If you’re not what you do, then who are you? An unexpected challenge...

If you’re a successful entrepreneur chances are high that most days, there is very little daylight between who you are and what you do.  You are one with your work role, and your work role is one with you.

It’s not just work. Look closely and you’ll see, we all play multiple roles and make choices about how deep we go into them.  Our roles include Father, Mother.  Uncle, Aunt.  Man, Woman.  Son, Daughter. And so forth.  Effectively moving in and out of roles is a necessary skill to function well in life.

We wear many hats, and are often quite different depending on which hat we have on, but who is it that is wearing all of those hats?  For me, this has really hit home this summer as I chose after almost 20 years to reposition my professional self and prepare for the next big run.  I stepped out of much of the day to day of my business endeavors last June and was immediately struck by how much attachment I had to my role and how much my identity was caught up in what I did for a living.

This was unexpected and forced me to really start asking, absent of all my roles, even the ones I cherish the most, who am I?

To start answering the question I created a document outlining my personal vision and mission in life.  Business endeavors aside, what do I stand for, and what am I really up to in this life?  I allowed how I felt to guide the document, and I did my best to quiet my thoughts so that my heart voice would come forth.

Next, I applied my intellect and asked questions like, does this make sense?  Can I do anything with this?  How does this relate to the skills I have and what I love to do?  More modifications were made, and I advanced.

This was helpful, though I needed more and so simultaneously I began to speak about “what I did” in more general terms.  I went from “I’m a real estate broker” to I’m an entrepreneur.  The lack of specificity has been uncomfortable for me, though I’ve found it to be a necessary part of the creation process.

Then I started experimenting.  I started trying on some new roles and speaking about them to other people to see how they sounded out loud.  I begin keeping a “no, not that” list of the opportunities I was not interested in.  I wrote my bio and re-wrote it several times and I wrote several business plans.  I pitched different ideas to people I know and trust and paid close attention to what triggered a passionate response, verses what flowed only from my intellect only.

Now, 4 months in, I’m sensing some things are sticking and an overall direction is forming.   While many things have yet to settle out, I’m getting more comfortable with the lack of role definition and finding myself again in the process.