What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was taking an early morning walk down to the breezy coast of West Seattle and was thinking about how it’s nice to have the down on the out bound so that I’m warmed up to deal with the hill on the way back. Then in my half-awake morning stupor a thought flitted across my cerebral cortex. It was about when we ask children about their future and that we don’t say "What do you want to do when you grow up". Rather we use the word be, not do. And I got to thinking about the importance of that little word. Two simple letters, a consonant and a vowel.

Fatherhood © Matthew Woodget 2011 www.fluidpixel.com

"To be, or not to be. That is the question." – Hamlet.

Unsurprisingly Shakespeare can impart some wisdom to us on this matter. Just as Hamlet was agonizing over the apparent helplessness of life he’s also torn as to giving it up. He’s trapped in a dark, tragic place where his very being is brought into question and he is thinking of ending it all.

In Hamlet’s despondency we come to recognize that when we are asking a child what they want to be we are not asking them about jobs or tasks or comings or goings. We are asking them what they want their life to feel like. And hopefully for it to feel quite the opposite of what Hamlet is going through. Think for a second of some of the classic answers that a child may provide to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?".

An airline pilot, a fire fighter, a horseback rider, an astronaut. They know nothing of the grind of these jobs, of the challenges, the stresses. What they think about is what the people who do these things feel like. Or at least what their childishness imagines visualize… and I’ll give you a hint; in this case ‘childish’ is far from disparaging. Their minds soar with the thrill of flying a plane, the hero who saves those in danger, the wide open spaces and fresh air and camaraderie with animals, or a wonder and marvel of the earth and of the universe that being hurled into space on a rocket affords. It’s the very real, hear and now feelings of the child that they are tapping into and projecting into their future.

How does this relate to anything you may care about?

When it comes to what you do, think more about what you want to be. "What do you want to be… now!" This could be informing a career change where you are seeking something which will be better match with how you want to feel in what you are doing, or it could fuel your approach when tackling a particular project you are working on in a job you already love.

You maybe be an independent photographer or a cog in the corporate machine, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to how you interact with those you work with, the customers you build for or market or sell to, think about how those on the receiving end of your actions feel. What are they pursuing, what do they want? Every decision we make is intentionally designed to benefit us and how we feel. From consumer goods purchase to enterprise investments of grand scale. Good choices or bad we can’t help but put ourselves at the center. We do it because we feel it is the right thing to do based on any number of external stimuli. We just *have* to have *that* pair of shoes. The market data *clearly* states we must address things with a change in corporate strategy and if we win because of it *I* get the promotion. Even in a life of piety and sacrifice where everything you do is for others you are choosing this to satisfy a feeling in yourself, you feel it’s the right thing to do for moral or religious reasons.

Doing might be where the rubber meets the road and stuff gets made, built or shipped. But long before that there is being. Figure out what yours is, those around you, your partners and ultimately your customers and you will be able to tap into that powerful aspirational energy from your childhood when you once dreamed of mounting a screaming rocket to the stars.

How do you feel about this? Love to hear your thoughts, and feelings :-).

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