in the two words “I am.”
This is our identity, this is what we believe about ourselves. And for some reason, this identity of ours is somehow quite exclusive — there’s simply nothing else that can be added to it.
This is why when we talk about our passion, our art, something that we used to do but cannot anymore because we have no time, it becomes the ‘but’.
And that ‘but’ is where we never quite reach. We want it, we wish it, we dream it, we almost go for it, but it just never happens. It never works.
Here’s what I learned the hard way:
The more you say you are something, the more of that you become. The more you let your identity be defined by what you are doing today — whether it’s a job or a business — the more you are making it true for tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, and the days to come.
Said enough times, we can believe anything. And saying anything followed by “I am” is possibly the most powerful and at the same time, most dangerous way to build an identity, even if it goes against what you actually wanted to be.
Now, this isn’t surprising.
The reason we do this is simple: we’ve got bills to pay. And the “I am” part is what helps pay those bills, while the ‘but’ part is a dream, a road we don’t take, unsure where it will lead.
However, you and I both know pretty well: that version of you, that ‘I am’ always feels incomplete. It always feels, “Great!” But something’s always missing.
How can you go from where you are to where you want to be? How can you start following your passion instead of only thinking about following your passion? How can you start working on your art again? How can you do what you love without feeling as if you’re running away from your responsibilities?
Change your ‘I AM’
No, I don’t mean quit your job. I don’t mean you must drop everything and start doing what you’ve always wanted to do. I simply mean that you start making the dream a part of your identity.
The way you do that is to start being what you want to be by simply saying that you already are that.
So, say I am a singer. I am a writer. I am a painter. I am a photographer. I am. Always begin with I am.
And be sure not to qualify that with anything. Don’t add “good” or “bad” or “decent” or “average”. You are none of that. You are only what you have to be, nothing more and nothing less.
This will bring you some great insights into how you see yourself, how you think and how you feel.
When I started doing this, my whole perspective started to change to one where I already was a singer, I already was a songwriter. And soon as that happened, a switch seemed to flip in my brain — I was able to see my every decision and my every action from this new point of view.
This was not the old me. This was Me+Music, a new paradigm that I didn’t think was possible. This is the Me I like. This is the Me I’d like to eventually love too.
And here’s just a few things I started doing, all on its own.
I started telling more people (which means apart from myself) that I am a singer and songwriter.
I started to see my work as something that pays the bills but doesn’t define who I am.
I started to find little pockets of time that I could fill with something related to creating and composing music.
I started to go out of my way to find people who could help me on this journey, and I shocked the ‘lazy guy’ inside my head by going out of my way to meet said people.
I started to find other people who were on the same journey as me, and their journeys inspired me to carry on.
I started to question things I was doing that were working against this new identity of mine. I simply couldn’t waste time watching a TV series, or waste time on Youtube.
For the first time in my life, I was truly budgeting for my art: I was taking the time, the money and the hard work it needed and truly investing it all.
I kept thinking about that one moment where it all changed for me. And it was the moment I accepted that I am already what I want to be.
This Isn’t Make-Believe
I’m not asking you to ‘fake it till you make it.’ I’m asking you to start being what you are now, instead of putting it off until the future when it’s too late.
Trust me, 6 months ago, I would have been the first person to tell you that all this talk about what you say is what you are is a load of crap that self-improvement gurus like to peddle — they don’t know my struggles, they don’t pay my bills, and they don’t know what I had to go through to get here.
I’ve got a book on my bookshelf: it’s called, you guessed it, ‘I AM’ by Howard Falco. I’ve had that book for the last 5 years. The last 5 years were the most difficult time for me professionally — I went through a lot of stress and the lowest point of my life during this time.
And I never read that book properly, until I sat down to create this episode.
And it had everything I needed to hear. And yet, even as I held it in my hands so many times in the past, I never got the message — I guess when you’re not ready, you’re simply not ready.
That’s Your Warning Sign…
If you are reading this and thinking this is a load of crap, just take a moment and see if it’s because you don’t think you can be what you want to be at this point in your life.
What’s stopping you? What’s not letting you say you ARE what you want to be?
And here’s how you can work around that – a simple way to think about this and to get yourself ready right away.
The Thought Experiment
Picture yourself buying a new car.
You are at the showroom, the salesperson is right beside you, throwing features after features of the latest model at you. You seem to like it, everyone else does too, but not as much as that other car in the corner. That car, though from the same company, is a slightly older model and it’s only available in red.
You aren’t sure why you are attracted to it. You only know that you seem to like it. Maybe it’s because you had a red toy car to play with when you were a child. The salesperson tries to tell you about that car, tries to say it’s not the “in thing” anymore, but you shush him — you already know you want it, and hearing more about it is only noise.
So, you’ve decided to get it and you want it right away. The car people spend another 30 minutes for the paperwork and give you the keys to your new car.
You are still unsure if you’ve made the right decision, and the faces of everyone there seem to be questioning your judgement. But you bought it, and there’s no going back anymore.
You sit in your new car, try to feel how it’s like to be inside. You can’t see any of its red color, but simply knowing that it’s the red you wanted is enough to make you feel quite at home.
You drive off, with a lot of questions: Is this the right car? Is it the right color? Is it the right shade of red? Is it the right model? Should I have gotten that other shiny model?
Then, you see another person driving the same car as you. The thought train suddenly stops for a few seconds as you see it go past you, and then you’re back to the same confusion again.
Throughout your drive, you keep seeing other cars. And not just any car, your car. The same red car. Look, there’s one there, and that one’s there, and then that one on the other side of the road is a different color but the same model, and those two are changing lanes together…. so many of those same cars everywhere!
Everything’s cool and fine and dandy now.
Your car is cool. Your red car is cool. You, my friend, are cool.
Just because you trusted yourself and made that car, your car.
It’s the same when you build your identity around being what you want to be. When you stop following your passion and start being your passion, that’s when the magic starts to happen.
That’s when your mind will run into hundreds of coincidences. Coincidences that always existed, but which were lost thanks to the noise in our heads. I don’t know if the world aligns to our vision, but our vision does align to however we think, and that makes all the difference.
For today, complete this sentence and let it run around in your mind:
I am _____________
Fill it with whatever you think is your red car. And let the magic begin.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights and questions! Please leave a comment…