In my recent book, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Master Mentor #18 Stedman Graham shares the transformational insight of no longer fulfilling an identity others placed on you, but rather choosing your own identity. It’s subtle but profound. Stedman Graham is the extremely successful author and entrepreneur perhaps best known as Oprah Winfrey’s life partner. Imagine for a moment how difficult it would be to create an identity independent of what many could consider to be the most famous person in the world. That certainly requires knowing and choosing an identity beyond your spouse or partner.
Dave Hollis, this week’s On Leadership podcast guest (also featured in Master Mentors as Mentor #3), speaks to the necessity of finding his identity in 2020, after the end of his 17-year marriage to the famed bestselling author and internationally known coach and speaker Rachel Hollis. Dave will tell you quite vulnerably that in hindsight, much of his identity was connected to being Rachel’s husband and then most recently, her business partner. When that suddenly ended, so did that significant part of who he was. In fact, what he was. Coincidentally, Dave’s new release, Built Through Courage, is an exceptional map for those looking to, as Dave says, leave your safe harbor and set sail for your goals. I’m reading it for a second time as I dig deeper on my own self-discovery of my safe harbors and my fears (beyond snakes, sharks, and alligators).
I’ve written and spoken extensively that I think Brené Brown certainly popularized making vulnerability safe to discuss and own, but I think Dave took it a step further and made it an actual leadership competency. An asset as we lead teams inside our organizations and our families.
As I look back on certain phases of my life, my identity has certainly (if not always) been tied to something or someone external. So here’s some more Scott Miller vulnerability for you:
- My parents’ economic standing
- My childhood home
- My ranking on the tennis team
- My political affiliation
- My car
- My employer
- My business card
- My credit score
- My religious affiliation
- My airline frequent flyer status
- My collection of champagne flutes
- My credit card limit
- My 401K balance
- My briefcase
- My book collection
- My network of celebrity friends
- My email signature
- My W-2
- My physical fitness
- My fiancée
- My wife (the same as above, for the record)
- My home
- My eyeglasses
- My pets
- My entertaining skills
- My teeth
- My three sons
- My website
- My Amazon reviews
- My social media connections and followers
I could keep going embarrassingly long on that list. Everything is external to me. (By the way, I never said I was proud or ashamed of each item listed, just that my identity has at some point been greatly tied to everything on the list.)
Now some of you are simultaneously feeling sorry for my shallowness while you unfriend me on Facebook and Instagram. Sad to see you go.
Wish you well. Because I understand how much more depth you have than me, and I only hope to experience your level of maturity someday.
Wish me well. Because at 53, I am trying. Trying to balance where my identity is anchored, internally and externally.
What’s that you say? You too, after all?
Maybe we journey together in creating our identities based on the “right” balance of intrinsic and extrinsic stuff.
Where should we start? How about a glass of champagne? I have a few flutes to choose from….
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