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The endless quest to remember who you are

Farewell, foreign shore by Nick Kenrick, Flickr
Image: Farewell, foreign shore, Nick Kenrick, Flickr

“Know thyself.”

It’s a high classic Greek ideal. It’s also impossible.

It’s impossible if that adage means that we should know completely, consciously who we are and how we think and what we feel and what our motives are at any given time.

Consider these questions:

Why do you act the way you do? Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you conduct business the way you do?

Come up with a conscious rational answer. It won’t be complete. That’s why – without being self-indulgent and narcissistic – the quest to remember who you are as a leader, business owner, or creative influencer of any brand is essential.

Why do I say that? In part from experience and in part from research in cognitive science. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff surmises that most of us human beings are not aware of our mind’s operations. Most cognitive scientists estimate that what we call rational conscious awareness accounts for about 5% of the mind’s operations. The other 95% comprises the adaptive unconscious. The adaptive unconscious includes a pool of unconscious memories, image-shards from last night’s dreams, physiological operations – like blood flow, heart rate, and respiration – all of which influence brain functioning and conscious awareness.

What do we do?

Remember you are unique. Somehow your unique imprint in this life – a combination of DNA, experience, personality, and more – has given you a distinct character. Maybe it’s part of your role to keep remembering that imprint.

If you’re going to lead a group, influence your audience with integrity, speak out your point of view, build an influential brand, maybe it’s useful to remember a few things and to try out a few ways to remember who you are.

Remember we’re all testing the waters. All of our assertions about what’s true are not only our own point of view – they are only a part of our point of view, which might change tomorrow. Raise questions you really don’t know the answers to. Invite people into your questions.

Your unique imprint has a young genius. That young genius was alive and kicking at her or his best in some moments when you were 8, 9, 10, or 11 years old. It’s your job to remember the best of that young genius and bring her to work for you in the present.

Bring your artist to bear on your business. If you’re operating your business solely from a rational, conscious mind, guess what? You might be missing a whole 95% of potential to be effective. Let your mind wander into other territory. Read fiction or poetry to trigger other parts of your personality and mind to bring to your daily challenges. Look at art that challenges your default way of seeing.

Reflect, question, dive. A little self-awareness goes a long way. If you never stop to question, you’ll likely never penetrate that lonely 5% range.

Pay attention to when you feel alive and true. When you’re at your best, your body aches and mental blocks dissolve. For a moment. Those moments are rare for most of us, but when you do feel alive during the day, pay attention. What are you doing? What challenges are you meeting and how? How are you doing it? Who are you relating to? Is there a pattern here of how you’ve been at your best in the past several years – even going back to those young genius days?

Who you are is not an answer. It’s a question that propels you to do your best work for the greater good. In that work, you discover more. Character is action. Character is in the quest.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking. From my point of view.



Quest 2017

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