When you look at your life, the path that you've forged, and the direction that you are heading towards, do you feel like the King (or Queen) of your domain?
Or, do you feel like a serf; an empty vessel who is living someone else's dream (or nightmare), floating down a river whose current you don't control, carrying you to a place that has no clear beginning, middle or end?
Let me tell you a story that changed my life. Maybe it will help you get some clarity about your own life.
When I was in my last year of college, I had a burning desire to get into an industry that fit a narrative that I had about myself. So I reached out to everyone in my network to secure informational interviews with hiring managers at some of the companies that I was targeting.
In one of the interviews, I met with a gentleman who was a grizzled old veteran of the industry that I was targeting (advertising), and he asked me, "So why advertising? Why do you think that it's the right industry for you?"
I proceeded to chime off a littany of reasons, including how my mind sees a product, and instinctively constructs an ad; how it's in my nature to see what IS, to deconstruct it, and then reconconstuct it as something different; and how I love to sell ideas.
This nice man let me yammer on for a few minutes before stopping me, and putting forth a challenge.
"You've given me a bunch of reason why you are right for advertising, but I still don't have a clear picture on why advertising -- or any business -- is right for YOU."
I was confused, so he shared a simple idea, and challenged me to complete a simple exercise that's been one of my core recipes for happiness and success ever since.
Four Pieces of Paper
He had me set aside four pieces of paper, and on the first, he told me to write down the six things that I am really good at, and truly excel at doing.
Then, he had me write down on the second piece of paper the six things that I really enjoy, that fill me with a sense of natural joy simply in the doing.
With the third piece of paper, he asked me to imagine a time far into the future, surrounded by friends and family at my funeral. What were the six things imagining that moment in the future that I would most want to be remembered for having accomplished, the things that I'd done that mattered most?
Finally, he asked me to think of the top two items from each of the three sheets of paper, and write them down on the fourth piece of paper.
His sermon to me was that this list of six things was the roadmap for my life, for it built upon the things that I was most skilled at, got the greatest joy in doing and led me on a journey to accomplish the things that mattered most to me in life.
I have never forgotten this experience, and every time that I have faced a significant crossroads in life - and there have been a few such times - I have updated this exercise, and it's served me well.
My Sermon to You
Use the above excerise, as it's a simple, highly workable way of (re) calibrating where you are at relative to where you need to be.
To that, I'd add six simple wrinkles:
- What are you good at? Commit to mastering it. Become the best.
- What do you enjoy? Swim in that body of water. Don't be the right boat in the wrong ocean.
- What do you want to be remembered for? Make it your mantra, core to your narrative. Then make it your path.
- From here on out, think like the King of Your Own Domain. Once you know your truth, carrying it with pride and certitude is an essential step to becoming.
- Don't make things any harder than necessary. Life is plenty hard. There are no extra rewards for doing things the hard way. Where you have advantages, take them. Where gravity is favorable, leverage it.
- Choose the direct and most simple path. If you are not clear on your aim, and the road you take is muddled and mixed up, you may not recognize opportunity when it presents, nor arrive at the finish line in time to claim your prize. Be direct and keep things simple, wherever possible.
Peace, and may a good life await you. :-
(Sidebar: By King of your domain, I am not talking about the "master of your domain" punchline of the classic Seinfeld episode, 'The Contest.')